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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
3rd Annual Be A Fool For (Organizing) Your Books Extravaganza

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.

~Anna Quindlen

It's become our habit at Paper Doll to celebrate an upcoming April Fool's Day with a post on wacky and wondrous ways for organizing a book collection. In 2008, we visited the now-famous Stairbookcase, talked about organizing by color and chatted a bit about virtually organizing one's library. Last year, we delighted in upside-down bookshelves, houses of books, and bookshelves that wrapped right around the reader.

This year, we have another embarrassment of riches with regard to idiosyncratic, quirky and just plain weird ways of organizing (if we can really call it that) our books.

Hanging Around

This year's major theme was a fait accompli. Every endeavor to research quirky book collections bought up link after link of ways to suspend books (and sometimes disbelief). It's difficult to assure ourselves that these hanging methods do not damage the spines of books. Thus, think of this post is a museum tour and not a how-to or should-do. No aesthetic should supersede the structural integrity of your reading material.

Das Rote Paket, a German housewares company noted for its engaging designs, offers the Buchhalter, a combination bookmark and book holder. Indeed, to paraphrase the manufacturer, what holds your place in the book is what holds your book in place.

Imagine a steel ruler with the last few inches bent at 90 degrees. The shorter bent part affixes to the wall, and the book hangs, of its own accord, on the marked page. It comes in black, white and orange. Sadly, Paper Doll's preference of pink, as illustrated but not listed on the product page, appears to be either no longer manufactured or a bit of bait-and-switch.

Rather than shelving one book at a time -- one by the front door, when watching for the school bus to arrive, one next to the tub when you need Calgon (and a good book) to take you away -- Umbra's Flybrary Bookshelf puts a number of these little horizontal "You Must Be This Tall (To Read This Novel)" book-suspending bars together:

The Flybrary Bookshelf seems to sell out frequently, but you should be able to purchase it from a variety of retailers, including RevDesign and Heliotrope.

The nifty home design and décor site Crib Candy pointed me towards Korean design studio Samulnoli's Book Hangers. Designed by Wonsuk Cho, they offer an intriguingly modern (if bizarre) way to come out of the closet and let your (book)freak flag fly -- by putting your books back in the closet.

It appears Samulnoli either had no plans to manufacture the Book Hangers or prefers to keep them a secret from the buying public. Still, the artistic line of the trouser hanger style is nifty to behold.

Samulnoli combines hanging with hugging for the Movement Bookcase. Bent nails were painted and doll hands and feet attached to create limbs posed at oddly lifelike angles. The nails, attached to a backing board, can be positioned to allow the books to serve as torsos, hanging between the arms and balancing on the legs. Here, books not only contain characters; they become characters.

Designer Sungmin Hong's own description is as charming as the book display is quirky and unfeasible:

A rusty and bent nail doesn't have any reason for being. But the nails begin to inform me about their valuable being widely as soon as the book is laid on the useless nails. When they've met their trunk called the book, they were able to get a significant life force as arms and legs of our body after all.

Shall We Take Tea In the Library?

I really don't know what to make of Nar, a combination coffee table and bookshelf from the Ünal & Böler Studio.

Aesthetically unusual and daring, it combines two of my concerns--damaging books by hanging them and damaging books by spilling frappuccinos on them. Indeed, at Ünal & Böler's site, I learned that this anxiety provocation is intentional! Of this winner of the 2005 Istanbul Design Week Best Design Award, the creators say that the

Nar coffee table carries books and books carry ideas. Ideas can be destructive as much as they can be constructive. Our aim was to emphasize the danger and the dilemma it holds with utter nakedness.

Okay, then.

No Visible Means Of Support

In recent years, floating bookshelves have become all the rage in design circles (or so Paper Doll has been told by people who actually know such things).

Chiasso's Invisible Bookshelf claims to hold up to 20 pounds of books (in other words, your reading list for Thursdays). Just affix one of your larger hardcover books into the shelf bracket, and then add a stack of books. Two hidden rivets hold the hardcover book in place, turning your bottom book into the actual shelf. Put up a few of these around a room to create a funky library. Paper Doll can even imagine some hipster putting up a circular pattern of twelve Invisible Bookshelves on one wall, and then placing a clock in the middle.

Similar floating shelves in steel or nickel, made by Umbra, are available from Amazon and elsewhere.

And of course, you can design your own with a little help from this DIY Network video ...if, unlike Paper Doll, you aren't frightened by a sentence that begins with "All you need is a nail gun..."). I kid, of course. We are gearing up for April Fool's Day, right? If you'd really like to try this, Reader's Digest's Family Handyman offers plans and step-by-step instructions for making your own floating bookshelves.

Tall Tales From Tall Books

Although not designed specifically for books, I was enthralled by London's Catherine Green-designed Rolling Shelf.

While I personally prefer bookshelves to be all-books, all-the-time, with no knickknacks to interrupt the flow, the appeal of this construction is easy to see. One end of the Rolling Shelf is made of multiple narrow blocks of wood held together with fabric to create a flexible hinge, roll-able, to make room for taller items, as necessary. The Brobdingnagian giants of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels would surely approve.

Up & At 'Em

Not every enchanting design is for hanging your books up. Some just lead you to put them up...up...and away. The always-magnificent Apartment Therapy blog has us looking up to the rafters for bookshelves made out of plywood planks attached to the wooden supports of a loft above:

The author notes that the ceiling is a lower than usual, and obviously Paper Doll would never encourage shelving books anywhere that might entail standing on something less than secure. If you have any heavy-footed Fee-Fi-Fo-Fummers shaking the house, I'd also be inclined to keep the books secured from sliding forward and off of the shelves, perhaps with a bungee cord.

Not Quite A Soak In The Tub

Earlier, I mentioned the "Calgon, Take Me Away" aspect of enjoying a good book in the bath. Swedish artist/designer Malin Lundmark seems to have taken that idea to its logical, if also impractical, conclusion with this Library Bathtub Armchair.

One assumes that this doesn't have working plumbing (unless you resign yourself to reading only plastic or rubber baby bath-books). And how would you get in...or out, even if you only hoped to use it as an armchair? Only Lundmark knows for sure, and she isn't telling.

From Furniture to Whole Buildings

Sometimes, you don't want to read a book about architecture; you may want to see some architecture made from books. For that, take a peek at The Book Cell. This bit of eco-architecture was created by artist Matej Kren as part of his Book Cell Project, originally on display at Lisbon's Centro de Arte Moderna.

Yep, the little building is created solely from books. Of course, we saw little cabins made of books in last year's Fool for (Organizing) Books post, but the Book Cell is a little different. The novels used for this project were all borrowed from the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian. At the end of the installation, the design was set to be taken apart, and the books returned to the Foundation for their original purpose...for spreading knowledge and ideas.

Kren built the octagonal framework, filled it with a vast selection of books, and then removed the frame. Of course, this wasn't Kren's first rodeo. He'd already made his name in the late 90's, installing Idiom, a tower of books, in the entrance hall of the Prague Municipal Library, and his Gravity Mixer,

was a rotunda made entirely from books, at the 2000 Expo's Czech Pavilion in Hanover, Germany.

Climbing The Walls...With Books

And finally, if you have the opposite problem of most of us, and rather than having too many books to shelve or organize, you have too few, you can take advantage of book-themed wallpaper, such as the magnificent, hand-printed faux library wallpaper of Deborah Bowness:

For colorful (and eerily realistic) designs, the UK's Tracy Kendall has three different styles of wallpaper: neatly stacked paperback books,

 , messy piles of hardcovers, and even vertical stacks of magazines.

There are also bookcase photo half murals with self-adhesive backing, like this one from Creative Wallcovering, which you can quickly affix to your wall in four parts.

It's a few days away, but I hope all my readers have a lovely, safe-pranks-only, April Fool's Day. Paper Doll remains...a fool for books.

posted on: 3/30/2010 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Janet Barclay, Organized Assistant on 3/30/2010 12:21:55 PM:

I wish I had a picture to share with you, but I once visited a house where one of the bedroom doors was covered with books facing outwards so it looked like a bookcase. It was so cool, and would have fit nicely between the book storage ideas and the wallpaper that looks like bookcases.

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 3/30/2010 1:56:38 PM:

That sounds really nifty. If you ever visit that house again, see if the owners will let you snap a picture and consent for it to appear. I figure if we've made it three years, we might do this April Fool's Day theme long into the future. Thanks for reading, Janet!

by Janet Barclay, Organized Assistant on 4/6/2010 12:40:28 PM:

I have lost touch with the owners, but I heard through the grapevine that they have moved, probably somewhere not nearly as cool.

by Jim Deitzel on 4/13/2010 8:17:38 AM:

The best organizing tip I have for books. Purchase a kindle. I received one as a gift about 4 months ago and haven't purchased a physical book since. I've not only saved money on the book purchase but I haven't add the physical collection of nearly 1 dozen hardback books to my collection. Now if I could only go back and turn all my old books into virtual books I'd be set. I supposed I could build a house out of them like the photo above :)

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 4/13/2010 10:25:01 AM:

Thanks for the suggestion, Jim. I have to admin that I'm torn. As a professional organizer, a Kindle (or Nook, or iPad) sounds like a wonderful thing. As a reader, however, I'm horrified whenever I imagine switching. There's an ineffable quality of a paper book--its heft, its texture--that I believe I'd miss too much. Just as an ecard pales in comparison with a handwritten letter, there's something I find magical about a real book. As we move into the future, I'm sure I'll be in the minority.

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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