“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
That is, unless that’s the reason you are getting the book.
Let me bring you up to speed:
Last summer my husband and I (Rachel) bought our first house. For him it was love at first sight! Built in 2003, it came with all new appliances and was move-in ready. I was not so immediately smitten. While neither of us have any experience in projects that would require more than paint, allen wrenches (for assembling that always classic dorm furniture) and/or our trusty IKEA tool kit, for some reason I thought an older home that had more “charm” would suit us better.
This idea was further perpetuated by the fact that our home has a “display alcove” (or just “alcove” as I like to call it). On the wall, at the bottom of the stairs, cut into the wall with a recessed light and everything, is an alcove. I laughed at it the first time I saw it. “What am I supposed to put there?!? My crown jewels? Perhaps my priceless Grecian amphora? Or maybe a soothing fountain to calm the patients waiting to see the dentist?”
Needless to say, it was not quite my aesthetic. I mean, I’ll take a built-in, but this was just tooooo… fancy (for lack of a better term). However, we bought the house- alcove and all- and I have enjoyed every minute of putting my stamp on my home.
After numerous suggestions of what to place in said alcove (another post all its own!), I was bequeathed a small statuette of Michelangelo’s Moses for the exact purpose of placing it in our new display place. This gift came from Seth’s grandmother who is a master decorator (and I don’t mean the “cobbled” kind) who, when I inquired her feedback for my decorating dilemma answered firmly (though as more of a directive) : “I’ll send you Moses. Put him on books.” (Ah, “books”- see, I’m getting to my point.)
So that’s what I did! But this was more than just using books to prop up an uneven table. This was my chance to showcase some beautiful works of art. I am drawn to old books: their textures are tangible, their illustrations can be amazingly eleborate, and even their smells hint at a history of readers. Consequently, it’s not unusual for me to return home from an outing of “treasure hunting” with a book that I likely have no intention of reading.
My 1931 original copy of The Romances of Herman Melville is one such book that I adopted about a year ago (though in my defense, I have read Moby Dick). I picked it up for whatever the “hardcover” cost is (two dollars?) at the Ann Arbor ReUse Center. With the cover’s goldleaf engraving of a ship on the horizon and the intricate contours of the ship, waves and “famous obsession” on the spine- this piece both contains and illustrates art. Even the tops of the pages are gold, providing an added metallic shine (my current sought-after texture).
So I had two books: Melville’s and my husband’s The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare. This book is not old, but it is big. The alcove opening is 44″x19″ and my Moses is 18″ in height. This book of complete works is 3″ thick, so on its side it chips away faster at the visual height of the space. Since I haven’t been wooed by any sonnets recently, I figured it was okay to use.
Yet with only the two books and the statue, the created mass only filled half of the alcove’s volume. Poor Moses did not look strong or respected drowning in the empty sea of light above him. Furthermore, I’m a firm believer in what has been called the “power of three.” Whether books, flowers, jars or towels- always three.
I looked over some of my other books-for-their-cover, but could not find one with sizeable differences in dimension. Perhaps one of the best parts of a decor problem is that sometimes the solution can only be found in shopping. Or better yet: treasure hunting. And where better to go than Ann Arbor’s Treasure Mart!? (I can’t wait to go with you, Jackie!)
Now without sounding too cheesy, I must admit that I just KNEW that I would find the perfect book for my alcove ON THAT TRIP. Call it intuition, serendipity or Providence….I have so many areas in my house that are yet to be cobbled! They either await the perfect piece of furniture or maybe the ideal accessory. I have learned that cobbling takes patience in order to get it just right, so I was anxious with anticipation for finding “the book.” (Editor’s note: Money can also help to “get it just right” faster than patience, but that’d be a different blog entirely.)
To spare any more details…this was my Saturday, and this is what I found tucked away outside on the bottom shelf of the more-often-than-not forgotten area of the mart:
I also realize that you may not be the Art History buff that I am so let me add this to the pot:
And if the cloth cover, gold embellishments and perfect size don’t cause you to fall over in utter bliss- let me just shout from the mountaintops that the grand total for this purchase was a whopping $3!!
I’m not sure when the next amazing, fortuitous decorating experience like this one will happen- but I know it will! Until then, I’ll continue to keep an eye out for those everyday objects that can be in and of themselves works of art worthy for display.
I have already applied this concept to some of my favorite album covers. With a free coupon in hand- find a sale (like I did) at Michael’s (or JoAnn’s) and pick up frames for a dollar a piece. I had the records already, but you can find some unique and original album covers at thrift stores for next to nothing. The graphics on some are comparable to the retro/modern art that sell for much more. I also like that since the size is standard, you can easily adapt the art to changes made in the room. This concept is nothing new, but the square share is so fun and can either stand alone or can be combined with others to fit any area of space.
Back to books: Don’t forget to also check out the illustrations inside! This can be great for an artwork series. I have some vintage children’s books with colorful pictures. When the day comes for a nursery, I will likely go this route over the cartoon-de-jour.
And now- to the close the book (pun intended) on this, my first ever blog post: I would like to thank Jaclyn Eilers Lutzke- (or as I know her, “Jackie”) for getting this cobbled idea, well, cobbled together in a blog. I dedicate this post to her- and in doing so, also hope to amend any offense I may have caused her (and other literaries) in the notion that a book could be judged by its cover.