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  • Matt

5 reasons why books serve a decorative purpose: the business case for books everywhere

1. Bookshelves can absorb sound

Large pieces of furniture such as bookshelves block sound coming through the wall from another room. A library full of books can be the perfect way to block sound coming from a restaurant or conference room. Placing books and decorative objects in bookshelves help to absorb sound because heavy objects (which books are resisted vibration). This is most seen in hotels with restaurants or breakfast halls that adjoin the entrance or check-in area. We have seen this also in co-working spaces which feature large, shared working spaces near the reception or lobby of the building.

Large coffee table books or old leather-bound books which are amongst the heaviest types of books on the market are the best books to choose from to resolve noise disturbances coming from adjoining rooms, however these can be amongst the most expensive types of books available on the market. Another solution is to present small contemporary books compactly without any space between them. If there is a space, we recommend filling the spaces with large heavy decorative objectives such as candles, trinket boxes and/or heavy metal table sculptures.

2. Books fill up spaces anywhere

Books can be displayed upright on a shelf, displayed flat on a table, displayed open on a stand, and even displayed at an angle leaning against other objects such as bookends or decorations. Any space that is empty can be filled with books from tables to nooks to shelves. They can be found to suit any space because they come in all different shapes and sizes, textures and colours, weight and covering. They can even be made to order! Lots of people struggle to fill large empty walls with something often choosing to go with bookshelves filled with books. Other times, people struggle to cover large coffee tables that would otherwise get dirty very quickly with glass and coffee cup stains. Some people also find them to be an excellent solution for door stops! Books are incredibly versatile and best of all can change location as and when you need.

Books do not need to remain in the original space for which they purchased. Books can move around as a room changes function. Books might at the start of the day work well to be displayed on tables for a room which is only used to connect onto somewhere but might be moved to shelves in the evening once the room is repurposed for a cocktail or dinner event where the table space is needed. Books can even be easily stored away out of sight if an event so requires all the space available even that which was occupied by books. Finally, filling up spaces with books does not mean filling up the space completely. There are ways of completing an empty space with minimal decoration, which books do incredibly well. For example, one might only need two large coffee table books to decorate a table or even just one large book open for display. The art and design of books lives in harmony with the art and design of interiors. Thinking of how books fill a space is also thinking about how to style the space in its entirety.

3. Books reminds people of home

Books are usually found in homes. Books are the private collection of an individual or a family, at least nowadays that is where most books can be found. During the COVID-19 pandemic, at home libraries and bookshelves became a global trend as the need to decorate one’s Zoom background as something ‘work appropriate’ and ‘professional’ became a part of video conferencing. And yet, books when first made were too expensive for most people to have in the home so in fact, people would go to public book libraries to read or borrow books. The earliest setting for books has always been in public spaces. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that books have gone full circle and started appearing again in public spaces such as hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and co-working spaces. This is especially so given the large reduction/underfunding of public libraries.

Because of this association, many hotels or restaurants or co-working spaces or even temporary residences have chosen to include books as decoration. Featuring books allows the space to feel like home. A new and unfamiliar space that is being used for a short period of time must evoke good feelings right from the moment they walk in the door. In fact, therefore books with their positive associations of a home can bring joy and happiness to most people, particularly for those who either love books or have had books in their homes. A sense of comfort, warmth, ease, intimacy, rest, and relaxation, which are all strong positive emotions, which can be especially needed when in a foreign country.

4. Books add lots of colour to a room

Books with their unique and distinctive book covers can add a great deal of colour to a room or space. While some countries have more brightly covered book covers than others (I can say confidently this is the case when comparing UK printed books with printed books in France) they all have some illustration, design and colour that brings differentiation and distinction to white walls. In fact, it is very difficult to find all white books, something which some clients employ book curators like myself to find for them, they are so rare. Given that all books have different covers (there can be some from certain publishing houses like Gallimard in France or Adelphi in Italy) there is an opportunity for book buyers to fill the room with a great number of colours. Again, the fun and beauty of curated book collections is that you can decide the extent to which colour through books can decorate a space. A google search will suffice in pulling up images of colour coded libraries from rainbow style to all white, there is a look for every type of room imaginable.

Another aspect of book covers that needs not to be forgotten is how the design and colour of the books is not limited to the front cover. The spine of the book can often be a defining look of a book! In the UK, the Penguin book printing press is famous for its penguin drawing on the spine and front cover of all its published books. It has become an icon in the book world which has led to many merchandising and art from wallpaper to tea mugs. How you display the books in your space will also influence how much colour they contribute to the space. Some books spines are a continuation of the book cover while others are either more bold or more muted than their covers and therefore must be equally considered before purchasing and/or styling!

5. Books give a room or building personality

The fifth and final reason why books serve a decorative purpose is that books give a room/space personality. What this means is that the space is filled with types of books that will give a message to whoever walks into the room. While the message might not be interpreted in the same way by all the passers-by, the message will be nonetheless communicated and interpreted. For example, a room filled with old leather-bound books gives the space the personality of traditional and old-world culture, or luxury for leather bound books are rare and expensive. While a room filled with coffee table books might make one think the hotel is ‘artsy’; having a more cultured identity since most coffee table books are visual arts books on society, art, photography, and architecture. But most of the time, when people visit a room filled with books, they understand that the owners are trying to tell them something about them: their interests, roots, influences, current context, and great loves from fashion to fiction; someone chose them for their significance and that meaning is clear to any persons coming up to the bookshelf and reading either the spine, title, or first few pages. Books are an open invitation to get to know whose company they are in and where they are.

Here is a list of just five reasons why books serve a decorative purpose but there are plenty more reasons for keeping books on shelves and on tabletops!

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