January…ahhh, we can all breathe again! Whether the snow is two feet high outside the back door or we awake to the fog and damp of an English dawn, this is the month when life quiets down and we have a strong desire to reorder our life and surroundings. I was alerted to this when my 77-year-old mother, Sylvia, informed me she was clearing out 20 years of accumulated nonsense from the garage and had called in the scrap metal dealer! Impressive. Here in the Hamptons with the Christmas tree dismissed and decorations down, Hanukkah gifts dispersed and the crystal and fine china put away, we survey the damage left in the wake of two months of controlled chaos that started with Thanksgiving.
Yes, throw things out, clean the fridge, call the window cleaner, but what to do with all those new books and magazines, the weird but meaningful gifts, etcetera? And how do we re-order our possessions?
Shelving—the elegant, efficient and often beautiful answer.
One of my favorite Hamptons home design features is custom shelving that runs above and adjacent to a doorway or arch. A sophisticated solution to store and display the many books a household acquires over a lifetime. A library that gives insight into the loves and interests of the occupants. Arrange books by category (gardening, cooking, biographies, history, literature, travel, fiction) and gather books of similar size together so that eventually additional inventory can be placed on top of them and not look disorderly. Shelves can run from ceiling to floor or have built-in cupboard space underneath.
If less wall space is available consider a window seat alcove with bookshelves against either side of the window. Form and function are perfectly aligned as the reader settles in for a Sunday afternoon nap with an old fictional friend or a copy of Dan’s Papers.
Children’s rooms can benefit greatly from custom shelving. Their rooms tend to be smaller, so making use of the walls over the bed works really well and creates a cozy sleeping area for boys and girls alike. The cottage style room shown above has shelving at two heights and carved wood scroll work to complement the traditional country head board and night table. Great use of color too, sunny and bright without being garish. And note the useful under-bed drawer organizers, perfect for an undersized room.
Still thinking about the smaller Hamptons home, building bookshelves along a corridor or upstairs hallway is a creative use of space available as seen above.
The next two examples illustrate exceptionally well how a good eye and imaginative mind can create a storage facility for books and collectables that adds dimension and architectural interest to any home. Books on display are an important aspect to a well presented house, be they stacked next to a guest’s bedside table or featured under the center island in the kitchen. As long as they are organized thoughtfully (not necessarily in regimented fashion) they augment a sense of longevity in a home; an interesting life being lived by interesting people.
Think about your home’s books, magazines and collectables and re-order them this month. Build bookshelves or buy free-standing pieces from consignment stores, Ballard Designs or Pottery Barn, for example. See how different your home feels. But take time to clean out the flatware drawer, your bathroom cabinets and your linen closet at the same time for an invigorating start to the New Year.
Helen Lind is an interior decorator, organizer and home stager working in Long Island and Manhattan. You can contact her at (516) 922-3518 for a proposal or consultation, or visit her online at englishivyinteriors.com.
Photographic references from Color with Confidence 2008, (Meredith Publishing), Complete Home Storage, Barbara J. Braasch and Lisa Stockwell Kessler, New Rooms for Old Houses, Frank Shirley, Bunny Williams’ Scrapbook for Living.