Book collectors read through the lines

Technically, reading and decorating are different pursuits. In Los Angeles, the lines often blur.

“A guy came in and only wanted blue covers because the decor in his kitchen was blue,” says Cook’s Library owner Ellen Rose.

Once the life’s work of dedicated bibliophiles, amassing a personal library has become as easy as ordering takeout. Professionally designed collections can be specific (first editions, pastry cookbooks, computer history) or aesthetic.

“New construction has lots of shelving,” says interior designer Alexa Hampton. “It necessitates books. Endless tchotchkes look depressing.”

Rachel Weinstein at the Heritage Book Shop is currently working with a client to assemble a collection of first editions by children’s illustrator Arthur Rackham. But she admits some shoppers are far less picky. “There are people who come in and say, ‘Three feet of red.’ ”

Such (in)discrimination might best be handled by Book Décor in Fallbrook, Calif. Former interior designer Leni Leth sells leather-bound books by the foot, with prices beginning at $100. The catch? They’re written in Danish.

No matter, says Leth. Place those volumes on the highest and lowest shelves, leaving eye level for English tomes.

Placement also comes in handy when you don’t want to look like you have an insta-library.

“We can make it look like it has been there for a long time by combining old stuff with newer books,” says Nancy Bass, who created the “Books by the Foot” program for Strand Bookstore in New York. “Many of these people love books and want to be surrounded by books. They just don’t have the time to buy them.”

Which begs the question: When will they find time to read them?

As for Hampton, she wishes more clients came clean about their professional libraries. “There is no shame to buying a DVD collection,” she says. “Why should there be shame with books?”

The Mystery Bookstore
1036-C Broxton Ave.
(310) 209-0415
For: Collectible and first edition mystery

Book Décor
305 Industrial Way,
Fallbrook, Calif.
(800) 959-0221
For: Leather-bound books in Danish, sold by the foot; French, German and English available

Dutton’s Brentwood Bookstore
11975 San Vicente Blvd.
(310) 476-6263
For: Music, literature, modern first editions and children’s books. Dutton’s staff will only create collections in which they have expertise.

The Cook’s Library
8373 W. Third St.
(323) 655-3141
For: Cookbooks and culinary literature

Strand Book Store
828 Broadway,
New York
(212) 473-1452 ext. 100
For: Anything and everything

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