Books: A Chapter in Interior Decoration; INTERIORS - DECOR: Books Becoming the New Wallpaper as Shops Start Receiving Orders for Literature by the Metre Measurement

Article excerpt

Byline: Annabel Bevan

THE idea of using books purely for decoration will chill the blood of any hardened bibliophile and also appear slightly absurd to even the fair-weather reader.

However, I have it on good authority that interior designers are often to be found placing orders at second hand and high street book stores for books by the metre!

However fickle or pretentious this may appear, we are all, to some extent, captured by the allure of a beautifully bound tome or, perhaps, classic Penguin paperbacks with their brightly coloured spines; orange for novels, green for crime and blue for biography. Even for those who have read every line of every novel in their home and scanned, in depth, images in every photographic or art journal; books, at the end of the day, are a wonderful accessory in any room.

The 19th Century clergyman and essayist, Sydney Smith once declared there is "no furniture so charming as books".

In the delightfully named Salubrious Passage, that conjures up scenes from a Dickens Novel and is aptly cobbled with iron pillars supporting the passage's canopied roof, is Dylan's Bookshop (Tel:

01792 655255 / www. dylans. com).

Swansea based, Dylan's describes itself as dealing in old and interesting books and the shop itself is a small cavern of a place, crammed with books from floor to ceiling.

The owner, Jeff Towns, is a selfconfessed bibliophile who bemoans the fact that there is, simply, not enough time to read all of the books he has in his own home. At the same time, he does not condemn the use of books as furniture, rather, applauds it, and admits to deriving comfort and aesthetic pleasure from being surrounded by books of all shapes, sizes and content.

Dylans has a wonderful array of beautifully bound books and interesting looking tomes to dress any room and they unperturbed by any such interior requests. Indeed, they have been confronted with everything from the little old lady that dropped in to request "blue books", being an old euphemism for pornography, but who, it turns out was decorating her living room in blue and wanted a library to match, through to the West Country dealer who arrived with a set of 24 volumes of Thackery, which would, undoubtedly, end up as extremely expensive wallpaper.

Jeff Towns said: "People just like having books around, after all, the binding on a book can be an art form in its own right. Books have a aura all of their own; there is nothing that beats the texture, smell and presence of a good book."

A large collection of books has always had a certain cache attached to it, with many of the stately homes and National Trust houses around the country boasting elegant and awesome libraries. With this type of collection, however, the books themselves possess a kind of inaccessibility and a certain irony, in that one of the things you really shouldn't do with rare books is read them.

In Paul Getty's state-of-the-art air-conditioned library in Oxfordshire, which contains more than 5,000 rare books, including some that originally belonged to Elizabeth I, the collection is arranged on deep, adjustable shelves for air circulation and lined in billiard-table baize, ensuring that a book is not marked when removed. There are sprinklers primed to pour out halon gas in case of a fire and a freezer in the basement to prevent fungal growth if a book gets wet. …