Books Placed Backward: Art or Nonsense?

By Tracee M Herbaugh Tracee M Herbaugh | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), April 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Books Placed Backward: Art or Nonsense?


Tracee M Herbaugh Tracee M Herbaugh, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


L

ooking for an easy way to organize a messy bookshelf? You might consider turning all the spines backward.

Yes, the backward bookshelf is one of the easiest ways - albeit, not too functional - to clean up a hodgepodge of texts. It's also an interior design craze that's about as culturally divisive as national politics in America.

Advocates tout the simplistic texture of the pages, while opponents argue that the idea is just plain stupid since you can't see which books are which. Generally speaking, you love it or hate it.

The backward bookshelf began to trend in the mid-aughts, mostly as an artistic styling tool in photographs on small-scale design blogs or bookshop websites. Now, big-box retailers such as West Elm and The Container Store have incorporated backward bookshelves into their product displays.

A Google search for "backward books" will bring back millions of results, from sites including social-media mainstays like Pinterest and Instagram, various women's magazines and some interior design staples like Apartment Therapy.

"I can see the appeal because a lot of times, if there's a lot of books in a room, people find it distracting or overwhelming," said Sarah Cole, a Boston-area interior designer. "But it's not super-functional, and unless the books are purely decorative, it just seems challenging."

Backward books, Cole said, do align with the neutral, monochromatic look that is popular now in design.

Achieving a simple, stylish look is exactly why Cari Shane turned her books backward. Four years ago, the public relations executive was renovating a 1914 row house in Washington, D.C., when her teenage daughter suggested the idea.

"I had these beautiful orange chairs for the living room and I needed something to set them off," Shane said. "I needed something that was going to let the chairs be the focal point. …

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