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Book smarts: Stylish ways to stash your stacks

June 22, 2009

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Modular white bookcases line a wall in the Washington, D.C., condo of bibliophiles David Joy and Offy Ismojo.

Modular white bookcases line a wall in the Washington, D.C., condo of bibliophiles David Joy and Offy Ismojo.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, steel appliances and slick floors meant that the condo lawyer David Joy and diplomat Offy Ismojo bought in Washington, D.C., looked mod the second they moved in. Well, except for the boxes of books, which the duo packed into the den. “We had more room in our last place,” says Ismojo, 47. “But here, we didn’t want bookshelves everywhere. That would look like the Library of Congress.”

So the pair consulted designer Shannon Wang of Apartment Zero, who picked out a pair of modular white bookcases and placed them behind the room’s gray wool sofa. Now, Joy and Ismojo’s cookbooks, Michael Chabon novels and travel guides fill the bookcase cubbies, along with vases and family photos. “It encourages us not to collect junk,” says Joy, 44.

Until everyone gives up books for Kindles, storage will challenge most nesters, be they college students cramming textbooks onto Ikea Billy shelves or recovering English majors lusting for home libraries.

Ironically, part of loving books is learning to let them go. “Some people hold on to every book they’ve ever read,” says Libby Langdon, an interior designer and author of “Libby Langdon’s Small Space Solutions” (Knack, 2009). “If keeping organized is tough, thin out your collection. Keep hardcovers that mean a lot; donate the zillion little paperbacks.”

And coordinating storage systems, either by building shelves into walls or using matching bookcases from Ikea or Design Within Reach, can make a mass of books seem like a meaningful collection. “Instead of having a million bookshelves all over the house, put them in one area,” Langdon says. “It’ll look like a library.”

More tips:

• Alternate placing books vertically and horizontally on shelves to add interest. Older volumes should stand upright. “Laying them on their sides makes spines bow,” says John Thomson of Bartleby’s Books in Georgetown.

• A pop of color, such as a brightly painted wall behind floating shelves or built-in bookcases with wallpapered backs, “makes a display look much more interesting,” Wang says.

• Have a particularly pretty art book? Open it to a stellar image (maybe a Warhol portrait) and put it on a bookstand such as the geeky-cool Atlas Ultra ($65, www.bookandcopyholders.com).

• A stack of books (similar sizes or piled large to small) adds height to a lamp or serves as a base for treasured objects, such as fossils or a sculpture. “You can make a big stack into an end table,” designer Langdon says.

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