A Bibliophile Shares His Book Storage Secrets

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By Alex Ronan / Published by Dwell
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A book lover gives us tips on storing prized tomes.

"One of the first things I have to explain to people when they come to the shop is that we're not a bookstore," says Erik Heywood, the owner of Oakland based Book/Shop. It sounds counterintuitive, but instead of simply selling books, the space serves those who love to read. Book/Shop offers personal library furniture, broadsides, bookends, plus a constantly rotating collection of rare and vintage books. "We're here to serve those who love their lives spent with books: looking at them, reading them, carrying them with them, and living with them, Heywood explains. We checked in with Heywood about the constantly changing shop, his own philosophy about living with books, and what inspired his latest furniture collection.

A look inside Oakland's Book/Shop, which Heywood opened in 2013.

How did you think about the design of the Oakland shop?

“I used a wood box as a nightstand for a long time. I would stack books in there, but they were hard to get at, so I started designing with that issue in mind,” Heywood explained of the LBR series. The LBR-1 Book Stool, pictured here, is available in walnut or ash.

From the beginning I knew I wanted a fluid setup. The look and layout of the shop change nearly as often as the books. For example, when we met Alexandra Whisnant, a chocolatier who had recently relocated to the Bay Area from Paris, we knew we wanted to have an event with her. We ended up emptying the shop of all of our merchandise and we reconfigured our central shelving divider to become a chocolate making station. In the midst of our shop, Alexandra hand-dipped a chocolate surrounded by really beautiful vintage French books we’d restocked the shelves with. If you came back the next day, you would never have known the event took place, or that it had looked completely different the night before. It was like a magic trick. I love stuff like that.

“Once I finished designing the LBR-1, I realized it could be used as a nightstand, stool or an end table. With those dimensions sorted out, we then stretched the design into a bench,” said Heywood, of the LBR-2, shown here in walnut.

The library furniture collection seems like a natural extension of the shop's goals. How did it come to be?

The SSB is made of four pieces that slot together to create the central V design and comes in two types of wood or steel. It can hold an open cookbook in the kitchen, display favorite titles in the living room, and it also works well for kids.

The library furniture is intended to help frame a certain way of thinking about your books and their place in your life. The pieces are meant to store books in a useful way, with just a hint of "display" that’s subtle but intentional. I usually design something with strong ties to existing designs I admire, adding some function or possibility to it while also making it very distinct from its inspirations.

Heywood lives in Oakland with his wife, two small children, and lots of books. The young boys provide the abstract paintings that grace the walls.

As the owner of a bookstore, is your own home overrun with books? 

My wife and I have a few thousand books in the house, and we try very hard not to let the house feel "overrun" by them. There are seven walls in the house that have floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall shelving with books. We try to keep everything on the shelves and we try to keep the shelf design minimal. We use a lot of BOOK/SHOP pieces, as well as this Ikea system made for closets and laundry rooms, while we save up to buy a Vitsoe shelving system.

As people say, "A house without books is not a home." How do you think about books as a design object in your home?

Made right, books are design items! They are beloved objects. They spell out your history, your travels, your loves, your youth, and much of your inner life, all over your walls. If you buy good, well made books, they make your house look good in a way nothing else can.

What have you learned about living with books?

One thing we've found is that whichever room has the most books in it is the room we end up wanting to hang out in the most. It creates an atmosphere that's more relaxing and inviting than anything else we can do.