"I didn’t start out as a book lover," admits Phillip Lim. "Initially, it was more about pragmatism: seeking knowledge having to do with research on work, on my interiors, building a home, even a word I wanted to understand more. But what I love about books is, once you start, you get to go deeper and deeper and deeper into a subject, and from there you go to another book, and another book, and soon after, you have a wall of books. And then you have two walls of books. And then—" The designer indicates the floor-to-ceiling bookcases that serve as the focal point of his loft apartment.
"Books inform you, but then they also become decoration. That may sound horrible to a true book lover, but I feel I honor them by making these objects part of my aesthetic world." The fact that the multicolored walls of spines are beautiful—as are many of the books themselves—is important to Lim’s conception of his highly personal apartment.
Lim chose every element: the old-board floors, the custom birch bar, the limestone counters. "It’s not for everyone," he concedes. "And it wouldn’t necessarily be easy to sell. But it’s my home; I built it for me, and books are the centerpiece."
His organizing principle is idiosyncratic. "They’re strangely organized in my head, as I’d organize clothes, or organize interiors. They’re not alphabetical, there’s no color-coding, there’s no system. Books about art would be next to interiors, interiors would be next to sofas. It’s a visual kind of memory," he explains.
He concedes that this system relies completely on his near-photographic memory, and that friends like to test him on the seemingly mysterious placement of the thousands of titles. He shudders at the thought of a more conventional filing method: "I don’t want another job! Books are for pleasure."
Surprisingly few of the titles have to do with fashion; Lim draws more inspiration from interiors books for "color schemes, shapes, silhouettes."
That said, Lim loves to share books with friends, especially younger creatives who may not necessarily have a relationship with the printed page. Although we live in a social-media culture steeped in images, they are often presented without a larger context. "People forget the genesis—what came from what—and that’s sad. You don’t just get to know what you’re looking at, but the context, the things around it."
The designer always has two books in his bag, and although he admits his frenetic lifestyle makes it a challenge, he spends as much time as possible reading on the squishy sofa that faces his bookshelves. "What I love is that now, friends will ask, hey, can I come spend the day in your house? They just want to come and look through the books. I warn them, if you sit there, you’ll never leave; it’s addicting."
Reprinted with permission from Bibliostyle, by Nina Freudenberger, copyright © 2019. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
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