September 2014

Pick Up a Copy!

At home with books

By Emily Hedrick | Photography by Jason E. Miczek

Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 01, 2011

Share Share

Gutenberg still rocks.

Not to diss Kindle, but there are still plenty of purists who treasure the words printed by Gutenberg’s historic invention. On paper, with ink. These self-described book junkies want to hold and own “real” books – as God and Gutenberg intended.

How do they co-exist peacefully with their book collections in this Age of Kindle, blending them into their home décor?

Beverly Allen of Beverly Allen Interiors, who teaches interior design at Queens University, believes avid readers like herself should always incorporate books into their home design plans. “Books have long been called the soul of a room,” Allen says. “Books bring accessibility to the occupants of the house. They add warmth and texture to a space, but almost more importantly, reveal the best aspects of the people who inhabit it.”

Bookcases are appropriate in any room, she notes. “Think about the appeal of a dining room that doubles as a personal library, and what exciting dinner conversation can be sparked there,” she says.

Allen encourages clients to display their books liberally – not just on coffee tables and on bedside tables, where they might be expected, but in spaces like breakfast rooms and foyers as well.

Cathy Anderson, a fellow Queens faculty member, is a lawyer and nationally known author who can’t remember a time when she didn’t love books. Like many book junkies, she has had to find creative ways to accommodate the collections she and her husband have acquired over a lifetime. “I joke that I married my husband partly because he still has his original set of the Hardy Boys books,” she laughs.

Anderson says she’s descended from a long line of readers with tendencies toward obsessive-compulsive book behavior. “When I was growing up, I thought the path at the end of our driveway ended at the public library,” she remembers. Now she owns both a Kindle and an iPad, “but I haven’t noticed we’re buying fewer books.”

Anderson, who publishes her “Southern Fried” mystery series under the name Cathy Pickens, still owns the set of Nancy Drew mysteries she had as a child. To help organize her substantial and varied collection of material – books on such topics as forensic science, poisons, female killers and law, along with juvenile and adult fiction – her woodworker father made custom-built, glass-enclosed bookshelves. They’re found throughout the house.

As a scholar, Anderson observes that books seem to have less of a place in popular culture than in the past. “Have you noticed that in the older TV shows and movies, you’re likely to see books on the set? But now, it’s almost a jolt to see them,” she says.

‘I buy a book for keeps’

One avid reader who has taken a somewhat novel – and whimsical – approach to incorporating her love of books into her decor is Maralon Haviland, a retired math and science teacher. Each room of her Charlotte home is organized around authors or literary-inspired themes.

There’s the “Gone With the Wind” room, which houses printed material and memorabilia about both the novel and the movie. There’s the natural wildlife room, which holds her numerous volumes on natural science, as well as outdoorsy fiction by authors such as C.J. Box and Nevada Barr. Most of her sports books are in the den, which carries the red, black and white colors of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Cookbooks preside in the kitchen, naturally, while garden books and Southern authors such as Dorothea Benton Frank, Ann B. Ross and Anne Rivers Siddons hold sway in the craft room.

Reading fiction fell by the wayside while she was teaching, so Haviland is now making up for lost time. Therefore, in her bedroom she keeps a pile of mysteries close by at all times – titles from the likes of Nora Roberts, Karen White, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Margaret Maron.

“Yes, I own a lot of books,” says Haviland. She’s an avid patron of Park Road Books in the Park Road Shopping Center, and jokes that if she gave up her book-buying habit she could afford to live in Myers Park. “I buy a book for keeps. I want it, I deserve it and I’ve paid my dues.” She has even designated a beneficiary in her will for her collection.

Melinda Covington of the Quail Hollow neighborhood took a more traditional approach. She didn’t need a fourth bedroom, so converting it into a formal library was “a no-brainer.” Now, even with floor-to-ceiling shelving, it contains only a fraction of the 1,000-plus books she owns, with the remainder scattered throughout the house. Her prized collection of titles by a favorite mid-20th century British author, Rumer Godden, is in her dressing room.

The novels Covington treasures partially reflect her visual training as an interior designer. “I like the pictures they paint of the times in which they were written,” she explains. “I like books about the ‘30s written in the ‘30s.”

While she didn’t design any of her own rooms around a literary theme, Covington went one better: She named her beloved golden retriever Rumer.

‘Avoiding the e-book revolution’

Stephen Westman of the UNC Charlotte library staff, who handles web-based projects there, calls himself “a stranger in a strange land.”

“I’m a computer person, but I’m also a librarian, and not only am I avoiding the e-book revolution totally, I’m not even tempted,” he says emphatically.

He looks at books and libraries as “the physical representation of knowledge handed down through the ages,” and treats his personal book collection with the same respect. “I come from a long line of bibliophiles,” says Westman. “I don’t even know how many I own.” In fact, the need to accommodate those books drove the decision to move from an apartment to his present house in the SouthPark area, where bookshelves predominate.

“I’m a Jew, and Jews are called ‘people of The Book,’” he points out. “I am sure Kindle is not what God had in mind!”

He adds: “Books have qualities that e-books simply don’t have. They’re more verifiable. I’m a fundamentalist on this topic, and this is one front from which I won’t retreat.”

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more