Lake Norman Magazine

At home with books

Karin Solomonson is pictured inside her reading room at her Huntersville, NC home. The space was designed by Christina Britt Lewis, owner of The Redesign Company.
Karin Solomonson is pictured inside her reading room at her Huntersville, NC home. The space was designed by Christina Britt Lewis, owner of The Redesign Company. JASON E. MICZEK

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? Christina Britt Lewis of The Redesign Company of Davidson believes books are among the most important elements of one’s home. “Books tell our story,” says Lewis, who explains that she is not so much as an interior designer as an artist. “I see beauty in what my clients have accumulated over time,” and by repurposing, recycling and restaging these items, creates a “high-end look for a low-end budget.”Books are central to The Redesign Company’s ultimate goal to create a peaceful, functional and family-focused space – one that downplays TV and other electronics.Lewis’ own home in Huntersville is the epitome of her philosophy. “We’re just accustomed to a quieter life around here,” she says. Lewis, her husband, Tim, and their two boys make a point of having dinner together with the TV off. “We talk to one another – which is a novelty in some households, I know. We actually ask one another, ‘What are you reading?’” she says. “Our home is our sanctuary,” Lewis explains. In fact, her company’s online address is For some clients she even converts dining rooms into libraries. “Books are a fantastic art form, after all. So instead of framed art, why not display your books? Bookcases can go into any room. And what better way to steer a conversation, whether it’s a family meal or a formal dinner party, than to be surrounded by your books? Books tell who you are,” Lewis says.Karin Solomonson of Huntersville, who calls herself “a total bookaholic,” is a good example. Lewis created a library for Solomonson from her former dining room. “It’s a tech-free zone that pays homage to my love of libraries from the time I was a little girl,” says Solomonson, a writer and retired teacher. “I’ve always viewed libraries as sacred spaces. I love the tactile feel of books.” For her, Borders Books’ recent going-out-of-business sale “felt like a funeral.”The custom floor-to-ceiling shelves Lewis had built for Solomonson’s library now groans contentedly with her sizeable collection with a twist not found in most home collections: Lewis organized all the books according to the Dewey Decimal System.As one might expect, professional librarians are among those most passionate about the look, the feel, the smell of books, and whose own personal collections sometimes take on a life of their own. Linda Katzman of the North County branch of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library is one of them.Growing up as an Air Force brat, Katzman looked forward to the family’s weekly outing to the book store, which took place every Sunday after church. “Wherever we moved, (our) mother allowed us to take our books,” recalls Katzman. “We might not take all our clothes and toys, but we always took our books. Another constant were our encyclopedias and all our [ital]National Geographics, because Mother thought we might need them for reference.”The books and magazines went to Germany, Hawaii and several points in between before the family settled in Huntersville when her father retired. Now one whole room has been designated as a library lined with six-foot shelves. “Sometimes I just go in there and sit,” admits Katzman. “Those books hold a lot of memories.”Reference librarian Brenda Almeyda of the Johnson C. Smith University Library also claims a lifelong addiction to books. Now numbering into the hundreds, they fill every nook and cranny of her home because she never throws or gives one away. Even though she has made the leap into electronic books, “I don’t seem to be gaining any space” for her eclectic collection, which she finds decorative as well as satisfying to her bibliophile nature.Almeyda’s colleague Faye Richards at the JCSU Library compares herself to the cobbler whose kids have no shoes. “Both my husband and I have worked for libraries for years, and we still haven’t found the formula to cohabitate with all the books we own,” she laughs. “They’re in boxes, in the headboard of the bed, all over the house. We’re always saying, ‘One of these days we’re going to set up a system’ It hasn’t happened yet. But we’re not getting rid of them!” 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 south Charlotte, where bookshelves predominate. “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,” Westman declares. “Besides, I’m a Jew, and Jews are called ‘people of The Book.’ I am sure Kindle is not what God had in mind!”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. 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.“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.”