Thursday, December 18, 2008

Caledonian Library

I sometimes like to complain about the way books are being used as decorations and dead props in Newer York. "Sometimes" really meaning this one time, when I examined the book collection in the faux-bookshop facade of The Eldridge.

More recently, books as unread decorative objects came up in a look at the Williamsburg life of Peaches Geldof. And then there's that whole thing where people cover their books in blank kraft paper, rendering them illegible so they virtually vanish into the decor.

While I think every bibliophile expresses parts of him or herself in a book collection, what happens when that book collection is blank or designed to go unread or made up exclusively of glossy coffee-table books? In that case, books seem to serve as hollowed-out, mirroring narcissistic extensions.

Another prime example just caught my eye.

apartment therapy

The Meatpacking District's Caledonia is being sold as "zen luxury" on the High Line, offering condo buyers and renters "The warmth of home. The cool of west Chelsea." The warmth is provided in part by the presence of a library, "a literary backdrop" they call the Assouline Culture Lounge.

On street level, the windows of the Culture Lounge are covered with quotes from literature's greats: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and a whole lot more. The carpet of the lounge is printed with letters in various fonts. So you might think this is a place to read written words, those things made from arrangements of letters. But from what I can discern, you won't find any of those quoted writers' works at the Culture Lounge.

That's because the books here are provided by Assouline, "the first luxury brand in the world that has used its publications as medium." They have a boutique in Dubai and another just opened in the new Plaza condo. Some of their books come wrapped in Chanel and Coach leather jackets.

Their subjects cater to the affluent and the aspirational. A few sample titles: Megalomania: Too Much Is Never Enough; High Society: The History of America's Upper Class; and A Privileged Life: Celebrating WASP Style.

A couple of taglines: "New York was vulgar, flashy and vibrant" and "Megalomania: excess, folly, splendor, vulgarity."

Barbie book: $500 (includes masks)


db said...

Apartment Therapy once had a post or a comment from a designer wanting to know where he could buy books cheaply by the lot for a library-style thing he was doing for a client. He got slammed.

I find it similar to the trend that Marc Jacobs started when he discovered rich girls would pay $200 for flannel shirts. If you have the money, you too can look like the creative type who shops at thrift stores. Or like the intellectual type who reads books. Both types often being too broke to afford the fashionable knock-offs of their actual, genuine lifestyles.

Karate Boogaloo said...

I the same way about the way records & record players are used as props & marketing tools. Thanks for putting it into perspective.

Anonymous said...

Just as soon as I get my check from Burnie Made-Off, I know where I'll do my shopping!

ShatteredMonocle said...

Peaches Geldof? Never heard of her. What is she supposed to be, the British Paris Hilton? Just one more reason to avoid Williamsburg.

And "Assouline", I can't think of a better name for such a company.

Anonymous said...

I shudder at the paper covered book spines. What is the point? They don't even look like books any more. It's not just a fuck you to books; it's an obscene use of valuable space. It's like looking at an expressionless face. - BN

joesanchez said...

A perspective worth Saying out loud, nicely said.

jessica j said...

Decorating with books is not a new idea. I worked at a used bookstore in North Carolina in the mid-90s, and we had interior designers as regular customerse. Sometimes they would ask for books by colors. Everybody who worked at the store was, of course, a bibliophile, so, of course, we all hated them. We filled their orders with some of our most expensive books, being careful not to let them have anything that was actually good, rare, or otherwise valuable. We also hated their (invisible) clients, and we liked to imagine an actually well-read guest questioning these idiots about their "libraries".

Anonymous said...

I am in no way affiliated with Assouline, but I enjoy their books. They have lots of beautiful pictures, but also do have interesting writing. Yes, I READ Assouline books! I also gave a lot of them as Christmas gifts, and not to people who are going to sit them on their coffee table to look erudite or fashionable.

Stephanie Weil said...

Damn, that's sort of akin to me buying a record and not tearing the shrink wrapping off the envelope in order to listen to it as soon as I get home.

What's the point? Thought these are supposed to be recreational reading books...not scholastic texts (which your school would require that you wrap in paper covering).