When I was young, one of my mother's favorite pastimes was bridge.
In anticipation of her turn at hosting a club gathering, the main floor was scrubbed and polished, the living room rearranged and scattered with tables and folding chairs, a layered dessert was concocted with a graham cracker crust, "bridge mix" was purchased by the pound and I was allowed to try one of my adolescent decorating stratagems.Depending on the season, this might be a profusion of red plaid ribbon around boughs of evergreen, a smattering of doily valentines in the shadow box mirror, or a saucy leprechaun perched to bestow favor over a card player's shoulders.
Bridge, while it became the temporary focus of our home life, ceased to rule once my mother's party was yesterday's news. Not so with my own adult obsession, the book club. Even before it was my turn to entertain, I was intent on revising my living room, and it hasn't been the same since.
Edith Wharton, Alice Walker, Jane Austen, Jane Smiley, Barbara Kingsolver and Toni Morrison have all been discussed in my home. With such venerable guests, I couldn't be content with merely sliding over the couch and setting up a card table. I needed to re-create the atmosphere of the literary salon. And though I lacked a library, I believed, like John Ruskin, that "if a book is worth reading, it is worth buying," and I needed to create plenty of space for my acquisitiveness in this regard.
The elements of the classic salon are perhaps in my literary imagination, fostered by the likes of Henry James. For I had in mind richly textured, though pleasingly worn opulence, replete with mottled velvet throws, deep chaises and stacks of stippled leather books.
Inspired to create a decor that is cozy and intimate, comfortable and inviting, I began by moving the round table out of the dining room and maneuvering it into one end of the living room. Covering it with a boldly patterned Kilim rug in ripe hues of yellow, red and blue, I found it the perfect pedestal for piles of oversized books and rustic reading lamp.
A collection of chairs were pulled close to invite browsing and conversation. Flat surfaces abounded, even if they were bound to tend the tall glasses of garnet liquid imbibed during book club. The same surfaces can accommodate the tea cozy apropos of a Barbara Pym novel or the elegance of champagne flutes inspired by the works of Colette.
- If you've run out of room for yet more bookshelves, building shelves just below ceiling height can be an ideal solution. In the kitchen, this type of shelf can tidily store cookbooks as well as crockery. Lining a long hallway with such a shelf can house a whole library of bindings, with the added advantage that it necessitates the acquisition of a set of library steps, another salon touch.
- Inexpensive bookshelves cease to look so when they are filled with a variety of volumes.
- Coffee-table books aren't just for on top of the table. The negative space below the table is a great spot for these as well.