Follow by Email

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On the Brilliance of High Fidelity and Organizational Faux Pas

You may or may not know this about me, but I am obsessed with the ways in which people construct their homes. In particular, what they choose to fill them with. Structures and spaces are all well and good, but speaking as a 20-something non-profit employee and all that implies, I don’t anticipate owning a home, well, ever. So structural niceties are always an added bonus, but I’ve learned to focus on the filling, because the vehicle is liable to change every 12 months.

There’s this wonderful website. Do you know about it? I believe the original mission of the folks at AT was to provide a forum for renters, whose spaces will never grace the pages of Better Homes & Gardens, to share their decorating triumphs, challenges and queries. I first turned to AT when I lived in Chicago and was not allowed to paint the walls of my otherwise super cool apartments. What does one do to own a space they don’t own? I am now fully addicted to this website. I peruse it daily, paying special attention to the spacious, built-in abundant, hard wood floored, light boxes that are apartments in Chicago, as well as the amazing Danish design that crops up over and over on the house tours.

Keeping in mind that I love seeing what’s going on in the design world, particularly as it pertains to other YFBs (young, fabulous and broke), I’m noticing a few trends that run the gamut of ridiculous to just plain tacky. One that I find particularly egregious.

I’ll introduce this design “don’t” with a quote from High Fidelity (which, by the way, you can watch for free right now on if you don’t already own it and watch it on a monthly basis like I do). In this scene Rob is reorganizing his record collection and Dick shows up to invite him to a club:

It is comforting. There’s a logic to Rob and the autobiographical organization of his records. It’s a bit unconventional, but it works.

Which brings me to my point: If I were to walk into your house and you had organized your books autobiographically, I would be impressed. If you had organized them by subject; biographies on one shelf, exhibition catalogs on the next, international classics in one area, American gothic writers in another, travel books, dog-eared and full of sticky notes, next to your bed, text books you can’t bear to part with prominently displayed on an otherwise unused desk and embarrassing books that you love but don’t want to admit loving in a cardboard box tucked safely away in a closet; I would have sincere respect for you and probably suggest we become best friends, because that’s how I organize my books.

But, if I were to stroll into your home to be met by a sight like this:

I would promptly turn on my heels and never speak to you again. Because this means you are stupid and I don’t want to associate with stupid people. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in my life.

Let’s compare color-coded book organization to Rob’s autobiographical record organization, shall we? Say you have a book on Fleetwood Mac. A biography of the band. To find said book on this shelf, it wouldn’t help you to know it was a biography. Nor would it help you to remember that you purchased this biography in the winter of 1997 after a particularly bad break-up with a fellow band mate. The only thing that could help you locate this book on this shelf is the color of the spine. Doesn’t that seem ludicrous to you!?

I can hear what you’re thinking, “That’s not a very large bookshelf. It wouldn’t take too long to locate anything on a bookshelf that size. Also, rainbows are pretty.” Well, my friend, I would counter like so:

If you like rainbows, get one of these –

Maybe drape it from the top of your bookshelf. Anchor it atop your shelf with a pretentiously large book on dada. You’ll get the same effect.

Or go outside on any given day in Portland at about 7:30 p.m., there’s bound to be a rainbow in the sky.

Because the larger your book collection grows, the harder it would be to find anything. Try finding Fleetwood Mac’s band biography on this bookshelf!

I spent some serious time researching this phenomenon in decorating and was appalled (but not shocked) to learn that decorators have purchased books in bulk, just to fill out a particular color area underrepresented in their clients’ legitimate collections! I can’t make this stuff up! There are seriously flea markets out there that will sell books of a certain color by the pound! And regardless the topic or the condition of the book, people buy them.

It makes me wonder if these same people, who I assume to be of low intelligence, visit Powells and expect the Red Room to have nothing but red books in it, the Green nothing but green, etc. I wonder what they imagine the books in the Pearl Room to look like. I wonder if employees at the information desks are ever asked, “Could you point me in the direction of orange books please?” I wonder if, in the checkout lane, cashiers ever inquire about their customers’ book choices. “I see you have a vegan cookbook and the Grill Master’s Guide to Meat, what gives?” To which the buyer might reply, “They’re both blue.”

I think it’s a good thing I don’t work in a bookstore. I would be fired after refusing service to morons like this. But any self-respecting bibliophile would take offense at such poor design sense.

On a related note, and by way of conclusion: if you like animal prints visit the zoo. Don’t skin a zebra and use it as a rug. Yuck.


In short:

I discovered today: that I love the music and lyrics to many Decemberists songs, but I can’t help myself. I hate the vocals.

It’s most rainy and cold here today. I believe there is a conspiracy brewing on Mt. Olympus to evacuate Oregon of all mortals and take over what is usually a delightful place to live.

Listening to on repeat:

My life, in a nutshell: meh.

1 comment:

  1. haha seeing this totally makes me want to rearrange my books by color. i think it recognizes a visual value of books as objects that maybe not everyone else is into. i guess i also would like to think i am intimate enough with my books that i would know somewhat what they look like and therefore where to find them, but i also move every year so try to keep my collection as small as possible...
    i do agree that the buying for color is a little upsetting. but i guess whatever floats people's boats, yeah? having a space you adore is a pretty big deal in my book (harharhar), color coordination included.

    and i can't stand the decemberists dude's voice, either. supposedly he's difficult to work with, too. :/ wah wah.