Bund Pictorial Article on Juniper Books
We’ve been fortunate this year to have a couple stories written about our business in Chinese publications. I have yet to see a flood of orders from Chinese customers looking to build a library of leather bound books, or a curated library of literary classics for their shelves in Shanghai (or Dubai, or New York, or Vancouver – we ship anywhere) but I’m sure they are coming.
One of the results of the January 6th New York Times article about my business and the creative things I am doing with books, is that I have received orders from around the world from as well as interest from various publications in Italy, Australia, China and other countries. It has been incredibly fun talking with everyone and I really appreciate how interested everyone is in the future of the book, how better book collections can be built and how books overall can be better integrated with design.
An article appeared in the Shanghai Daily on May 8, 2011 entitled “Made-to-order libraries”. It is currently behind their subscribers wall but I can send it to anyone who requests it.
Then earlier this year, an article appeared in the Bund Pictorial, in Mandarin – this one can be found through this link:
Here is a link to a Google translated version of the site. Note: it does not translate well but it is a hoot to read. “Thatcher temperature” ??? I wish I could read it in Chinese.
And here is my original Q&A correspondence with Florence.
1 Can you share with us your first custom library design experience? Is it successful?
I started selling rare books in 2001 as a part time occupation. In 2005, someone asked me to help them put together a collection of 4,000 books for their new home. I interviewed the family about their interests, hobbies, occupations, what sports they liked, who were their heroes, favorite authors, and many other things. Then I built the book collection from their perspective – what would I buy and display on my shelves if I were them. It was very successful and I have kept the same approach – paying attention to all the details and making the library look like it has been built one book at a time over the years.
2 How and why did you become a custom library designer? How did your former professional experiences help you in your new career?
The business of becoming a custom library designer has been an evolution and it was not something I set out to do. I started selling rare books because it was fun and educational in that I learned something from every book I handled. Previously I did a few entrepreneurial things – helping companies develop their Internet strategies and go online, and then I started a company that built online customer service solutions. Those careers didn’t have much to do with books or design, but they did teach me a lot about having the patience to find and build a unique business instead of trying to create it overnight, listening to your customers and evolving to meet a market need, and enjoying your work so that it never seems like work.
3 Your profession needs you to have a comprehensive and profound understanding of books of different sectors and areas. Do you like reading and how did you get to enrich your knowledge about books in your work?
Yes I love reading, but more than that I love learning about history and authors, and various subjects I’m less familiar with. So, when a client comes to me and asks me to build a collection of the complete works of a particular author or to put together some books about a subject, I really enjoy the process of learning as I work on their requests. I don’t present myself as an expert in every subject or every author, but I do learn things quickly and figure out who are the specialist booksellers who can help me with various requests. I have a lot of experience with so many varied requests that nothing really scares me and I can generally figure out how to build a book collection around any theme.
4 Book collection used to be your hobby, but now it’s your job. How a book collection as your work is different from that as your hobby?
It’s not very different, except that I’m a lot busier. I think a lot of people have hobbies that they would love to turn into a a job, but very few people do it. The reality is if you enjoy something as a hobby and you have a unique approach to it, then many times it will succeed as a business.
5 Where and how do you buy your books? Do you have a frequented bookstore or some particular book dealer partners?
I buy books from a lot of different sources. When I can I visit the bookstores where I live in Boulder and Denver Colorado such as Red Letter Books or Gallagher Books. I have some “book scouts” who bring me books that they know I can use. I buy out estates and sometimes entire bookstores when they close. I often find the books I need on ebay, amazon or abebooks. I receive inquiries from all over the US of people with book collections they would like to sell, so I buy those remotely. For specific requests, such as an Agatha Christie first edition, I know the dealers who have the best inventory, sometimes they are online and sometimes they are not.
6 Can you tell us something about your clients, including the hotels and design agencies? What kind of people your individual clients are? Why do they want to spend a lot of money to have a their own custom library?
Having a library assembled for you is not for everyone, but when a homeowner or designer wants to fill a lot of shelves and have it look great, they call me. My clients usually are building a new home, or a second home, and they simply do not have the time to go out and buy the books one by one, and they know that if I help them, the books will make sense as a coherent collection, look great on the shelves, they know I will save them tons of time and I will probably save them money too. A design firm like Cullman & Kravis in New York has engaged my services many times for their clients as they know it’s a very special service I provide and that I will deliver the books on time, on budget, and they will generally exceed expectations. The commercial projects are generally collaborations with designers such as with Theresa Fatino on the W Hollywood Residences Lobby where she had a vision for the design and I helped her fulfill that with some very special handpicked vellum books and custom wrapped volumes in neutral papers and fabrics.
7 How do your individual clients’ aesthetic in library design change? In other words, what’s the trend of books and their cover design?
I’m seeing a huge interest in light colored books – it’s related to people wanting to use light and neutral tones to make spaces feel bigger and brighter. As it relates to the books, this means a lot of antique vellum books, neutral colored sets, white wrapped books and custom printed book covers with the primary color being white. I’m also seeing a renewed interest in literary classics. I think this reflects somewhat of a trend of “back to basics” – people reading the classics, or at the very least being surrounded by them and having the option of reading them. Many clients tell me they want their children to see the classics on their shelves as they grow up, at least be familiar with the authors and titles and and hopefully be inspired to read them.
8 Can you share with us the design of your own library?
The books in my home include a little bit of everything that I sell. In my office I have collections of some of my favorite authors – Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, Nick Hornby – in various editions and bindings – first editions in dustjackets, signed copies, leather bindings, Easton Press editions, etc. I also have collections of Colorado history, reference books on Navajo rugs, and books related to my alma mater Dartmouth College. In my living room, I have books chosen both for their color and their content – the selection includes books in green, brown and gold decorative cloth and leather bindings by Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas. In my kitchen I have some cookbooks in my custom printed book jackets and for my kids I also have childrens books in custom printed book covers.
9 What kinds of books do your clients tend to decorate their residential or hotel library? Do you agree with the concept that “books’ decorative function will be stronger than their reading function in the future” ? Why?
This varies so much from client to client and that is what my business is all about. I don’t have a speciality in a particular type of books or a single design aesthetic – my business is about customizing book collections so that they contain the books my clients want and look look like they want. So, my clients libraries range from classical looking collections of antique leather books to ultra-modern walls of color books. Yoo Design by Philippe Starck is all about white books whereas the collection I built for the Four Seasons Residences in Austin, Texas is all about high quality handpicked literature, history and other subjects. Books are very personal, even when used as decorative objects in a hotel lobby for example. They evoke something beyond the here and now, they convey a sense of history and intelligence both through their titles and contents but also as objects that are more than a rectangular shape even if covered up in a solid color book jacket. I think there will always be printed books and there will always be a market for them. However, as electronic books become better and more popular, the books in many homes will yes, be used primarily as decorative objects and accessories.
10 Before collecting books for your clients, what kind of research and analyse you usually do as preparation work? Generally, how long does it take for your to design a library from the beginning to the end?
It varies substantially depending on how complicated the project is. For example we are making 4,000 white books for client right now and will complete that project in less than 2 weeks. On the other hand we spent about 12 months building a collection of 2,000 antique leather and vellum books – it took that long because the books were rare, we had to source them a few books at a time, and the client was very discriminating about which books were acceptable to him. I’d say most projects can be completed in 3-5 weeks or less. The research and analysis before a project begins also varies. If it is something we have done before, I can very quickly quote a price and get started. If it is something new, like assembling a collection by an obscure author or subject, it takes a few days of book searching and possibly conversations with some of my book sources, to then quote a price and move forward.
11 Can you tell us the most impressive experience of collecting books for your clients? The most expensive book? A client with the most weird requirement of his or her book collection?
Nearly all of my business is hardcovers and leather books, but I had a request recently from a client to build a collection of well worn paperbacks by a particular author who was coming to visit my client in a couple weeks and she wanted it to look like she had read all the books! For another client, they wanted all the books in a room to coordinate with the color of a light fixture, so they sent me the color swatch and I made new jackets for the books that matched it exactly. Most of my business these days is not about super expensive rare books, but about building entire libraries and so looking at the cost of a full collection and not the individual price of the books. That being said, I do have a number of clients for whom spending $1000 on a rare first edition of P.G. Wodehouse or $4500 on a signed limited edition Easton Press book is what I help them with.
12 Do you define yourself as a artist or a businessman? Why? Do you have a design credo of yourself?
Good question, I see myself as a craftsman working in the medium of books and libraries. The work is so customized for every client that it requires a lot of specialized skills and attention to detail. My credo is not a simple one liner. Basically, I think that for too long people have accepted books as they are, I believe that everyone should be able to have the books they want and to have them look great, if they don’t exist in the world that way, they should be modified so they look exactly the way you want them to look. This is the age of customization and personalization, there is nothing sacred about books that prevents them from being customized and personalized while everything else in the world is.
13 How many residential and commercial library do you have designed? Do you have and new plans for your future?
I don’t keep an exact count, but I’d say I have worked on several hundred projects that range from finding one special book for a client to building entire libraries. The plans for the future are to continue doing innovative things with books. I feel like I am just getting started on all the creative ideas for changing the look of books and how they are used.
14 The elephant image formed by several books is designed according to the requirement of your client for their custom library or ….?
I created the elephant for my own shelves. I found the original image in an old book from the 1760s and loved it. It was buried in an old book so I decided to liberate it and put it on the outside of the books. I will be doing a lot more of this in the future as I have a lot of illustrations that I love as well as original artwork to work from.