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Made-to-order libraries

THERE'S nothing like a library to give a warm, cultured ambience to a home and to show its owners' tastes, to impress visitors and even to match their carpets and color scheme.

Made-to-order designer libraries are a trend in hotel lobbies, executive suites, cigar lounges, commercial chains, restaurants and homes of the well-to-do who can pay for the book look.

It can add a dash of homeliness, class or nostalgia. Someone might even pick up a book and read.

American Thatcher Wine, creator of Juniper Books, turned his book collecting hobby into a business in 2001. After a stint at corporate consulting, IT development and screenwriting, he now assembles made-to-order book collections and event huts for rare books. He calls them "decorative book solutions" for interior designers, visual merchandisers, set designers, businesses and homeowners.

Last year his company introduced custom-designed and printed book jackets in any color and style, without the costly and time-consuming rebinding process.

He sees custom libraries as a niche market unlikely to be threatened by e-books since ingenious libraries are sources of knowledge and entertainment, express mood and style and enhance decor.

Wine's clients have included Ritz-Carlton, J.W. Marriott, Four Seasons, Kiehl's retail, and even owners of big yachts. Wine personally chooses books and binds them in antique leather, modern leather, vellum, cloth or custom paper.

Want everyone to think you have read "Moby Dick"? Not a problem.

Q: How did you get started in custom libraries?

A: I love books and I have made a career out of doing creative things with them. While many bookstores, booksellers, and publishers have seen businesses as e-books have grown, I have created a niche market that's all about selling books in ways no one has ever done before. This includes building custom libraries, designing and printing book jackets that change the appearance of books, and making books more personalized and better looking on your shelves.

Q: Who are your customers? Which designs are popular?

A: I sell directly to homeowners, interior designers and businesses including hotels and retail stores. The custom-printed book jackets I invented have become very popular especially designs that create a classic library of vellum-bound classics at a fraction of the cost ... I have a decorative book bundle for sale through Pottery Barn, ongoing projects with designers including Yoo Design by Philippe Starck and Cullman & Kravis, a few projects building libraries for yachts in the Mediterranean, and more.

Q: How does it work?

A: It varies from project to project, but averages one or two months. I find out what the client wants in binding, size, color, subject matter and quantity. If it requires custom design and printing, or hunting for rare books ... that's my specialty so I will do whatever it takes ... Unlike a traditional bookstore where you go in and either they have the book or they don't, I will go to the ends of the earth to find or make exactly what a client wants - no one has ever done that with books before.

Q: What's your most satisfying creative design?

A: There are so many beautiful libraries ... I have had clients tell me they stayed up all night reading books I picked out for them, or cried when they saw the books I sent because they are so beautiful.

Q: Have attitudes toward book reading changed?

A: Yes, some people have adopted e-books and many people are doing less reading since there is so much more entertainment and information. Still, there is no substitute for holding a printed book in your hands or seeing a bookcase full of books in a home, so I think printed books will always have a place in the world. It will be a smaller market but they are not going away completely.

Q: Why do people want libraries? Collection, fashion, nostalgia or just showing off?

A: Clients who acquire books from me for all of these reasons. I have one client who has been building an amazing library of books about New Mexico for years including many rare books. For another client I just built a beautiful contemporary library of books in our printed jackets in black, white, gray and purple so that the books would coordinate with their carpet and upholstery. I have a lot of clients for leather books and that's all about having a classical-looking library but not necessarily reading them. Customers tell me they want books on their shelves that help them look smart and maybe their kids will read one day. There's nothing wrong with any of these reasons. The world is a better place the more books are sold for whatever reason.

Q: Is there a market in China where e-books are popular?

A: There's a lot of potential to help clients build book collections that they can enjoy in their homes. Whenever someone builds a new home, it's nice to design space for a bookcase, or a library. It can be a source of inspiration and comfort and inform their guests of their personality. E-readers can't do that .... Most of what I do can be done remotely. I also travel and I'm happy to help with any project of any size, so if a customer wants 20 leather-bound literary classics for their office in Shanghai, I can certainly help with that.


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