Features

Awesome Bookish Flooring

Beyond the inevitable—at least for our household—piles of books scattered here and there, it seems like it’d be difficult to make floors very bookish. But since I think just about anything can be made literary (except maybe wallpaper), I have faith in the possibilities of literary flooring.

Unsurprisingly, the Seattle Public Library, that icon of bookish design, has set the gold standard. On the first floor, almost as soon as you enter the building, you find 7,200 square feet of wood flooring designed by artist Ann Hamilton. In raised, reversed letters, the floor depicts words from the 11 languages represented in the Seattle Public Library collections. It’s a sensual, readerly treat, as your eyes catch the light on the letters’ raised edges and your feet, even through sneakers, feel the bumps ridges of language:

Floor at the Seattle Central Library, designed by Ann Hamilton. Photo by cunningba.
Floor at the Seattle Central Library, designed by Ann Hamilton. Photo by cunningba.

Another innovative feature of the Seattle library has lent itself to a clever flooring solution. The main stacks of the library are laid out not on separate floors but on a continuous spiral. To mark where you are in the Dewey Decimal System, to help you orient yourself and hunt down the book your searching for, the library opted for floor panels as well as signs:

Dewey Decimal flooring at the Seattle Central Library. Photo from the Walker Art Center blog.
Dewey Decimal flooring at the Seattle Central Library. Photo from the Walker Art Center blog.

Most of us, alas, don’t have the resources of a multi-million-dollar landmark library design project. But if you don’t have access to designers like Hamilton or fabricators to make awesome rubber inlays for your concrete floors, how are you to combine books and floors?

A bit more within reach might be amazing floor coverings made from books. This one, by the artist Pamela Paulsrud, was constructed from guillotined book spines and is one-of-a-kind, though it might inspire the more crafty among you to experiment with your own made-from-actual-books flooring ideas:

Bibliophilism (2006), by Pamela Paulsrud. Photo from her website, original tip from Apartment Therapy.
Bibliophilism (2006), by Pamela Paulsrud. Photo from her website, original tip from Apartment Therapy.
Detail of Bibliophilism in use.
Detail of Bibliophilism in use.

(Careful readers might note a similarity between Paulsrud’s floor-covering and one of the staircases I highlighted in “Awesome Bookish Staircases.” Book spines are apparently a useful decorating tool.)

For those of you who are more buy-it-online than do-it-yourself, the best bet is a literary area rug. Luckily, there are several directions to go on that front.

There’s textual, like this rug (available in range of colors) featuring a reproduction of a handwritten French sonnet. Very poetic:

Available from Home Decorators Collection.
Available from Home Decorators Collection.

Along similar lines, you could celebrate your love of poetry, and typography, with this one:

Available from Home Decorators Collection.
Available from Home Decorators Collection.

Or you could be a bit more circumspect with this abstract, book-inspired rug by José A. Gandía-Blasco:

Available from Switch Modern.
Available from Switch Modern.

If you’re feeling a bit—okay, a lot—less minimalist, you could always take a cue from kindergarten classrooms everywhere and pick one of these:

Available from LearnerSupply.com
Available from LearnerSupply.com.
Available from RugUSA.com.
Available from RugUSA.com.

Rabbits Reading RugWhat do you think about bookish flooring? Would you use it? Which of these options is your favorite?

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About Derek Attig

Derek Attig writes and teaches about book culture, technology, and history. In addition to writing a book about bookmobiles in American life, he blogs at Bookmobility.org. Follow Derek on Twitter: @bookmobility