Beds with Bookshelves (or How to be a Bookish Insomniac)

My grandmother had what I considered the world’s most decadent bed. It wasn’t topped with swansdown or flanked by an ever-burbling Champagne fountain. Cary Grant and Louis XIV were nowhere in evidence. Instead, the head of the bed was inset between two tall, narrow bookcases, one of which had a special switch for downlighting and a secret drawer for reader’s necessaries (glasses, chocolates).

Shelves of favorite books hugging the bed, the soft light, the privacy—I thought it was the coziest, most glamorous thing imaginable. The ultimate B&B. Until I caught sight of photographer Richard Avedon’s bed in New York magazine in 2005.

His bed was completely surrounded with slatted, twelve-inch mahogany cubes holding dozens upon dozens of books. He’d wanted to have plenty of reading within arm’s reach, and artist Brian Tolle came up with the swanky-orange-crate idea. Avedon used cardboard boxes to configure the cubes and finalize the design. I loved the mental image of him lying on the bed in every direction, trying out all the ways he might read there—tucked in monkishly with books at each elbow, or splayed sideways, long legs propped up on one box while rifling through another.

But might a bed enclosed by books be too much of a good thing? Would the proximity of so many tempting things to read be a constant distraction? Might it get hard to sleep, all those voices chiming in?

We may have to look to Japan to find out, where the architecture group Point one-upped even Avedon, designing a sort of book/bed igloo. Books fill in the walls, so that you can pull down a tome from inside or out.


What about you—would you like to have the pages right near the sheets?

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Celeste Ng, Jesmyn Ward, and Robin Sloan recommend their favorite books in our newest podcast, Recommended. Download it for free from Apple Podcasts or Google Play.