Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Literary Fare | my very own (cook)bookcase

If there's one thing I am proud of -- that is, something that I've created, curated, and cherished -- it is my collection of cookbooks. My collection started out around the same time my fascination with glamour of haute cuisine (and eventually, the technical and culinary aspects behind it) with the serendipitous and thoughtful gift from my Uncle Alan: a lightly tattered yet beautifully aged copy of The French Laundry Cookbook -- the token compendium of gorgeous photographs laced with sophisticated food styling and plating that can only be conveyed in Chef Thomas Keller's spot-on word choice: finesse.

This was where it all began, and in the last eight years since then, my tastes have evolved to include cookbooks of different cuisines and disciplines. And it wasn't enough for me to just pick up cookbooks from the local bookshop or digitally drop it into a shopping cart from Amazon -- after an ugly break-up during my university days, I randomly became obsessed with attending book signings, inevitably leading to new cookbook releases where I would meet well-renowned chefs and food writers with/from whom I've always imagined conversing and learning. My collection grew from a select household favorites to a dynamically quirky stack, inscribed with personalized messages from the crazy talented individuals that I bring with me into the kitchen on print whenever I want to conquer a coq au vin, a flavorful new pasta dish, or even a complicated French pastry.

Between never having legitimate bookcase growing up (the ones I had were more storage units than vessels for displaying a library of spines) and moving into the city with my better half, my dreams of owning my very own bookcase were finally realizable. The collapsible bookcase that I had purchased during my dorm room years served me well for a while, but with too many oblong-sized cookbooks and just not enough shelf space to accommodate these thriving stacks, it wasn't going to be a sustainable solution. So I found one free Saturday where I went to IKEA in Red Hook to pick up a larger bookcase. I perused the selections available through its online catalogue beforehand, setting my heart on the beautifully crafted, wide Hemnes five-shelf bookcase in "black-brown," which was further confirmed with this product review by Making a Mark Reviews. To my dismay, the warehouse in Brooklyn was completely sold out of this model, in every single color!

After going through what was left, I was fortunate enough to find the tall-and-wide Billy six-shelf bookcase in "black-brown" still in stock (thanks for the recommendation, Debra!). I was worried it would be too tall or even wide for the corner in my bedroom I was hoping to have it displayed, but I really lucked out -- it was relatively easy to assemble, and it fit perfectly in its nook. Plus, I spent less on the Billy ($79.99 versus the $149 Hemnes) AND was able to score more shelf space (deeper six shelves versus the shallower five-shelf Hemnes). I am so incredibly pleased the end result:

Yes, I am that total dork that arranged the shelves by spine color! :P

Disclaimer: I've also changed some things up since first assembling it all, so you may notice some discrepancies between photographs. Here are some close-ups of the shelves!

{1} "Circle" illustration quote print by Obvious State via Fab, $24 / {2} "2013 Cities" calendar by Rifle Paper Co., $26

{3} couple portrait photograph by Alice Gao Photography / {4} "Lucky Cat" ceramic figurine from Japanese Tea Garden gift shop at Golden Gate Park / {5} "Skyline: Mid Town" greeting card by Ted Naos via MoMA Store, $3.50 / {6} postcard from Omnivore Books (my favorite cookbook shop, located in San Francisco)
{7} various volumes of Kinfolk magazine, $18 each / {8} large glass jar filled with restaurant matchbooks and matchboxes

{9} medium glass jar filled with wine corks (thanks for the idea Linda!) / {10} signature ribbon from a post-meal complimentary bag given by The French Laundry

{1} "New York Coffee Cup" ceramic cup by Graham Hill via MoMA Store, $15 / {2} "Chefs I Met and Liked" notebook by Archie Grand via Jasper + Black, $11 / {3} signature clothespin from The French Laundry / {4} "Delicious City: NYC" postcard from set of 15 via Fab, $14 / {5} "Chef's Hat, Coat and Utensils" greeting card by Papyrus, $5.95 / {6} homemade triptych with photographs by Alice Gao Photography


{7} "Jacques Torres" greeting card by Quotable via Jacques Torres Chocolate / {8} "Pluggis" magazine files from IKEA, $8.99 for set of 2

Findings: Given the bargain price for the Billy bookcase from IKEA, the relatively easy assembly job for it, as well as how surprisingly well-built it is, I highly recommend this line of bookcases (comes in many sizes besides this one!). Its design is quite minimalist and offered in a few shades of wood, bound to fit into any interior design scheme very well. As you can imagine, my cookbooks together form a heavy collection of tomes, but I haven't seen any shelf warping -- so far so good. These shelves are growing fuller as weeks go by, but I'm hoping this bookcase will sustain me for awhile longer than my last measly one! :)

After all, Jules Renard said it best -- “When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.”

Price point: $79.99 for the Billy bookcase from IKEA.

--circa March 2013

IKEA Red Hook
1 Beard Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

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