A Culinary Collection
Every home library project we work on is entirely different. While collections vary in subject, size and style, the thing that our clients do have in common is this: They take their books quite seriously.
Collector Jacquelynn Goldstein had lived between Jackson and Los Angeles for many years before she and her husband decided they wanted to be in the Tetons full time. For Jackie, moving a home base meant paring down and simplifying her household, as it does for many of us when we relocate, with one exception. Jackie had been collecting culinary books, cookbooks and food writing since the early years of her marriage, decades before. Now in her seventies, she called us just as she started to sort through her massive collection in the great room of her new residence.
We all look to the books on someone’s shelves to see who they are, who they would like to be, what they would like to learn. Jackie enjoys good food, yes (who doesn’t?), but once organized, arranged, and observed in her home, her books tell a more nuanced story. They portray the role that creative cooking has played in her life since she was in nursing school, when she met her husband, through raising her children, attending the Culinary Institute of America, not to mention years of travels and life experiences. The collection also tells the story of the culinary arts in America, of regional cooking, and of the development of cookbooks (not to mention culinary celebrity) in the 20th century.
“Of her 1,200+ title collection, pastry and baking take up the most real estate. Those subject areas take up most of one wall of her office library, and are further subdivided into sections like bread baking, savory baking, chocolate, cake, wedding cake, cookies, and all sorts of subcategories of desserts.”
After discussing Jackie’s dreams for her collection and providing her with options for how she might better enjoy and access it, today all of the books are organized, cataloged and arranged for aesthetic enjoyment and for practical use. Of her 1,200+ title collection, pastry and baking take up the most real estate. Those subject areas take up most of one wall of her office library, and are further subdivided into sections like bread baking, savory baking, chocolate, cake, wedding cake, cookies, and all sorts of subcategories of desserts. The other half of the collection is a beautifully balanced variety: You can see family heritage (both Christmas cooking and Jewish cooking are included), geography (county fair and regional cookbooks from the Midwest, California and Wyoming), travels (southern and soul food cooking), and education (textbooks and references from culinary school).
Some homeowners prefer a one-room-library if they have the space: everything in one place. Jackie prefers to live with her books all around her, and so her collection is divided and arranged in multiple rooms. The bulk of the books reside on custom-built shelving in an alcove office at the top of the main staircase of the home. Here, she has space to display new books that are particularly interesting and a well-lit desktop with room to browse. A small collection of essays and food writing are in a guest room, where others might enjoy them. Recent purchases and everyday cookbooks live in the kitchen for convenience. A back room just off the kitchen houses the complete Alice Waters, Jacques Pepin, Martha Stewart (from the 1980s to the present), and the growing canon of culinary personalities. Built-in shelving in the living room houses a his-and-hers area, her husband’s favorites on one side and a variety of Jackie’s interests outside of food on the other. While a few rare culinary books of the early 20th century are housed here, they live alongside an interior design collection, art books, and more.
At times private library work is strictly intellectual. Other projects require a priority on design and aesthetics. What made this project particularly delightful was the client’s passion for both the interior design of her space and the use of her collection as a true library, a daily resource. We provided book ends and art objects that balanced the look of the books in the space, a combination of metal, stone and wood that worked with the collection so that it was as beautiful as it was useful.
Evident here is the wisdom in Felix Mendelssohn’s words, “The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety:” the mixture of textures in the art objects on the shelf perfectly mirror the diverse beauty of a collection ammassed over a lifetime, used every day.
We look forward to seeing what Jackie adds to her collection next. What is to come of the story of 20th century cooking in books!