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My Favourite Bookshelf

Updated: Jul 11, 2020

An occasional series in which we ask a well-known celebrity to nominate their favourite bookshelf...

#18 Cecilia Notso-Pointy: My favourite bookshelf is the modestly understated yet visually intriguing single invisibly-supported ledge to be found in the so-called Grey Room at Threadbone Towers. As might be expected of Mrs Threadbone and her in-house interior-design guru Senõr Enrique de los Chicos Perdidos, this one oozes class and is very much à la mode for 2020 Not only is it grey - the "colour de notre jour" - it is also small in scale and spaciously set out - achieving its effect as much through what is does NOT contain as what it does. Lest this sound as though I am suggesting that Mrs Threadbone is once again "on-trend" [she once famously remarked "I have no idea about fashion - it just seems to be the kind of thing that catches up with me and follows in my wake!"], I should add that, remarkably, the bookshelf was inherited along with the house, lovingly restored and re-instated when the room was remodelled in 2017 - almost a week and a day before single bookshelves with 6 assorted books on them became the default classic English style.

The modest yet hugely effective bookshelf in the Grey Room, Threadbone Towers. Here a junior housemaid restores a precious volume to its rightful place following its unwarranted displacement by an impertinent guest.

What is I think most impressive about the shelf and the volumes it "invisibly" supports - when taken as a complete "ensemble" - is the subtle blending of tones "across the piece". Shadows apart [yet how important they are contrasted with the rich russets and golden greens of the book spines] the effect is almost completely underwhelming and yet at the same time a strong signature statement of taste, informed selectivity and erudition . The same shade of Furrow and Bull's #26785 ["Slate"] that dominates the panelling is simply allowed to create its magical effect on the shelf itself. [A stroke of genius which both "hides" the shelf and, at the same time, draws attention to it]. Here is a "house of learning" but one that wears its wisdom lightly and with modest aplomb. Straying from the shelf itself, the subtle arrangement of books bear witness to a unitary vision with subtle variation as well as a brilliant executive design concept allied to highly refined craftsmanship and perfect execution: The symmetry of the two perfectly-matched and well-spaced pairs is offset by the relaxed placement of two single non-matching volumes to the left and right. Taken together this offers a throughly thought-through and deliberately presented dichotomy of, on the one-hand, unity and order [learning] and on the other self-assured relaxation [playfulness]. The single green and gold volume is a triumph of serendipity - the sort of gesture only a mature woman comfortable in her own skin could pull off. To call the overall effect sparse and the mood serious is simply to miss the nuances and understate the rigorous logic - and wry humour - working their secret magic underneath. This is a room in which books are important but not everything - it is in no sense a Library and should not be taken to be trying to be one. The overall sense of stability and calm is matched only by the room's almost chiaroscuric funereal vibe [a tribute to - or at least an echo of - the late Mr Threadbone whose collection of "interesting" books and other literature was said to be rivalled only by that of Cambridge Don Dr Kenwood-Chefe]. The six visible volumes serve to emphasise a feeling that most of the house's extensive book collection is deliberately concealed from view. To return to the shelf, it is almost certainly its undisguised and unashamed horizontality which makes it both a functional object and a decorative artefact, though its strong aesthetic contribution to the room entire derives at least in part from its mirroring of the horizontal structures evident in the grooved panels on the walls which support it. En fin, it is the perfect metaphor for its owner: steadfast and sturdy, yet elegant in repose.

EDITORS NOTE: Cecilia Notso-Pointy, life-long partner of Dr Audrey badminton-Court, is a novelist and freelance writer and sometime acquaintance of Professor Thrupiece. Though she was paid for this article [ready money changed hands], no pressure was applied and she was not persuaded in any way to express the opinions stated herein. Ms Notso-Pointy has not seen the bookshelf featured herein nor ever been present in the Grey Room herself, but, as was the case with other evaluations in this series, she was supplied with a photograph and a rough - but publishable - draft.

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