Sunday, October 24, 2010

The New Rules of Shopping

Like I've said numerous times, entering a new phase of my life - one in which I spend approximately 80% of my waking hours wearing professional clothing, and appearing put-together is my primary goal when I get dressed in the morning - has completely shifted the way I shop.

But you know what's helped a lot? Laying down a few specific, straightforward rules, to be observed every time I plan on buying something. And while I realize these aren't exactly earth shattering, they've been extraordinarily helpful to me, so perhaps they'll be of benefit to you, too!


BCBG Jeweled Sweater Top, $168

This might sound like I'm suggesting that you always choose expensive things that are made to last, but I'm not (although I do think this is true, in general, of shoes). What I mean is, make sure you buy pieces that are immediately wearable and have a lot of mileage. Does it coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe? Does it fit? If not, can you - will you - take it to the tailor? I cannot tell you how many times I've bought something when the fit was just slightly off - shoes that were a little too big, rings that were a bit loose, vintage clothing I loved but couldn't zip without sucking in - and then was surprised, months later, when I realized it had been sitting idle in my closet, unworn.


Forever 21 Mesh and Lace Skirt, $19.80

Until quite recently, I avoided stores like Forever 21 and H&M... not out of snobbery - I'm all for the democratization of fashion - I just assumed I wouldn't find anything that wasn't poorly made or would fit with the rest of my wardrobe. I was missing out! For one, these fast-fashion retailers are perfect for indulging in trends that have a short shelf life - the other day I bought a rocker-chic purple feather vest which, at $25, I won't feel silly only wearing a few times. (Side note: last night I worked at event with Kim Kardashian, who was wearing - a presumably more expensive version of - the same vest. I don't know what this says about me or my style... I just wanted to share.)

But there are also reliable basics to be found at these stores if you're willing to dig through the trendier pieces. My favorite swingy cardigan - $12! - is from Forever 21. And I have a cropped H&M cotton blazer that's perfect for summer.


BR Monogram Rose Applique Jacket, $198

For awhile, I kept trying to "incorporate more color" into my wardrobe and failing. I was wondering why I was having such a hard time with this seemingly simple task when I looked in my closet and realized that nearly everything is either black, navy, brown, tan or olive green. And that's okay! For one, nearly everything matches, so getting dressed in the morning is a cinch. For another, those colors look good on me! There are a few deviations - a turquoise blouse, a silver leather jacket - but for the most part, I clearly know what works for me and stick with it.

Take a look at your wardrobe. Do you notice an overarching color theme? Could this mean that you, too, unconsciously (or, perhaps, consciously) gravitate toward what works best for you?


J. Crew "Gemini" Satchel, $238

As long as I'm continuing to beef up my work wardrobe, I have a system: each week, I take a portion of my paycheck that serves as my shopping allowance. This week, that allowance went to investing in a few pairs of opaque tights - as the ones I've had for several years are beginning to run and pill - and a blazer. Next week, I'm hitting up Macy's and Bloomingdale's for gloves and scarves.

Is this the sexiest way to shop? No! It would be much more fun to blow all my cash on some rad, esoteric contraption of a dress at an overpriced Lower East Side boutique. But being an adult means spending one's money judiciously. And that means, if you notice a hole in some essential aspect of your wardrobe, you've got to take care of that before you unleash yourself upon the Brooklyn Flea Market or go crazy at a Tory Burch sample sale.


Vintage Art Deco Rhinestone Belt Buckle, $8

First of all, let me say that I love vintage clothing - the obsession began when I was 14 and unearthed a polka-dot 1950s dress in a dingy thrift store in Flagstaff, Arizona. But I'll also be the first to admit that vintage shopping is a fickle mistress. When you're in the throes of it, you must keep your wits about you and remember that just because it's vintage doesn't mean it's good. Just because it's designer vintage doesn't mean it's good, either - we all make mistakes, and Yves Saint Laurent is no exception. In nearly a decade of collecting, I've acquired some amazing things: a terrific black brocade swing coat, an armful of carved Bakelite bangles, a Pucci dress I plan to someday pass on to my fashionable daughter or gay son. But I've also purchased some duds (that purple wool secretary dress that's so dated, it looks like a castoff from Mad Men's costume department - what was I thinking?).

Two important things to keep in mind when vintage shopping: 1.) make sure your find can be worn in a way that modernizes it (this may mean you'll have to swap out the buttons or have it hemmed shorter or whatever) and 2.) remember that the label means nothing! One of my favorite pieces, a navy blue wide collar jacket, is from "Styled by Rudy." I have no idea who Rudy is, but I'm a fan of his work.


Anthropologie Golden Fleece Bolero, $158

So, we've established that I basically wear the same five neutral colors pretty much exclusively. Boring, right? No! That's because I love jewelry, and my collection is as extensive as it is eclectic. I've got everything from giant rhinestone-encrusted cocktail rings, to strands of faux pearls, to tinkly chandelier earrings, to this crazy necklace with a huge amethyst stalactite as the focal point, and I wear it all. I think every woman should wear jewelry everyday as a celebration of her femininity and beauty, and I honestly don't think you can wear too much jewelry (look at Iris Apfel and Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti: two sartorial maximalists who look fantastic).

I wear sparkly jewelry to the office everyday. Sparkly clothing, though, is a different beast entirely. Matte sequins, like the ones that adorn this Anthropologie jacket, work for day - but probably not in a corporate environment. Approach with caution.

My point, though, is that many women consider jewelry - especially their nicest, most expensive jewelry - to be something that should be reserved exclusively for special occasions. It's not! If something makes you happy, you should wear it everyday.


I know "rules are made the be broken" is a huuuge cliche, but it's never more true than it is in fashion. Shopping should be fun, and if there's not a tinge of naughtiness to it, how much fun can it be? If I obeyed these rules all the time, I wouldn't own a fantastic Diorling velvet floor-length coat from the 70s or ridiculously high Steve Madden platforms I can barely walk in.

If acquiring these wonderful, outrageous things also means making the occasional mistake (I'm looking at you, ugly secretary dress), so be it. In my mind, it's worth it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Borrowing from the Boys

I work in a heavily male-dominated environment. Often, I'm the only person sporting a two X chromosomes in meetings and at events.

The women I meet through work often disappear into the background with drab, all-black separates, while the men dress with personality, whimsy and panache. However, I've learned that, for a working woman, there are many nuggets of sartorial wisdom to be culled from the dudes - reinterpreted, obviously, with a girlish slant. Here are the lessons I've learned so far:


I used to be terrified of pants, and with good reason: finding a pair that flatters you and makes you feel good is a bit of a challenge. Shopping for skirts is much easier. But it's worth taking the time to search for a few just-right pairs; besides being warmer and more practical during the winter months, there's something so sexy and alpha female about a chick in trousers - like Faye Dunaway's character in Network.

I still think of Express as the chief purveyor of pants, even though they also sell lurex cardigans and cheesy leopard-print rayon blouses. So, I probably should have stopped shopping there about five years ago, but I'm a sucker for their "Editor" pant: the fit is flattering and the price is hard to beat. I like that it's available in on-trend olive green, too.


The check-patterned wool is sexy precisely because it's so sexless: it's like golf pants by way of those slim trousers sported by Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. The ankle length is challenging though: how do you wear these once the cold kicks in? With mid-calf height boots? Socks and heels? Discuss.


It doesn't matter if you still instinctively pull out your cell phone whenever you need to check the time. You will look like an adult when you're wearing a watch.


I love that the band and the face of this watch are gold. All gold! Imagine wearing this with tweedy separates - or, in the summer, with an all-white outfit. It's just gaudy enough to add an irreverent touch to an otherwise serious ensemble.


I've noticed that men accessorize much more cavalierly in the workplace than women do. How sad! Obviously, you don't want to go crazy - work time is not the time to bust out that vintage Dior turban I used to love - but a classic hat or carefully chosen piece of jewelry never hurt anyone.


You guys, I think it's safe to wear fedoras again. For awhile, they were strictly relegated to the likes of Pete Wentz. However, I think the dust has settled, and fedoras are once again acceptable for non-douches. Do you agree?


In the words of the inimitable Kristopher Dukes (seriously, I would give my hypothetical first-born child to be half as witty as she is): "I love how those bell-shaped hats half-cover your eyes, so that you have to hold your head up hyper-high to look at the world. That’s how a lady should always walk." Amen!


There's something so self-affirming about sporting a monogram. It says, "Here I am, world. This is me, and this thing that bears my initials? It's mine." I could wax poetic about how women are, due to societal conditioning, less comfortable with taking ownership of their possessions - of their lives - than men are. But I just want to write about fashion.


I have a client - who is a rather heavy-hitter in the financial world - who wears a monogrammed pinky ring everyday. So did Coco Chanel. Either way, you can't lose.

But don't stop there - monogram everything! Your dress shirts! Your bathrobe! Your towels and bed linens! Even your underwear! Until I can afford custom-made shirts from Thomas Pink, I'll be taking my $60 Banana Republic shirts to Mary Monograms in the garment district.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Recycle your denim, not your denim mistakes

I've always felt like denim is a weak spot in my wardrobe. Yes, of course I own plenty of jeans in various washes and cuts, and I even have a favorite pair that makes me feel skinnier (although that pair is quickly starting to fall apart--I should put a visit to Denim Therapy on my To Do list). But my jeans selection is so weak that in my mind, they're a step up from yoga pants. You know, what I wear when it's more important to be comfortable than hot.

So for a while I've been thinking I should invest in jeans that make me feel as hot as when I'm wearing a little black dress, and yesterday I walked by the Gap. On the windows, they had the words "Recycle your blues"--bring in an old pair of jeans from October 6th to 20th, and they'll recycle it into building insulation for families in need.  Plus, you then get 30% off a new pair of Gap's 1969 jeans. So I thought, "Oh, that's perfect! I can get rid of all those old pairs I never wear!" But then I looked past the words and saw what the mannequins were wearing:
STIRRUP JEANS. If this isn't a sign of the apocalypse, I don't know what is. I wanted to march right into that store, demand that they get Patrick Robinson on the phone, and say, "STIRRUP JEANS ARE A PUNCHLINE. Unless you're an equestrian rider or a kindergartner (yes, wee little Julia York loved purple Land's End leggings...18 years ago), you should never, ever even think about wearing stirrup pants. You, Mr. Fancypants Designer, are turning the Gap into a joke and someone needs to stop you."

When I'm shopping, I like to take a moment to think, "Five years from now, am I going to see photographs of this outfit and think, 'Jesus, what was I wearing!? Damn, the 10's were a rough time for fashion." This is probably symptomatic of my issues with living in the moment (and part of me thinks, if I look cute and feel good this year, who cares about what future Julia will think?), but it has also prevented me from investing in shortlived trends. For example, when Mariah Carey wore jeans with the waistband cut off in her "Heartbreak (Remix)" video, I, along with the rest of the world, thought, "Oh shit, that looks so sexy!"(And it's funny to see the video now and realize how high-rise those jeans were, comparatively.)

But don't even get me started on Gap's acid wash jeans and huge mistake of a new logo. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Countdown to Paycheck

I just started a new job (yay!), but it is going to be a looooong two weeks until I get my first paycheck.  So while in real life I may be struggling to turn a can of chickpeas I bought six months ago into a satisfying and filling lunch, in my fantasy life I've already got my hard-earned cash already spent. Thank god I don't have a credit card, because I would on a steep, slippery slide into debt.

That's why I have this blog--I get almost as much satisfaction of writing about pretty things as I do about buying them, and writing is free!  Here's what's making me want to freeze my wallet in a block of ice:

Sanctuary English Boyfriend Blazer, $158. I've been obsessed with this blazer since I saw it in InStyle Makeovers; it took about a month, though, for it to show up online, and it quickly sold out at Piperlime (where it was a few bucks cheaper, I believe). But has it, so now I can make my sexy-professor dreams come true. I'm especially in love with the elbow patches, which I think are out-of-control charming on women's blazers.  On men's blazers, they're insufferably twee and/or pretentious, unless you look like Christopher Gorham and are legitimately both brilliant and absent minded.

I have to give Sanctuary props for taking a stock costume, such as the professor's tweed jacket, and girling it up; they do the same thing for the boy's prep school blazer. 

The Military Schoolboy Blazer, $148, would make me feel like I'm in some sort of teen comedy that's a cross between The Dead Poet's Society, Just One of the Boys, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landeau-Banks. Yeah, this is definitely the sort of thing you want to be wearing while coming of age, confronting gender stereotypes, and pissing off your parents.

The temperature has been falling very quickly here in New York, and I'm trying to be prepared by pulling out my jackets from under my bed and buying new buttons for my staple wool coat. I could also get ready for freezing cold mornings with this Knit Sweater Hood from Land's End Canvas, $39.50.

How freaking cozy is this? And a hood is much less danger than a hat to your carefully-styled hair, and on harried mornings I'd be able to grab this, instead of untangling a scarf from my coat rack and finding a matching hat.  I'm tempted to search for a similar knitting pattern, so I could make this instead of buying it, but first I need to make the Olympic hat I vowed to knit last winter.

Yes, it is undeniable that I shouldn't buy any more jewelry until I start wearing the stuff I already have; I tend to wear the same one necklace and watch every day, and maybe on Friday night I'll throw on a pair of dangley earrings. I'd love to be the sort of woman who is constantly playing with her accessories, and maybe if I had better toys I would--let's pretend that's logical. Available at Piperlime, the Hive and Honey gold and peach drop necklace, $28, is the sort of statement necklace that is eye-catching but not distracting. In fact, I bet it'd look great with this Banana Republic dress:

I've extolled the virtues of the grey work dress before, but they haven't gotten any less essential to one's office wardrobe. And yet, I don't have one! BR must have sensed this and came up with the perfect version in order to tempt me. The wool fabric is clutch in a winter dress, and the girly details (cap sleeves, v-ncck, defined waistline) will definitely get you hit on by guys in blue striped button-downs at Tuesday night Happy Hour. The winter wool v-neck dress is $150.

I'm also eager to make some upgrades in my apartment.  Let's start with my crappy Ikea couch, whose beige cover has gotten many mysterious food stains over the course of the last year.  Yes, I need to take the cover off and just wash it, but would it be easier to throw it out and get a fun, brightly colored cover?  I like this vivid blue, $49 (PS to Ikea: it's totally bullshit that the bleh beige cover is $19 and the colored ones are thirty bucks cheaper. Dye cannot possibly cost that much!):

A big upgrade would be getting a sparkly new Tivo Premiere. My current Tivo is almost five years old, and it can't even record two things at once! It makes our lovely hi-def TV look like an old home video, and forget about accessing Netflix Instant or YouTube. But my current Tivo has a lifetime subscription, which isn't transferable to another machine, so that makes a big purchase even bigger.  I know it'll be worth it (especially so I can record Community while my roommate is watching Bones), I just need to save for a few more months before I go for it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cream of the Fashion Week Crop

There were a few years when I obsessively followed New York Fashion Week--or as obsessively as one can without any invitations. But now I find all the shows and parties and breathless celebrity coverage to be a little exhausting, so I follow the Fug Girls coverage and check out the slideshows of my favorites, and that's it. But one designer that's always worth my time? Monique Lhuillier. She may not be reinventing streetwear, but when it comes to awe-inspiring red carpet gowns, she's my goddess. Here are three dresses I'll be daydreaming about wearing to the Oscars, on Joseph Gordon-Levitt's arm:

And here's one more dress I'm swooning over, from Marc Jacobs. I'll ignore the sheer top and focus on the glorious mix of colors, perfectly complemented by the flower in the model's hair.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Boots: Greatest thing about fall since pumpkin spice lattes

Every fall, without fail, I notice the falling temperatures and get depressed--that first night when I need to grab a cardigan to go over my sundress just kills me. But then, every fall, I think about tall leather boots and I get happy again.

I'm determined that this will be the year I get the "go anywhere, matches anything" black boot, and Nine West has two great options.
The Cookin' Boot, $99, has all the makings of a classic--but is it too boring? I like the modest heel and streamlined calf, but I can't help my love for buckles and straps.
The Tierney boot, $169, is just a touch more exciting, a little more cowgirl. But I do really like that it has a half-zip on the side, as my current boots have lost their shape and slouch more than Katie Holmes in her Joey Potter days. A zipper would, I assume, help the boots keep their structure.

Then there's the side of me that says, "Screw the practical basic! I want the showstopper special occasion boots!"
Just the words "blue suede" give me shivers, so I'm just about shaking thinking about the Alexa boots, $179. I love the cuff that can be flipped up to cover the knee--it's very season 1 Serena Van der Woodson (you know, when she still wore clothes that covered her ass). But to be honest, I have no idea what I would wear with these. I don't think jeans would look right, with the blue on blue, and a skirt might compete for attention. Maybe a snug, rugby-striped sweater dress... or maybe something in a pale shade of yellow? Or grey? Or a leather jacket with studs that mimic the ones on the cuff? I'm stumped, but am dying to take on the challenge.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Best of Emmys Fashion

I'm about to get a little bit controversial right here, and I hope you can handle it.
I love this dress. I know that January Jones got fugged by a lot of people, and I can understand why; the messy hair, the lack of accessories, the bodice that looks like her boobs are covered in metallic cupcake holders, the skirt is a bit like a mullet, it's more than enough to give me pause. But here's what it comes down to: on a night where everyone seemed to be wearing the same old mermaid dress or one-shouldered gown, January Jones absolutely stood out. And it's an old truism that "the girl should wear the dress, the dress shouldn't wear the girl," but here it absolutely applies. She looks comfortable in that dramatic, poofy gown, and looking comfortable goes a long way towards looking hot. The other thing that really delights me about this dress is that it's being worn by January Jones, who is the definition of "pretty but boring." It would be so easy to coast through award shows looking like Grace Kelly, but instead she pushes the fashion limits and shows a playful side. It makes me wonder if she could actually be a fun or interesting person, worthy of Jason Sudeikis. (Just kidding--she's totally not worthy of J.Suds.)

Other favorites from the Emmys?
Heather Morris's sparkly column dress is very similar to Claire Danes's, but I think Heather did it better. The black belt makes it look extremely polished, and not like one of Taylor Swift's cast offs, and her hair manages the rare feat of evoking Old Hollywood without obscuring her youth. And it's another instance of how playing against type on the red carpet can yield great results; her character on Glee once taught us "sexy epilepsy," and here she is looking classy and glamorous. Not bad for a former back-up dancer for Beyonce.

Sally Draper is, not kidding, one of my favorite characters on Mad Men--I would absolutely watch spin-off in which she joins a cult or goes to Woodstock or whatever angsty teens did to spite their awful mothers in the 1960's. My love for the character extends to the actress, Kirnan Shipka, especially as she grows into a beautiful and poised tween. The glittery headband! The kitten heels! The bell skirt! Well done, all around.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pointy-Toed Pumps

For years, I've favored round-toed shoes. Which is why these basic black heels - sure to become a staple of my wardrobe, topping off work ensembles and peeking out of trouser jeans - seem so fresh, exciting, and even a touch naughty.

P.S. I found the vintage belt buckle I'd been dreaming about. Behold!

Monday, September 6, 2010

World-Traveling Lady Who Lunches

I've got some serious magpie tendencies. My mode de operatii is to shop somewhat manically, indiscriminately adding whatever strikes my fancy to my wardrobe. However, due to financial and time constraints, I've reigned in my coveting/hoarding habit considerably and, in its place, developed some positive new ones.

One of the most helpful techniques to avoid style schizophrenia is to 1.) decide at the beginning of each season what story I'd like to tell; 2.) collect images that inspire me and compile an online "lookbook" using iPhoto; and 3.) shop accordingly. And mindfully.

My story for autumn/winter is "world-traveling lady who lunches (filtered through a corporate lens)." I'm going for a bohemian-preppy vibe: clothes that are polished enough for work (I recently scored a job in PR and represent some major financial powerhouses, so looking professional is a must) paired with accessories that add as much personality and whimsy as I can get away with.

Some images from my lookbook (most sources woefully unknown):

Dries van Noten... the master of artful print/palette mixing.

This one I know came from the Shrimpton Couture blog. How perfect is this?! I'm eBay-ing vintage belt buckles as I write this.

Rachel Zoe: you are a pain in the ass, but you know how to dress. Obviously, this look is an exaggeration, but there is a sartorial lesson to be learned: well-constructed basics + mismatched jewelry = perfection.

Still from "The Devil Wears Prada." Seriously digging the 60s winged eyeliner. And I love that she's wearing earrings that look like one of my wardrobe MVPs.

This look is so attainable: it's a white peasant blouse and embellished skirt. Still totally work-appropriate but infinitely more exciting than your typical oxford and black pencil skirt.

More 60s inspiration. And I love the hairstyle: easy but polished.

So, now that I've developed a clear point of view of what I'm going for this season, it's time to shop! This is a surprisingly slow process, because for every one thing that unequivocally fits into my story, there are ten things that don't (and many of them are beautiful or almost fit or are out of my budget or are otherwise not quite right. But I won't be swayed!).

Here's my starting point:

Even though I'm craving peasant tops this season, I will never tire of the white button-down shirt. It's the ultimate sartorial blank canvas: it can adopt a million different incarnations, depending on what you wear with it. I've sung the praises of this one before, and I still haven't found a better basic, especially for the price. It styles perfectly bohemian-preppy when you add:

I love blue against white; I think it's the most delicious color combination. And I love that, depending on what you wear it with, this necklace could either be a statement piece (paired with, say, a black strapless dress) or another element of a cohesive outfit (peeking out of a white button-down). Plus, as a bonus perk, the stones are supposed to facilitate your accumulation of wealth. So, obviously, it's made to be worn to work...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Art of Books, Part 2

Do I want a bookcase made out of books? Yes, yes I do.

Jim Rosenau makes bookcases and bookshelves, and I want to be his apprentice and have him teach me everything he knows.

Right after my last post, I stumbled upon a New York Times article on creative new uses for books, since we will soon be all reading novels on various screens, and after that they'll just projected directly into our brains. Hopefully plants won't be obsolete, too, because I want this to sit on top of my book-bookcase:
Check out for a video on how to make your own. And I promise I'll be back with cute dresses and skirts shortly!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Art of Books

My love of pretty books and the shelves they sit on is well documented. This past year, I've started collecting the prettiest books in all the land: the Penguin Hardcover Classics, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.I will admit, there's something a bit tacky to me about buying a book for display purposes--a book is to be read, not looked at! But then I think, book publishers and bookstores need all the sales they can get, and they don't care if you're buying it to stick under a wobbly table leg. So if I can support an important industry and make my shelves a little classier, then there's no reason to feel guilty. And who knows--these are books to collect and save, and perhaps in 25 years I'll have a yen to read Cranford, or I'll have a son or daughter who is assigned Cranford in school (that seems more likely. Does anyone read Cranford for fun?).

So I've been slowing collecting these books, one at a time. I almost have the full first set, BUT I'm absolutely tortured by my inability to get Crime and Punishment and Madame Bovary. They are two of the most gorgeous designs, but because Penguin US doesn't own the rights to the translation, you can't buy them in America. I want to plan a trip to Canada or England just to get copies, but from what I can tell, they're sold out there too. Occassionally, a copy will pop up on Ebay, but for way too much money--$99 for a book with a $20 list price? Boo, no fair.

So 8 of the first series and 5 of the second are available right now, and another 7 will be released in September (although I did get Shakespeare's Sonnets and a Lover's Complaint this past weekend at Anthropologie, and Amazon has it only available for pre-order). Some kind soul put together this Amazon list for easy reference. The books are available online, at Anthropologie, and major bookstores (which you should support!).

Say that you disagree with my statement that buying books for display is a little tacky, and you think books should be displayed only. Anthropologie has the solution!
The Stacked Paperback Wallpaper, $198 for 18 square feet, is adorable but a bit claustrophobia-inducing. Can you imagine a whole room wallpapered in this? I'd have nightmares about all those stacks toppling down on me! My other misgiving is that many of the titles are in French, thus unrecognizable to me. It's like when you go to Ikea and all the fake books in those carefully designed bedrooms and living rooms are in Swedish. There are some familiar titles in this wallpaper--Lolita, Tropic of Capricorn, Looking for Mr. Goodbar. But if you want book-based art, wouldn't you prefer to have your favorite titles on display?

Which brings me to artist Jane Mount, who was recently featured on the National Post's book blog. Her website is called Ideal Bookshelf, and here's an example of her work:
In her own words:
"I paint "ideal bookshelves": people's favorites of all time, within a genre or from a particular period in their lives.

We show off our books on shelves like merit badges, because we're proud of the ideas we've ingested to make us who we are, and we hope to connect with others. I think this is endearing and charming. When I paint someone else's bookshelf and they have the same book I do, I feel inordinately joyful about it, and about them.

I'm also fascinated by the design of books spines. It's such a small place for a lot of information, with very little room for distinct characteristics, even though it's exactly what you use to identify books first. As someone who does a lot of design work, I enjoy the process of turning graphics into "art". And I love that a book is something created very personally and then mass-produced in order to affect many other people very personally. I group and paint them to turn them back into something very personal and intimate."

As someone who always scans the bookshelves when I enter a new room, it would be terribly convenient to have a person's favorites artfully displayed in a painting, so I could know up front whether the owner of said painting will be a friend. A 9x12 inch custom painting costs around $225--so perhaps it might be more cost effective to just get some nice floating shelves and display your favorites yourself.

Ok, not really. But close enough. Put your Harry Potter books on these and you can make Wingardium Leviosa jokes every day! The pictured shelves are $9.76 from Barnes and Noble, but you can get them at Home Depot, The Container Store, Amazon, etc.

And if you still have an appetite for those lovely objects we call books (and which we occasionally open up and read the less pretty insides of), check out the Bookshelf Porn tumblr. It's exactly what it sounds like.