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Shangri-La : A Minimalist’s Bookshop

A coworker and I like to exchange visions of what we’d like to do “when we grow up”.  She often talks about opening up her own cafe abroad (I am envious that she has spent much of her recent years traveling in different countries).  Yesterday, she informed me about a near-perfect opportunity for her: her favorite old cafe in Riverton, New Zealand is looking to transfer ownership.  She spent her lunch break looking up business loans, work Visas, and exchange rates.

I am a little more soft-spoken when it comes to voicing my Shangri-La vision of independently owned business, but I – akin to my coworker – also enjoy midday fantasies of owning a quaint little shop tucked away somewhere lovely.  I have had this dream of owning a small bookshop since before I graduated college.  Bookshops – especially locally-owned, cozy, and unostentatious – have always been my favorite places.  IMG_5975Forgive my timeworn phrasing, but I could comb the shelves of a local bookstore – no matter the size – for hours on end.  The particular brand of magic held within a bookshop is one that has always called to me and I am hard pressed not to bring a new book home with me each time I enter a shop.

While I am following my passion in Interior Architecture, leading me into a Masters’ program in Philadelphia beginning July 2017, I will always nurture my dream of owning and running a cozy little bookshop with adjoining cafe.  My conversation with my coworker jogged my imagination for my own project, and I have come up with a quaint little title for an equally quaint envisioned space.  Now I am the one looking at business loans and researching retail partners that may be interested in showcasing their wares, not to mention sending a quick text to my father for my late grandmothers’ delectable recipe for German chocolate cake that will be sold by the slice in the cafe.

I am assuming that most everyone has, at one point in their lives, stepped foot in a bookshop (if you haven’t yet, I highly recommend it).  But if you have not, I hope you read this, because I believe there is quite a difference between a bookstore and a bookshop.  A bookstore, like Barnes & Noble, is generally quite large and a place where things are stored for customers to rifle through on their lunch breaks while waiting for their sandwich to warm and coffee to brew.  It is an outlet for those things that are brought in from elsewhere with the expectation of being sold quickly and almost without thought.  A bookshop – in my opinion – is a place where the customer experience is shaped.  It is a place where books appear to be crafted and prepared for each individual who steps through the door.  In my imagined bookshop, I’d be able to repair well-loved books by hand for customers – though I have yet to complete any such educational course or apprenticeship on bookbinding in reality.

For those of you who have experienced a local bookshop, you’ve probably noticed that though they are usually simple places in comparison to the big box bookstore down the street, they are not simple.  They are, more often than not, cluttered spaces with little to no clear areas on shelves or tables.  As a purpose-driven minimalist, the dream of one day owning a bookshop seems like a blatant contradiction.  IMG_5977

How do I intend to create the minimalistic, clutter-free bookshop of my dreams?  The undertaking of such a place may be fairly straightforward: keep space open.  Cambridge English Dictionary defines “open” as: (adjective) being in a position that allows things to pass through or that allows for immediate use.  This definition will also establish the space of my bookshop.  Book lovers everywhere gasped with hands over mouths at the prospect of a minimalist shop design: we know the dangers of particularized bookshops.  Customers won’t find what they’re looking for.  I don’t sell a particular author, a particular publishing house, a particular genre, et cetera.  Business transparency is a must, knowledge of the potential buyer-pool is necessary, and a well-laid-out plan on how to aid customers in finding the perfect book is imperative.

As this is still in dream-form, many details still need to be worked out.  There are many years between me and a successful bookshop.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t plan for the future.  I want my bookshop to reflect the feeling of calm and loveliness I feel from Sunrise Spot.  Therefore, there has to be a certain order, a purpose that each item in the shop will serve.  While bookshops are generally overstuffed with options, my little space will serve a dedicated pool of clientele who know what to expect from a minimalist bookshop.

The walls will be washed in non-VOC cream-colored paint.  In true cat-lady fashion, both of our kittens – Gatsby and Penelope – will wander the shelves and cuddle with customers sitting in armchairs.  There will be an agrarian section, alongside Penelope and Gatsby’s “suggested reads” and shelves of cookbooks and design DIY and idea informers.  There will be a little stand featuring a wonderful ceramics artist that has been so wonderful as to create three custom pieces of jewelry for me (thus far).  In the cafe, there will be solid wood pub tables with striped linen runners on top and low-backed stools.  Among other things, we will serve my grandmothers’ decadent cake (it’s a top-secret recipe, so sorry) paired with milk (whole or skim) in a pretty upcycled jam jar.  We’ll have a 5 o’clock happy hour before closing time where we’ll serve local beers and ciders.  And then we’ll close down for the evening, pack up, go home, and come back fresh the next morning for another day.

In short, I have grand plans for my little bookshop.  I have no doubt that a minimalist space can be created and maintained, with the proper amount of nurturing.  Similar to anything that I’ve tackled at Sunrise Spot, simplicity and purposeful placement of hard-working objects are all one needs to create a lovely, open, uncluttered area meant to living in, instead of living around.

Of course, Sawyer has been more than supportive of my dream.

IMG_5978He has even helped me design an architectural layout for a building (should I build my own [unlikely, but still a fun project]) and either shaken his head or hooted with laughter at the logos I have sketched up and shown him.


Thank goodness for my coworker; I adore our whimsical conversations.  Many of my preliminary draw-ups for my future bookshop wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her encouraging questions and wonderments.  There is nothing so lovely as feeling encouraged; the reassurance from friends and family that your dreams can become realities is a powerful force.  I started with a dream for Sunrise Spot and now it is a reality.  It seems as though it’s time start working toward turning this quaint little bookshop in my mind from aspiration to actuality.

1 Comment so far

  1. Pingback: On A Minimalist’s Digital Space | cornsilk doll

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