Simple, subtle, and slow. These are the three words Eliza Wexelman uses to describe her space, a 500-square-foot apartment in L.A.’s Little Armenia area.
“I’ve decorated slowly,” says Wexelman, who moved into the 1920s-era building a little over three years ago. “I like to see how things feel, so it takes me a while to decide on something. Though, as you can see from my couch, I could probably approach choosing pillows with a bit more haste.”
Wexelman is a graphic designer with a passion for literature, having co-founded online literary journal Girls At Library in 2015 with her friend Payton Turner. “Discussing books has always been part of the way we have communicated, and though our tastes are different, this idea of loving books and the power of story has always been the same,” explains Wexelman. So we thought there must be other women out there who want to connect in the same way we have, to hear about books and how stories can bring us together.”
The importance she places on stories also translates to how Wexelman went about decking out her space. Drawn to the textured walls and abundance of light, she filled the older home with personal mementos and pieces that speak to her style.
For example, the Mapplethorpe print she purchased at the Pasadena Antique Center when she moved to L.A.; an eye-catching piece that served as the jumping off point for the rest of the space. Or a lamp that was a gift from a friend; though she jokes that the lamp is not so much a lamp as a home reject (“[My friend’s] husband thought the lamp looked like a ‘pimp lamp,’ so it was given to me”).
Art and small decor pieces are propped up throughout the home; Wexelman opted to keep some items laid on the floor for some visual interest. “I realized art would be the way to create layers and texture in the room without making it feel cluttered,” she shares of her approach to displaying artwork. “I liked seeing the space feel casual and relaxed, where you could interact with the art instead of it strictly being on display; it feels more dimensional even though it’s unintentional.”
Of these smaller accents, some are new finds picked up from Society6 to lend a more modern, colorful element to the rooms, some are flea market treasures, and some are items collected over the years.
Of course, the home has a clear star: Wexelman’s book collection. Pieces of it are on almost every bare surface, running the gamut from poetry paperbacks to fiction novels to artful magazines. “Right now I keep this Rauschenberg catalog on my desk; it always makes me feel inspired to keep working—seeing his brush in paint on that Styrofoam plate always reminds me of painting and getting messy, which keeps me thinking,” says Wexelman, who has her own system for organizing her literary collectibles. “The organization is key, organizing stacks of books on shelves, the floor, tables… anywhere, really, to me, makes spaces feel more inviting.”
Read on to learn about some of those book organization tips—plus, how a seasoned pro maneuvers the flea market.
What is the best way to keep your books organized?
Create something that feels personal, so when you go to your shelf you can easily navigate through your collection. I love a theme as a way of telling stories within the books you own. It also gives a great guideline on what to buy as well, because then you can go in with an idea and narrow it down from there based on “Do I like this cover?” “What’s the condition?” “Am I actually going to read this copy or is it for the shelf only?”
It could even be simple as “Covers I Like,” or “Artists from Texas,” or “Strange Obsessions,” or “Theory Books I Don’t Understand, But Want to Read Someday,” and so on. There are so many small fun ways you can style the books within your home that can tell a story to visitors who choose to notice.
From a less functional standpoint, what are some cool ways you might style your books?
For shelves, it’s nice to break up the monotony of straight up and down books; just add an object or place a few horizontally—it doesn’t need to be too thought out.
However, don’t feel limited to shelves. Books can be stacked anywhere, as long as there is some organization, especially art books and catalogs. Don’t feel obligated to keep too many books either—you can always sell books, the same as clothes, or donate them once you don’t want them anymore.
What are your tips for navigating flea markets?
One, go early. The earlier the better. I’ve even seen people miss out on incredible deals pretty early or have things bought right under their nose.
Go alone unless you have a dedicated shopping partner or are only casually looking.
Educate yourself on what designers or books or editions or styles you like going into that day—the more you know, the easier it will be to navigate and move on if it’s not your style or authentic.
Carry cash. It’s easier to get the deal you want if you have the right bills to offer the price you want.
I go in without too much expectation. I’ve rarely found what I was actually looking for, so I try to instead keep a general inspiration. I tend to find odd random objects or books or baskets.
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