Shelf life: novelist Hanya Yanagihara on living with 12,000 books
Man Booker prize-shortlisted author, editor of the New York Times Style magazine T, travel writer: Hanya Yanagihara has distilled three of her greatest passions – books, art and travel – into her one-bedroom apartment in downtown Manhattan. The flat, housed in a steel-framed former bottle factory, has no dividing walls: instead, a vast, double-sided bookcase, containing more than 12,000 titles, acts “as a kind of suggestion of a wall”, Yanagihara says. On one side are her private quarters – bedroom, study, wardrobe and bathroom – on the other, a living room, kitchen and dining table. Floors are black, polished floorboards.
Every book is arranged alphabetically by author. “Anyone who arranges their books by colour doesn’t truly care what’s in the books,” she says. “I’ve always had them and collected them. I have multiple editions of certain titles so I can give them away. But I do try to do a big cull every few years.”
An Eames lounge chair (c
onranshop.co.uk) Photograph: Brooke Holm
This applies to her substantial collection of photographs and paintings, which covers almost every inch of wall, and even the floor. “Anyone who buys art to match their sofa isn’t actually looking at the art; it’s disrespectful. The art comes first, and if you care for it, it’s your job to accommodate it.”
One wall, filled with a jumble of drawings, photographs, illustrations and paintings, is a glorious pink. “Pink is actually a superb neutral,” says Yanagihara. “There are certain bright colours – jadeite green, Majorelle blue, Paraiba tourmaline turquoise, hot pink – that have the unfair reputation of being difficult, but really, they’re so self-possessed and so singular that they’re able to accommodate almost anything you pair with them.” This includes several mid-century design classics, among them hot-pink Wishbone chairs by Hans Wegner, and a black leather Wassily lounge chair by Marcel Breuer.
Objects from Yanagihara’s frequent travels fill her home: a plaster bust of Ho Chi Minh from Saigon; iron opium weights from Laos and Burma; a solid silver cow from Mumbai; an old brass bell from Bhutan; a mirrored, embroidered pouch from Jaipur; an iron head from the Indonesian island of Flores; and a Japanese Showa-era bronze deer.
The bedroom behind the bookshelf. Photograph: Brooke Holm
Yanagihara may love her apartment, but she doesn’t love New York. “I hate it, and more with each year,” she says. “The reason you stay here is for the thrill of constantly encountering people who are smarter and more interesting than you. But almost everything else about the city – the weather, the poor infrastructure, the overpriced and mediocre food scene, the subway system, the traffic, the idea that what you do is who you are – grates.” Her apartment, she says, is a refuge: “It offers me protection from the city. And it gives me the confidence to make mistakes. I always value a space that reflects who the owner thinks she is, not who she thinks she should be.”
Where in your home are you happiest? At my desk, writing.
What is your home’s greatest extravagance? The hinoki soaking tub. I think it’s the single most expensive piece of architecture in the apartment. It’s a highly mould-resistant cedar, and my architect also lined the walls of the bathroom with it, like a humidor. When the water in the bath is hot, the place is redolent of wood.
What is the most overrated real estate virtue? Sunlight (it damages the art).
Is your home covering up anything? It’s terrifically dusty.
What quality do you like most in a room? Idiosyncrasy and self-assurance. And I love a little vulgarity and kitsch.
What is your most treasured possession? Bass Strait, a print by Japanese photographer, Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Can you describe your home in one word? Inimitable.
What do you find beautiful? Anything in which you can see the artist’s hand or the artist’s mind.
Is your house a summer house or a winter house? Winter.
What’s one thing you wish everyone knew? That painting a space a rich colour makes any room appear immediately more intimate (and its owner immediately more interesting). That when you don’t have art, you can still hang interesting wallpaper.
• It’s Beautiful Here, by Megan Morton and Brooke Holm, is published on 17 August by Thames & Hudson.
via Guardian Culture http://bit.ly/2rxYRoO
August 12, 2017 at 04:09AM