Alex Assouline: how to create the perfect library

‘Books can be a passion and also a source solace’, says the marketing director of the luxury French book publisher


Growing up heavily immersed in the creation, development, and culture of literature, it’s no surprise that books have become a governing force in my life. Though my everyday work centres around the marketing aspect of each Assouline title, library curation has — for me — become not only a passion project but also a source of solace.

What started as a favour for a close friend quickly transformed into a creative outlet for years of absorbed knowledge and, most recently, an offshoot of the Assouline brand. Through the evolution of my approach to library curation I’ve developed easily applicable guidelines to ease the daunting feat of filling everything from an empty coffee table to an entire bookcase.

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Building the perfect library

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It is important for me to understand the space a library inhabits when starting a project. I study its design and character, gain an understanding of its owners and frequenters so that I can, in turn, augment its best qualities through each book and object. The process of selecting books can be very personal so it’s important to choose titles and pieces that not only fit the space but also project key elements of an owner’s personality. With that, however, I always include a few of my favourite titles as a thumbprint on each project.

Coffee table books are in many ways forms of art in their own right, so it’s only fitting to call on one of the most adored Assouline titles, The Impossible Collection of Art.

Incorporating magnificent private collectors’ works, it brings a printed museum right into your home and demands attention. I can spend hours marveling at each page. For a bit of fantasy and colour I use Lachapelle Land by David Lachapelle. It is a true treat for the eyes and adds a burst of flavour to even the most muted space.

Creating contrast

Growing up, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in Seville watching the bullfighting and thus I became infatuated with costumes and the art of bullfighters dancing with each beast. Oro Plata: Embroidered Costumes of the Bullfight by Daniel Carbonel brings me back to that feeling of being in the midst of that spectacle and nowadays I add it to libraries for extra seasoning.

Of course, it can be good to offset statement titles with unassuming gems to keep a balance in any space. Bar Mitzvah by Rabbi Marc-Alain Ouaknin is undoubtedly a favourite of mine — and a very personal choice — as the book was commissioned before my Bar Mitzvah and given to me by my father as a symbol of my spiritual growth as a man. I pair it with Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man as a juxtaposition of internal growth with external finesse and elegance.

Objet d'art

Libraries, however, are not solely about books. I place heavy emphasis on the objects I select to accompany each book as they in many ways are capable of saying just as much. I’ve found that the right pair of bookends can transform a room into a cabinet of curiosities and ultimately bolster the unique elements I initially sought to highlight.

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