From the Design Desk: We Heart Anthropologie

There are a few things that nearly all Chronicle designers love: Books, Art, and Anthropologie. (At least, those of the fairer sex. Jake would definitely swap Surfing into that three-spot.)

So as you can imagine, there’s been quite a bit of chatter around here about the current window displays in Anthro’s retail outlets around town.

Anthropologie’s endlessly crafty window dressers have salvaged thousands of tattered old paperbacks to create a sculptural mise-en-scène in which to display their glamour-gear for the literary set. Removing from the equation all of the aspects of the book that one would normally associate with design and décor—e.g. covers, illustrations, typography—the books are reduced to their purest form: letterforms on paper.

On Market Street here in San Francisco, the book interiors hang suspended from the ceiling like Noguchi lanterns. The folded paper, spiraling around a central axis, is reminiscent of origami, yet the shadows of text receding into the space between the pages lend tension to these angular forms. The books belie a presence that is at once weightless and solid.

The Corte Madera store just over the Golden Gate Bridge applies a different tactic, rounding the pages into the spines to create a flowering, organic frame for their display. The faded fore-edges of these abandoned books lend bursts of muted color to the composition, and you can almost smell the musty odor seeping from the yellowed pages.

In the comments on a post about the Berkeley store over on Casa Sugar, a few readers lament that so many books were ruined in the process of creating these displays. I don’t see it this way at all. These are old recycled books, stacks and stacks of which end up in landfills and shredders each year (btw Chronicle has a policy of avoiding the practice of remaindering at all costs). If throwaway paperbacks can have a second life as works of art, or better yet inspire people to create their own design projects, then I’m all for it. Isn’t that the whole idea behind reevaluating the life cycle of our products?

Agree? Disagree? Jump in! Meanwhile, check out dreambird’s Flickr photos of the Anthro window display in Kansas City, or scout out some of your own and send in a link!

Guinevere Harrison

Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare is a writer and editor based in San Francisco. She was the senior community manager at Chronicle Books from 2009-2014.

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  • Kristen August 18, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I love Anthropologie! Can’t we have one in New Hampshire?! I guess it’s best we don’t or I’d go broke. I first heard about them online from several different blogs. I’m in love with a certain couch they have and a chair. Ok…so I love everything! Anyway, I love the display and I think it’s great! If we can give books a second life, I’m all for it! Two thumbs up!


  • christina August 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I got yelled at for taking photos of these windows in SF! I’m a huge fan of them and I love the play on an everyday object turned into art. What a wonderful way to bring new life to discarded, unloved books.


  • ToastnCandy August 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Gorgeous! If anything, the window displays are making me want to jump inside, snatch up a book and head to a local cafe to read and unwind.


  • jake August 18, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    well done Anthropologie. A great example of how we can make beautiful things out out old stuff, rather than buying new stuff.


  • Guinevere August 18, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Christina – they scolded me, too, when I tried to go inside to get photos without the glare. I did my best to explain that I was just trying to give ’em some good press, but to no avail…


  • jellybelly August 19, 2008 at 11:12 am

    very cool. i’d have to say i’m pro window display….but what do they do with the books when they change the display?


  • Rebekah October 27, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    As a librarian who inquired at the Berkeley store, I’m pleased to say they donate them (to schools and libraries) when they’re done.


  • robin dudley-howes January 8, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Give me an Anthro gift card any day. it’s the absoulute best visual eye candy store EVER!!


  • guinevere January 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Amen to that, Robin! The current window displays boasting giant SALE signs might as well be yellow caution tape. Danger!


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