Gallery: Bookstore Cafe Design is Accented with Old Books


Here at Inhabitat we love seeing innovative applications for recycled books, so we were excited to see that Manhattan’s McNally Jackson Books has incorporated an incredible array of bound book decor in their recently renovated cafe. The independent bookseller combined forces with Front Studio to renovate the bookstore’s existing café into a “place evocative of literature.” The collaboration establishes a new identity which celebrates intuitive connections between programmatic functions and acts of reading.

The café is fairly small but provides enough space for four distinct seating areas and an ordering station. Above the center seating area are a series of randomly placed light fixtures interlaced with a sporadic placement of similar extending cords but with no lamps. Each fixture and cord penetrates one used book each and creates an illusion “as if a pile of books had been thrown into the sky and frozen.”

The curved wall behind the bench seating is textured in a wall-covering made solely from open-spine books. At first glance, one would believe there were no tables in this area, but snapped to the papered wall are hinged wooden pull-down folding surfaces. Resembling antique schoolhouse writing desks, these tables are designed to project the form of a folded book when closed.

Above the ordering station is the menu filled with food-related quotes and another series of the same light fixtures — in this instance each fixture holds a large stack of different editions of the same book.

McNally Jackson Books Café is definitely worth a visit. According to the statement on their website, “our coffee is fair trade, our paper products recycled and all of our pastries are bio-degradable” — nothing could sound more enticing!

+ McNally Jackson Books

+ Front Studio


Photos by Maggie Soladay


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  1. bernickl April 16, 2010 at 10:45 am

    This is totally awesome! Two of my favorite things (books and independently owned cafes) combined into an unique space. Maybe this would be a project that could be marketed to schools. Have school age children help renovate their libraries or classrooms with “book lights” and/or book walls. I think the kids could easily help “hang” books on the wall, even if it doesn’t cover the whole wall.

  2. eco-panda April 10, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    coolest book store i ever seen ^^

  3. ilocine April 2, 2010 at 5:25 am

    Another beautiful library

    In Brussels (Belgium): 7 different topics (comics, travel, children, art, cooking,…) in 7 different spaces decorated to reflect the topic.
    What is also nice there is that you can also eat and drink!

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