Book Shopping on Nantucket: Finding some Billy Baldwin Treasures

Books were on my mind today as I strolled through the town of Nantucket, first hitting the Nantucket Bookworks where I purchased Eat, Pray, Love and then at the The Gallery at 35 Main Street where I came across a fabulous collection of vintage books.  There is nothing more intriguing than staying at a home filled with vintage and first edition books.  The house that we are renting here has some wonderful books – old leather bound editions covered in brilliant, bright colors (perfect for a summer house) that seem to be worn in all the right places as they are carefully arranged on the shelves to look as though someone placed them there after a good read on one of the nine (yes nine) porches that this house has.  Sometimes as I thumb through these old treasures, I wonder if the book could talk back and tell me a thing or two about past readers…wouldn’t that be nice!

While The Gallery seems to specialize in oil paintings and incredible, hand made sailor’s valentines, I was intrigued by the book collection and two caught my eye.  The first, Billy Baldwin Decorates: A book of Practical Decorating Ideas is out of print and was published in 1973 (second printing) by House & Garden and Conde Nast Publications.  The second one is Billy Baldwin Remembers by Billy Baldwin, which is a detailed memoir by the dean of decorators at his forty year career at decorating beautiful interiors for fascinating people.  One chapter, called “Stars in My Crown” talks about decorating for memorable clients such as Mrs. William McCormick Blaire, Jr; Stark Young; Mrs. T. Reed Vreeland (Diana); Cole Porter; Van Day Truex; Ina Claire (Mrs. William Wallace); Whitney Warren; Baroness Philippe de Rothschild; Mrs. William S. Paley (Babe); Mrs. Harding Lawrence (Mary Wells); Mrs. Thomas Bancroft (Missy); Mrs. Thomas Kempner (Nan); Senora de Don Placido Arango and Mrs. Frederick Melhado (Louise).  

Aside from being excited at today’s find, I was pleasantly surprised to see that his memoir was signed by the author and there were a number of newspaper clippings tucked into the back that the previous owner of this 1st edition book had carefully kept.  What a treat for me.  What is most amazing about Billy Baldwin is how timeless his designs were. Or is it that we follow his design aesthetic so much without realizing it that nothing has really changed? It must be a decorating chicken and egg situation.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw some ikat prints and moroccan side tables and chinese chippendale bamboo regency style headboards in his various rooms – was it Billy Baldwin I was reading or the latest issue of Elle Decor?  I think I could spend the next year highlighting how Billy Baldwin has influenced most of the present-day designers we see most mentioned in the shelter magazines and I could take side by side image comparisons of his designs vs theirs (this could be interesting).  Stay tuned…

We had dinner with good friends Sunday night on the island and they looked a bit surprised when I said that I really loved the shopping on Nantucket.  It isn’t the Lilly dresses that I come in search of, it is the unique trinkets and treasures that you can find on this magical little island.  I suppose amazing finds like this I could keep to myself, but since so many of you love luxuries for the home as I do, visit The Gallery and peruse their small selection of vintage books!  Treat your house guests with a few first editions tucked away on side tables and on bookcases for their reading enjoyment and yours!

Also, you should be the first to know that we are now having a huge 20% OFF SITEWIDE sale at The Well Appointed House…and that includes most everything…even bookcases, bookstands and magazine racks!  Happy Shopping and enjoy your summer!

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  1. Empress of The Eye

    Billy Baldwin spent many years on Nantucket and when he did he stayed in a house behind the one owned by Way Bandy and his partner, Michael Gardine. Michael later wrote with Mr. B his autobiography. I bet there are many houses on that island that have signed books tucked away. Nice score!

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