Meet the Designer: An SF Architect’s Approach to Book Shelves

Instead of a coffee table book, what about a book coffee table? Bay Area architect, artist and fabricator Lisa Finster is now custom creating what she calls the “Book Table.” She takes people’s favorite and different sized books and precisely fits them between panels of poplar—much like putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

“I love incorporating things into my work that have significance to me – it's like I am building a home for something I love while giving it a reason to live on display, or to become something useful,” Finster says. “For me, the book table is like a functional memory capsule – it is a table made complete by a series of books from a formative time in my life.”

Finster made her first Book Table while studying architecture at the California College of the Arts 10 years ago. The original table consisted of 19 panels of wood, each planned to the thickness of a book with the shape of the book removed. Once done, she cored out the underside to make the table lighter and easier to move.

Finster grew up sewing, quilting and knitting, and always had a knack for working with her hands. She experimented with all sorts of materials, including resin, concrete, rubber and latex; but wood has always been her favorite. “In addition to its natural warmth and beauty,” she says, “I love how it can be manipulated and shaped in so many ways.”

Many of Finster’s ideas and concepts are influenced by architects from where she grew up— Southern California—including Greene & Greene, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Frank Lloyd Wright. “These designers didn’t stop their work when a building form was established and the walls were all located,” she says. “They had a hand in the design of every doorknob and light fixture, every bookshelf and handrail, and often the furniture as well. They were space makers.”

All of Finster’s furniture is custom-made to order, she says she is happy to work from a previous design or start from scratch. If interested in a customized Book Table, Finster can be contacted through her website.

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