My husband, son, and I took a field trip to the Bay Area — specifically Berkeley and Oakland — to visit several bookstores for inspiration. We’ve been working with a bookshelf manufacturer on what our bookcases will look like. We know one thing already: white. And that’s about it. The designer gave us a 3D model of his first crack at the layout, which only confirmed that we needed to visit some bookstores to see what spoke to us and what didn’t.

Prior to that, we had visited local bookstores, and that’s where I decided that we should do white shelving (inspired by Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills). Because we’ll have a medium-blue ceiling, light-grey walls, and dark blue bump-outs, I felt that toning things down with white shelving is what we should do. I’m really surprised that my husband so readily agreed to white, quite honestly. His son, who did not fall far from the tree, said to me today, “But bookstore shelves should be wood-colored.” I suppose that is the norm, but Capital Books is not following the norm. Our Art Deco theme will have many dark features with some gold accents around the store.

It is interesting that, of the six bookstores we visited today, certain ones felt “right” to both of us for different reasons. Ross leaned more towards the “traditional” bookstores, like East Bay Booksellers (formerly Diesel Books). When you enter their store, walking on the old, creeky, well-loved floors, you get a sense that this is where serious book-lovers come to buy their books.


Personally, I fell in LOVE with Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore in Berkeley. They have the vibe that I’m after for Capital Books:

And then we stumbled upon, quite by accident, Owl & Company Bookshop. If you ever find yourself in Oakland, I urge you to treat yourself and visit this lovely bookstore. All three of us felt like we stepped back in time.

These photos cannot convey the feeling you get when you walk in the door. I barely got more than a few steps inside when I said to man behind the counter, “This is incredible!” I told him that we are opening a bookstore in Sacramento and were spending the day getting inspired by bookstores. He was one of those gentle souls who you want to sit and chat with for a while. That’s when he told me that the books will tell us how to design the store.

So far, I have not heard much muttering from the book boxes in the basement. They’re probably yelling to be let out, though. Maybe I need to open the lids to hear what they have to say. What I do know is that I want to do them justice. And I want to design a store that makes our community want to come in again and again. I want to make something that entices them to meander through the aisles like I did in Mrs. Dalloway’s or my husband did in East Bay Books.

I hope we will give the books what they want.