Tatler Homes Philippines’ Editor, Stephanie Zubiri, shares a peek at hers

“A bookshelf is as particular to its owner as his or her clothes; a personality is stamped on a library just as a shoe is shaped by a foot,” muses British actor, author and playwright, Alan Bennett, on the significance of the bookshelf. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, I say it’s your bookcase.

I have always been a voracious reader, and my mother encouraged this trait. I wore eyeglasses at the age of eight as it didn’t matter where I was, no one could pry my hands off the current book I was reading. I remember once, during one of our many travels together as a child (these would very often be in the form of gruelling bus tours where each day was a new city or attraction with crack-of-dawn wake-up calls) my mother was so angry at me because I refused to leave my seat and preferred to finish my chapter of Greek mythology rather than look at the actual acropolis. I look back and recognised how spoilt and ungrateful I was, but I was just so engrossed in the many glorious tragedies, salacious dramas, and heroic odysseys the Greek gods had to offer. I was nine years old. And the world of Zeus’s philandering, multiple love affairs and Athena cracking open his skull was made available to me. Today, at age seven, my eldest son and I are reading Daulaire’s rendition of these incredible stories.

I never had an age limit for any books. I suppose the theory was, if I managed to trudge through five hundred pages of a thick novel without photos, I deserved to read what was inside, no matter how age “inappropriate” it was. I practice the same with my children.

Over the thirty-seven years I have spent on this earth, I have amassed quite a collection, from existentialist Camus to What to Expect When You’re Expecting—my book collection is like a documentary of my life and a representation of the different chapters and storylines I have been through. Most of these were piled in a corner somewhere, some haphazardly stacked on shelves and others hidden in boxes. Just late last year, thanks to a suggestion of a loved one, I finally installed a bookshelf in the living room.

Rather than trying to put together something pretty for display, I unabashedly and unashamedly brandish the different tomes that are such an integral part of me. Kissinger sits next to Kwan, history meets pop culture romance, the stimulating profound co-existing with the deliciously superficial, the informative juxtaposed with the frivolous… There is no curation, it just is. Much like the different facets of my personality, there is no real logic, just an embracing of being.

With this in mind, I present to you our latest series—The “Shelfie”—featuring personalities and their bookshelves, giving us a little insight into who they are and what they hold most dear. And of course, how could I ever ask people to bare their souls, if I don’t share my own. Here are some of my treasured pieces that make up what is currently my most favourite corner at home, as well as a little peek into my newly re-decorated living room, where colour is synonymous with happiness.

Haphazard but Harmonious

There is no rhyme or reason in the way I put the books together. I wanted it to be a vibrant and warm addition to my living room. It was a way to make the space cosy and to add colour without necessarily using art. I do keep a shelf reserved for books I haven’t read yet, so I can easily access them, as well as a shelf of travel books, which sadly, have gathered some dust over the pandemic.

Framed Memories

I find that bookshelves are a lovely way to display personal photos. It’s a way to showcase love. Here are some framed photographs of those I hold most dear.

Step Up

This antique wood and gold embossed step ladder holds a special place in my heart. It used to sit at the end of the sofa in the den of my childhood home. It was used as a side table where an intercom and telephone sat, and I would remove these and place my dolls and stuffed toys on it, imagining they were dancing down a grand staircase like Bojangles. I always thought to myself that one day, I would display it in my own library, and just last December, I finally did.

A Pouf and a Pooch

These ottoman poufs were one of the few things I inherited from my maternal grandmother. They are originally from Lebanon and was covered in a red a black leather, which sadly had taken a rough beating through time. I reupholstered them in a fun ikat orange and still like to sit on them occasionally, especially when guests gather round the coffee table. It reminds me of a time when a mischievous four-year-old Stephanie would skulk through hidden corners of my grandparent’s rumpus room, always finding respite on these child-sized poufs. Pepper enjoys them too.  

Colour and Crystal

I love this artwork by Luis Lopa, which I feel is a representation of the inner workings of my mind. Sometimes organised, mostly flowing and irreverent, always vivid. This little malachite stone is a Christmas gift from my sons, who used their saved up allowance to give their mama something special.

Adventure, Love, and Lust

Two of my favourite novels of all time are Nabokov’s Lolita and Dumas’ The Count of Montecristo. Troubling, psychological, sensual, so masterfully crafted and passionately written, Lolita has marked me since the first time I read it as a young teen. While the swashbuckling tale of lost love, treachery, revenge, and retribution spanning across the twinkling turquoise waters of the Mediterranean and the exotic cities of the Orient, reflects the wanderlusting, wild qualities of my bohemian soul. No matter where I am, the life of Edmond Dantes will always provide the ultimate escape from mundanity. Also—he’s my ultimate fictional crush.

  • PhotographyScott Allen Woodward
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