Bookends

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Bookends

TREAT YOUR SHELVES TO CHIC VINTAGE BOOKENDS

You don’t need to be part of a bibliophile to appreciate the appeal of vintage bookends. Whether you use these stylish supports to brace books on a bookcase or simply use them as tabletop [decor]https://www.chairish.com/collection/decor() bookends are among the easiest ways to add character to a space. In fact, many even double as art! Of course, like books, the world of bookends can be overwhelming. With so many styles and mediums to choose from—brass, glass, stone, wood, ceramic—decisions abound. Designs by notable makers can also cost you a pretty penny, which means you’ll want to know what bookends are as collectible as they are chic before you start your hunt. To help, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the most common materials and designs you’re likely to find when shopping for vintage bookends.

Metal

Brass junkie? Thanks to its weight, brass is one of the most commonly used bookend materials. It was an especially popular material during the mid 20th century. If you’re shopping for brass, consider whether you’re more drawn to minimalist or detailed designs. Designs by makers like Carl Auböck and Ben Seibel are worth seeking out if you’re enticed by more sleek and sculptural designs. Ben Seibel is best known for heavy-bottomed brass ends with a vaguely amorphous quality. Some of the maker’s most iconic creations include his “clam” and “stirrup” designs. Carl Auböck bookends, best known for their stark sculptural aesthetic, tend to be more modernist than Ben Seibel’s, but exude similar artistry. Many brass Carl Auböck bookends feature a black patinated exterior, which lends them a look similar to cast iron. If you’re on the hunt for a designer-grade design with a more classical approach, consider Virginia Metalcrafters. Their brass pineapple, eagle, and wagon wheel bookends are among some of their most iconic.

When shopping for metal bookends there’s no need to go with a big-name maker, of course. It’s easy to procure unmarked models that possess plenty of style. Among brand-less models, brass bookends crafted to look like animals are a common find. Some of the most popular designs from the mid 20th century include ram and duck busts as well as owls and pineapples. Depending on your style, you may want to opt for a brass figure mounted on a heavy stone plinth made of marble or alabaster. Today, one of the most easy-to-source bookends is a classic bull and bear design, composed of a brass bear and brass bull each mounted on a hulking, slanted marble block.

Glass

Whether your personal design style is Mid-Century-inspired and kitschy or indebted to glamorous Hollywood Regency style, there’s more than likely a vintage glass bookend to suit your tastes. Glass designs are a bit more obscure than metal ones, but with a little digging, it’s easy to source a colorful array of designs. Among the most sought-after glass bookends are those designed by Blenko Glass. Founded in Wilton, West Virginia in 1921, Blenko is best known for its colorful glass vases and objects, including its bookshelf baubles. Blenko designs often have a textured or frosted, ice-like finish and frequently assume whimsical forms like pineapples, owls, elephants, and ducks. Most striking about them, of course, is their color. Blenko has reportedly rolled out over 1,200 colors of glass during their time in business, which means it’s possible to find these mid-century glass bookends in all colors of the rainbow, ranging from cobalt to aquamarine to transparent glass that mimics the look of lucite. Similar to Blenko are designs by L.E. Smith. Among the biggest manufacturers of carnival glass, L.E. Smith was best known for its glass horse or stallion bookends.

For a slightly more sophisticated take on the glass bookend, consider Murano styles. Although not as common as Murano bowls and lighting, it is possible to find Murano bookshelf decor. Consider narrowing your search to designs by Alfredo Barbini, who was best known for his glass fruit bookends consisting of a single sommerso glass apple and pear. The set can be found in a stunning array of colors, ranging from magenta to chartreuse, to tangerine. If you favor something a bit more abstract, try hunting down some of Barbini’s “flame” designs.

Stone

When it comes to adding texture and depth to a bookcase, it’s hard to top stone. Given the sheer variety of stone, stone bookends run the gamut. Consider marble if you’re looking for a touch of sophistication, onyx, or alabaster if you crave something vintage or French-inspired. Alternatively, if your style is more organic modernist, or bohemian, you may want to consider raw geode designs.

Marble designs can range from Neoclassical to ultra-modern, so it can be helpful to have a sense of what style you’re most interested in before initiating your search. Look for orbs and cylinders if you're more modernist-leaning, and columns and statuary-style designs if you’re more of a traditionalist. Alabaster and onyx are other commonly used materials for stone styles. Hunting down designs made of either stone you’re likely to notice reoccurring designs, including the classic “Palomino” horse head, French fleur-de-lys symbols, Aztec-inspired designs, and cockatoos. These designs were popular across a wide range of makers and manufacturers, which is why it’s common to see large stylistic differences between designs. Also adding to the allure of onyx and alabaster is its radical variance in color. Both stones can range in color from black to shades of cream and white tinted with gray, pink, beige, or yellow.

Ceramic

For those who favor extremely figural designs, ceramic bookends may be worth exploring. Worth noting is that ceramic tends to be lighter in weight than materials like marble and metal, so it may be best to reserve ceramic designs for tasks other than bookending your heirloom Britannicas. Ceramic bookends were especially popular in the 1940s, and so you’re likely to happen across a number of Hollywood Regency motifs when shopping. Ceramic Foo Dogs are common finds as are less mythical dogs like poodles, dalmatians, and Scotties. Other popular designs include other animals like gazelles, giraffes, zebras, and occupational figural designs like bellhops, clowns, and harlequins.

If you’re looking for a ceramic maker to invest in, try Fitz and Floyd. Although Fitz and Floyd has only been in existence since 1960, they’ve become one of the world’s undisputed decor leaders. Among the brand’s most popular designs are their playful, modern takes on classic English Staffordshire dogs. Swapping out the traditional spaniel for dalmatians, whippets and even cats, Fitz and Floyd bookends reinvent the Staffordshire narrative as something cheeky and new.