Sprawling, sun-dappled and artfully curated, Ariel Books is a design lover’s paradise. We speak with manager Julia Blanks about creating a space that’s inspired devotees for three decades and counting.
If you’re a bibliophile, stepping into Ariel Books feels like nothing short of a homecoming. The sun-splashed Sydney space might owe its following to a flawless edit of art and architecture books but it’s also known for a design nous that inspires visitors to cancel plans, curl up in a corner and while away the day.
“I think it’s the way the space is laid out,” laughs Ariel’s manager Julia Blanks, whose parents established the Oxford Street institution in 1985. “People feel relaxed staying in here. It’s somewhere they can go, chill out for half an hour and get some new ideas and inspiration. Even if they don’t buy a book, it’s somewhere they know they can come back.”
Blanks is onto something. At Ariel, coffee table books sit atop rectangular tables and sloping shelves lined with a rainbow of spines feel like an art installation you want to reach out and touch. The store’s high ceilings, white walls and hardwood floors are the perfect canvas for paper bouquets, vintage maps and the row of hot air balloons that float above windows – bursts of colour that both punctuate the space and give it life.
“We’re definitely drawn to colour,” says Blanks, who recently added foldable storyteller chairs and a series of sleek, modular tables to the space, courtesy of a collaboration with NOMI that saw her choose colours and customise pieces that would elevate and complement the bookstore’s aesthetic. “I think the collection of furniture we’ve gathered over the years is one of my favourite aspects of the space. Some of it is from eBay and some of it is handcrafted but it all works together.”
For Blanks, who says that new releases from Flying Eye Books, an audacious UK publisher specialising in witty picture books and a new shipment of from Mack, a distributor of ambitious, cloth-covered photography titles are among her favourite things in-store, curating and designing Ariel Books is an ongoing process.
“My parents always had a passion for art and design books and when they opened the store 30 years ago, there was nothing like it on Oxford Street,” she recalls. “Ariel Books is collaborative and we slowly build it over time. We just play it by ear and if we see something we love we make it a part of the store. We don’t just have one idea in mind – the space is always changing.”