Since the early aughts, Dashwood Books in New York has been the paramount location for art book launches and signing parties and, of course, a go-to for bibliophiles in search of the rarest and newest finds in the photography realm. In 2005, photographer David Strettel set out to create the unique space to offer a selection of rare titles ranging from contemporary photography to fashion and lifestyle. “I opened the doors when many independent bookstores were closing due to the dominance of Amazon and came to retail with no previous experience and some naivete,” he says of the 33 Bond Street shop, “but I felt that a specialty bookstore in a city like New York still had some value, especially when the books I celebrated where often not available elsewhere and had physical qualities to them that really needed to be handled to be appreciated.” Dashwood has since catered to long-time customers and friends who have developed a close connection to the store.
Fostering such close ties has led to the curation of private collections for individual clients who trust the store, and Strettel himself, to create personalized reference libraries that match their taste to a tee. Strettel has worked with luxury brands such as Gucci—where he created a library of over 1,500 titles at its SoHo flagship—and caught the attention of equally artful locations.
This year, just three blocks away from its Bowery storefront, Dashwood Books curated its first hotel library at The Mercer, where clientele can browse through stacks carefully chosen by Strettel himself. Located in the heart of SoHo, The Mercer is a 74-room boutique hotel built in 1890 and designed by the late French interior designer Christian Liaigre. Now, upon entering its lobby, guests are greeted by a mahogany bookshelf filled with special tomes from its neighboring independent shop.
In curating this reference library, Strettel wanted it to complement the overall feel of the hotel and for the lobby to be “a private space where one can be left alone to really engage with the books.” In addition, his aim was “to add to their existing collection so there is a broad range of reference books on the visual arts, but still include enough surprises so that even a casual browser is rewarded with inspiration,” he says of the partnership.
The Mercer hotel visitors can enjoy a martini from the bar and flip through Strettel’s exclusive literary picks. He is confident there is a book for every overnight guest. Titles included range from The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians by Annebella Pollen to Susan Meiselas’s Carnival Strippers - Revisited. After all, he says, in putting together the hotel’s personalized collection he kept in mind, “the nature of their clientele: knowledgeable in the arts, with discerning taste and looking for something out of the ordinary.”