Book Collector Madeline Lafuse on Collecting Modern Interior Design Books at Bargain Prices

Madeline Lafuse

Madeline Lafuse

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Madeline Lafuse who received an 'Honorable Mention' in this year's Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize.

Where are you from/where do you live?

I’m from Columbia, Maryland, and I live in Manhattan. 

What do (did) you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

I’m a PhD candidate in history studying enslavement and poisoning in 19th century New Orleans. I also teach high school history. 

Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in? 

I collect interior design books from 1995-2005 that depict the modern aesthetics of early internet age globalization. These books dream of an international future, they encourage readers to connect across cultures, and they feature a lot of “computer rooms”. Japanese minimalism appeals to New York loft-dwellers in one book, while many others have three languages on one page. These are optimistic books that are excited about the beauty that the internet could make possible - today’s world of fear and fracture is nowhere to be seen. 

How many books are in your collection?

26. I need to get another bookshelf to keep going. 

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

An Ethan Allen home design book I bought for $1.50 because the cover was a shade of apple green that I felt like I hadn’t seen since my childhood. This is a very nostalgic collection. 

How about the most recent book?

I was completely surprised to find some awesome used design books in the gift store of the Asia Society Museum last month. I’m now the proud caretaker of The Best Design in Wellness Hotels and Contemporary Chinese Interiors

Madeline Lafuse

Part of Madeline Lafuse's collection

And your favorite book in your collection?

I have a book on urban roof gardens in Europe that I think is pretty cool. I also have a copy of a Japanese book of apartments that I find charming because it clearly was translated into English using a very rudimentary version of Google Translate. In that way, it nicely encapsulates how design and the internet come together in these books. 

Best bargain you’ve found?

Compared to most collections, I think all my books are bargains. Most purchases are about ten bucks, and I’ve never spent more than fifty on any one book. Not many people are in the market for outdated interior design.

How about The One that Got Away?

My aunt’s complete Architectural Digest collection from the nineties! When she passed away and my uncle moved, I think they all went in the trash. Such a shame! I would have really enjoyed them. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I’m worried my Holy Grail might not have been published. I haven’t found a single book (or even one page) representing modern design in Africa from this period. It is disturbing to see the books of my collection celebrate global connections, except apparently not connections with Africa. They leave Africa out of their definition of modern. 

Who is your favorite bookseller/bookstore?

It’s a very New York answer, but I’d have to say The Strand. Unlike other stores where I’m scrounging through a generic art section, The Strand has multiple dedicated shelves for used books of interior design. I always come away with a haul of four or five books. 

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

If my tiny budget and tinier apartment allowed, I would absolutely collect the art and design objects of 80s and 90s modernism. I have a few pieces already, like a pair of dramatic black Haeger lamps I got at a yard sale for twenty bucks. I just love this stuff.