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11 Unusual Bookstores You Can Visit

Sure you can buy books on Amazon, but nothing compares to going to a bookstore and picking out the right title by hand. Here are some unique bookstores that are filled with as much charm as they are books. 

1. SARAIVA BOOKSTORE

This Rio de Janeiro bookstore features a rainbow made of books that wraps around the shop. Although those titles are not for sale, there are plenty of options available on the ground floor. Despite its large size, the creators wanted the store to feel cozy and welcoming. Color is an important theme of the establishment: The top-floor children’s section also features a multi-hued, striped seating area. 

2. WAANDERS IN DE BROEREN

Bookstores can be located in just about about any kind of building. Waanders In de Broeren has taken up residence in a renovated 15th-century cathedral northeast of Amsterdam in the municipality of Zwolle. The store preserved a lot of the church’s original features, including the nave and enormous wood organ. "We wanted all the additions made to the church to be sober, in respect to the church, modest," the architects explained

3. LA CAVERNE AUX LIVRES 

This decommissioned postal train in Auvers-Sur-Oise, France, is filled to the gills with books. It may not look like much from the outside, but La Caverne aux Livres—The Cave of Books—is home to thousands of books from all genres and eras.

4. BOOK BARGE

Former journalist Sarah Henshaw didn't know much about boats, or owning a business, when she first opened the Book Barge in 2009. She gutted a canal boat that she bought with money borrowed from her parents, and filled it with donated books that were given in response to a plea in a newspaper. Today the floating bookshop sells carefully curated books that stray from the bestseller list. Visitors can climb aboard at the Barton Marina in Staffordshire, England, on Saturdays. 

5. LIVRARIA DA VILA 

If you want to truly be surrounded by books, consider Livraria da Vila. This São Paulo bookstore is housed in a uniquely structured building with revolving bookshelves that make up the storefront. The multi-level former house also has books lining the space from floor to ceiling, and a large circular hole in between the first floor and basement that's also lined in books. 

6. FAULKNER HOUSE 

As the name suggests, William Faulkner once inhabited this New Orleans apartment. Although he only stayed for six months in 1925, the space kept its literary ties. Owners Joe DeSalvo and Rosemary James fixed up the apartment and transformed it into a bookstore that carries rare publications, first edition classics, and books by and about Faulkner. It’s said that the ghost of the writer still hangs around some of the female staff, and occasionally hits on them. 

7. ALBERTINE BOOKS 

Nestled in a historic mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, this French and English bookshop—a project of the French embassy—is as charming as it gets. The upstairs has a beautiful zodiac mural overhead, reminiscent of the one in Grand Central. The fresco is inspired by the Italian Renaissance, when the line between science and poetry was much fuzzier. 

8. BART'S BOOKS

Bart’s Books is said to be the largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore in the country. Richard Bartinsdale opened the store in Ojai, California, in the '60s, when he found his personal collection was getting overwhelming. Bartinsdale initially used coffee cans instead of a register; the honor system is still in place today. With books as cheap as 35 cents, it's easy enough to cough up the change.

9. BRAZENHEAD BOOKS

Literary New Yorkers have long known of the book speakeasy Brazenhead Books, once tucked away in a rent-controlled apartment. “Some nights, it’s more like a book nightclub than a bookstore,” owner Michael Seidenberg told The New York Times. The store was recently forced to close after the landlord evicted Seidenberg, but he is currently looking for a new location for his book collection.

10. THE SPOTTY DOG BOOKS & ALE 

Previously a firehouse, Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, New York, now operates as a bar-bookstore hybrid that lets you grab a beer while you peruse the shelves. The bar prides itself on serving a wide variety of craft beers, mostly from nearby breweries. Members of the former firehouse, C.H. Evans Hook & Ladder Co., will sometimes revisit the bar and reminisce over a beer. 

11. LIBRERIA ALTA ACQUA

Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy, is known for its unusual book storage solutions. Visitors can rummage through books kept in bathtubs, boats, and other unusual containers. The nautically themed bookstore even has a full-sized gondola that floats when the store floods (the name literally means “library of high water”). This fantastic bookshop will probably have any book you need, but those with allergies should steer clear: Besides the thick coat of dust, there are also a number of cats prowling around the shelves.

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One of Frank Lloyd Wright's Final Residential Designs Goes on Sale in Ohio
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In case you’ve missed the many recent sales of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed real estate, you have yet another chance to secure yourself a historical starchitect home. The Louis Penfield House is being sold by its original owners, and it could be yours for a cool $1.3 million. The restored Usonian home in Willoughby Hills, Ohio has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2003.

The house is currently a vacation rental and, depending on the preference of the new owner, it could continue to operate as a tourist destination. Or you could take it over as your private residence, which sounds pretty luxurious. It still has a floor-to-ceiling glass-walled living room that looks out on the Chagrin River, and comes with all the original furniture Wright designed. Like Wright’s other Usonian homes, it has a radiant-floor heating system that draws on a natural gas well onsite.

A retro-looking living room features floor-to-ceiling windows.
A bedroom is filled with vintage wooden furniture.

Around the same time as the original commission, Louis and Pauline Penfield also asked Wright to create another house on an adjacent property, and that home would prove to be the architect’s final residential design. It was still on the drawing board when he died unexpectedly in 1959. The sale of the Penfield House includes the original plans for the second house, called Riverrock, so you’d be getting more like 1.5 Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Seems like a pretty good deal to us.

All images via Estately

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Chilton & Chadwick
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Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Home on a Private Island Goes Up for Sale
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Chilton & Chadwick

From Fallingwater in Pennsylvania to Taliesin West in Arizona, many works of architect Frank Lloyd Wright are known for their stunning natural locations. The address of the latest Wright-designed home to hit the market is hard to beat: The Massaro House is situated on a heart-shaped island in Lake Mahopac in Putnam County, New York.

According to inhabitat, real estate agency Chilton & Chadwick is selling the property for $14.92 million. The listing includes all 11 acres of Petra Island plus a main house with a rich architectural history.

Frank Lloyd Wright house on private island

Frank Lloyd Wright house on private island

Frank Lloyd Wright house on private island

Around 1950, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned by engineer A.K. Chahroudi to build a house on the island. The architect agreed and got to work on a project that would surpass Fallingwater in ambition. The designs were complete after a few months, but they had to be scaled down to fit the owner's budget. In place of the full 5000-square-foot home, Chahroudi settled for a small guest cottage.

The house that currently stands on Petra Island is the realization of Wright’s original vision (with a few modern, somewhat controversial upgrades). Sheet metal contractor Joe Massaro bought the island in 1996 and also obtained the architect’s designs. Not long after, the new owner dedicated himself to constructing the house Wright intended to make.

Though it was completed decades after his death, the six-bedroom house on Petra Island emanates Wright’s signature style. Geometric windows light the home, a wraparound patio provides sweeping views, and boulders integrated into the walls give the building a natural feel. There are also plenty of features that you don’t necessarily need to be an architecture fanatic to appreciate, like the guest house, tea house, and helipad for 15-minute flights to Manhattan.

Watch the video below to get an intimate tour of the property.

[h/t inhabitat]

All images courtesy of Chilton & Chadwick

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