Thelma Golden's living room with built-in bookshelves

 

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While some highly regarded decorators declare that filling small rooms with furniture actually makes them look bigger, Thelma prefers a gallery-like spareness. A pair of Salvation Army snake-print chairs were almost the only pieces that made the move, while bookcases and armoires gave way to built-ins. "The key to living in a smaller space," she says, "is not having too much."

One of the apartment's few pieces of original art, a painting by Thelma's friend Glenn Ligon, is propped on the brick mantel in the living room. A combined 22 feet of built-in shelves hold books as well as Depression-era glass, which she loves for its green color. The two-section sofa by Paola Lenti and the coffee table by Peter Mann are from Karkula. 

"As much as it seems like I've never gotten rid of a book in my life, I've actually given away hundreds—especially cookbooks. To donate, check out the charity bookstores near you. I usually go to Housing Works in New York."
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