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Special library houses thousands of historical design books

Posted on Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

We all know High Point, North Carolina, as the furniture capital of the world, but who knew it was also a mecca for design books? With more than 4,000 furniture and design-specific volumes, the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (BBFL) in High Point is the largest furniture specialty library in the world. And with Spring High Point Market just around the corner, it might be the perfect time to drop in.



With volumes from 1640 to present time, the BBFL contains a collection of the original works of 18th century furniture masters Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite, as well as a complete 26 volume set of Diderot's Encyclopedia published in 1776.

According to Karla Webb, library curator and director, a complete set of the Diderot volumes is very rare. Even more rare, the BBFL invites the public to don a pair of white gloves and see them up close, examining areas of personal interest.

Guests are welcome to make an appointment, the rare book room is limited to two people at a time, and is one of the only places in the world where design professionals, scholars and students can examine the original works of the pioneer designers in the industry.



The BBFL contains rare drawings and furniture details, and it houses a specialty bookstore selling the latest books on design as well as out of print and hard to find texts. It is also used as a public venue for professional meetings, seminars, conferences, lectures and art events.

The library is also big on community involvement. Since 1984, it has awarded more than $350,000 in scholarships to students at 17 colleges throughout the US. “I was lucky enough to know the Bienenstocks,” said Webb. “It was their long-standing desire to invest in the education and future of the furniture industry.”

Savannah College of the Arts student Kai-Ning Huang and Virgina Tech’s Xie Xin have been chosen as the recpients of the latest BBFL scholarships. The students will be awarded $10,000 each at the April High Point Market.

The winners were also given memberships to the American Society of Furniture Designers (ASFD) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). The competition is a collaborative effort among the ASFD, ASID and the library.

“Our intention is to encourage and inspire the best and most creative minds and help them to develop their talents,” said Webb. “We also hook them up with professional members of the furniture and interior design industries who mentor and answer design questions.”

The annual design scholarship is open to any junior, senior or graduate student enrolled in an accredited college design program. A scholarship in interior design was added this year in addition to the furniture design award.



During Market, the BBFL will also hold a special event for bloggers, “White Gloves and Wine,” taking place on Monday, April 22 at 5:45 p.m. The event, which is sold out, gives top industry bloggers and writers a chance to peruse the rare books room and network.

For more information on the BBFL and to learn how you can host an event, or get involved with the scholarship program, visit the website.