Shelving a Dream

This downtown resident created a home around his favorite room, the library.

In 1994, when Don Hutson started building his three-story house at South Bluffs, he knew the library would be its heart. Not only had he carried the room's image in his mind "for a good 20 years," says the professional speaker, business trainer, and author, he also had a manila folder for each room of the house, filled with photos and ideas from magazines. His library file was by far the thickest.

Today Hutson's dream library of oak and birch, located on the home's second floor, soars 14 feet high, contains some 4,500 books, and boasts what he claims is one of the largest collections of self-help materials anywhere.

The height was especially important to Hutson, and it took some negotiations to achieve. "I didn't want to make the mistake some people do, trying to put a library in a room with eight- or ten-foot ceilings," he explains. So he asked for and received a variance on the subdivision's height restrictions. Then his architects, Looney Ricks Kiss, who took Hutson's plan and fine-tuned it, had to deal with different heights in other rooms to make the second-floor ceiling even all the way across. Says Hutson: "We really had to do some finessing to make it work."

But work it does, as does the ceiling's design of nine paneled squares, the 12-foot-high shelves, and the eight slender columns that create vertical points, each adorned with a vase -- an idea borrowed from the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.

The books themselves, which Hutson has been collecting all his adult life, are divided into various groupings, including novels, health and wellness, sales, psychology, history and government, wealth and success, religion and spirituality, aviation, humor, and a section Hutson calls "to read."

In the largest category are volumes on self-help, a number of them written by Samuel Smiles, a Scottish author credited with founding the self-help movement in 1849. Other authors in that category range from Orison Swett Marden -- Hutson's favorite, who wrote 46 books from 1895 to 1927 -- to Elbert Hubbard, who died on the doomed Lusitania, and Norman Vincent Peale.

Also represented are more contemporary authors on business success and "personal excellence," such as Tony Robbins, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, and Hutson's wife, Terri Murphy, who has co-written a book with Donald Trump titled The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received. Hutson, the author of nine books, recently collaborated with best-selling author Ken Blanchard on The One Minute Entrepreneur.

Upon entering the library, visitors see the owner's "most beautiful and valuable books." Among them are signed volumes by world traveler and Memphian Richard Halliburton. And Hutson admits to buying a few sets of leather-bound books "not necessarily to read them but because they're beautiful." His oldest volume is one on U.S. government, dating to the 1700s. His most unusual is The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce, who wrote for the L.A. Times in the early 1900s and retired to join forces with Pancho Villa.

For those building a library of their own, Hutson's advice is simple; "Give careful thought to your favorite kind of reading, identify who you really like, then seek out the best authors and buy everything you can find." And, he might add, aim for high ceilings.

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