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ORANGE COUNTY STYLE : Rooms that speak volumes : Four home libraries that represent a divergence of literary tastes and interests--including the poems of Longfellow

October 04, 1987|DENNIS McLELLAN | McLellan is a Times staff writer. and

For some Orange County residents, a house isn't a home without a room devoted to shelf after shelf of books, lovingly collected. Lin Currie, owner of Orange County's oldest used-book store, Apollo Book Shop in Costa Mesa, says the area is home to hundreds of book collectors.

Currie, himself a collector of books on Western humor, says that, although his shop is neatly organized by subject, his home library is "a shambles."

Other Orange County collectors are meticulous in the organization and display of their books. Many have created impressive home libraries, some with collections of distinction.

The four home libraries on these pages represent a divergence of literary tastes and interests--from the poems of Longfellow to the arts of calligraphy and printing. Yet all of the collectors share a common trait: a lifelong love of books.

When Baldwin Reinhold, a Swiss immigrant, died in Laguna Hills in 1976 at age 93, he left his son Ben an unusual legacy: a library of 20th-Century history.

That legacy--about 13,000 books that deal with social, political and economic issues--is kept in Ben and Darlene Reinhold's sprawling redwood house overlooking the ocean in the Shores area of Laguna Niguel.

"My father was tremendously interested in the great changes that were occurring in the world, particularly in Europe and the United States," says Ben Reinhold, 62, chairman and chief executive officer of Varco International, the Orange-based oil-drilling tools and equipment manufacturer founded by his father in 1908 in Los Angeles.

"My father complemented the library with many of the best novels of the day," says Reinhold. "All the books of (John) Steinbeck, Somerset Maugham--every great (20th-Century) novel from Europe and the United States--can be found in this room."

The library is spectacular to view: Dark teak bookcases line the 14-foot-high walls. Hard-to-reach volumes are made accessible by a ladder that glides on a track that encircles the room; the room's focal point is a polished black-granite fireplace with a life-size portrait of Reinhold's German-born mother, Charlotte, above the mantle. A sliding-glass door opens onto an atrium filled with stacks of magazines and newspapers.

"I spend probably two hours here every evening," says Reinhold. "It's quiet and I think the atmosphere is very conducive to reading and studying."

Reinhold says he is gradually updating the collection. He has already added all the books bout the Watergate scandal.

Besides augmenting the collection with history books, Reinhold is continuing a tradition begun by his father. Baldwin Reinhold would save newspaper articles about the major political and social issues of the day--such as the immigration of Dust Bowl farmers to California in the '30s and the McCarthy hearings in the '50s. Later, when books on those subjects were published, he would insert the appropriate clippings into the books.

Ben Reinhold is currently cutting out and saving articles about the Iran-contra affair, which he, in turn, will tuck into books about the scandal as they are published. "The clippings," says Reinhold, "make the history books very interesting."

When Dean and Gerda Koontz married in 1966, they shared a common dream: to build a home library. But with Dean just beginning a teaching job in a federal poverty program and Gerda working as a bank teller, money was scarce. Like many newlyweds, they built their first "library" with bricks and boards.

Now that Dean Koontz, 42, is a best-selling author--50 novels published in 20 years with sales of more than 40 million copies--the couple has built the library of their dreams.

Eight years ago, when they moved into a spacious, two-story house in a private equestrian community in the hills east of Orange, they hired a cabinetmaker to design, build and install dark oak bookcases in a converted den.

Floor-to-ceiling bookcases line all four walls of the small room, which is furnished with only a wingback chair, a small reading lamp and an oriental rug.

"My collection focuses mainly on mystery, suspense, science fiction, fantasy and horror," says Koontz, whose 51st novel, "Lightning," a "cross-genre" thriller, will be published later this year.

Koontz's two favorite books are a 1930 first edition of "The Maltese Falcon," and a 1983 Arion Press limited illustrated edition of the Dashiell Hammett mystery classic.

This library holds 4,000 of the 20,000 or more volumes in the Koontz collection. Additional bookcases in the living room display leather bound classics and shelveds in five other rooms hold yet more books. Seventy boxes of individually wrapped books are in the garage, and another 6,000 books are in storage.

Both the Koontzes work at home (Gerda serves as her husband's assistant and coordinator of foreign rights sales), and they say they have begun to feel claustrophobic sharing space with all these volumes and are thinking of moving to a larger house.

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