State librarian Rebecca Hamilton at home in a quirky
If you’ve ever met Rebecca Hamilton, you’ll have noticed her shoes.
Hamilton, who has been Louisiana’s state librarian since then Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu appointed her in 2005, is a woman who believes in the transformative power of a good pair of high heels. Rows of brightly colored footwear serve as a kind of crown molding in her Baton Rouge home’s walk in closet.
“When the world exploded in 2005 (when Hurricane Katrina hit), and I lost 30 libraries, we were going to work, work, work, go home and shower, go back and work more,” Hamilton recalled during a recent interview. “If it wasn’t for the ability to put on red lipstick and good shoes, I would have died. They made me feel powerful, and then I became known for them.”
Standing at attention two rows deep, they swirl around a carefully curated closet featuring everything from a color coordinated line of dresses and designer handbags to thrifted costume jewelry and a black leather jacket from her favorite punk rock band, X. In its own way, Hamilton’s closet is like a study for the rest of her home: A little bit of glam, a lot of quirk.
“It’s my goal to get people away from that ‘schoolmarm’ idea of librarians,” she said.
And there is no schoolmarm living at Hamilton’s home, which can be found just off Highland Road in a small neighborhood, chosen for its woodiness and the small lake that wraps around much of the back yard. It’s here where Hamilton comes to escape from long workdays, like those spent preparing for the Louisiana Book Festival coming up on Oct. 31. She’ll kick off her heels and place them neatly back in the closet before selecting one of her vinyl records, working on her documentary about punk music in Baton Rouge or playing with the cats she’s rescued and occasionally fosters.
Where: Downtown Baton Rouge from the State Library to the State Capitol.
When: Saturday, Oct.
More information: The festival is free and open to the public.
“It feels like the country back here. . There are bats in those trees . I’ve got a king snake that lives in my rose bush, and the little boys like to fish in the lake,” she said of the neighborhood.
Growing up in a small house on her family’s West Baton Rouge farm, Hamilton feels most at home in a cozy,
“When people come here, they’re not afraid to touch stuff,” she said. “If it looks old and expensive, it is, but in general, I want people to come in and feel comfortable. . If it gets scuffed, it just gives it a little bit of character.”
The house was built in 1997, so it was basically move in ready by the time Hamilton snapped it off the market in 2009. She switched a few wall colors, but otherwise got right to work showcasing her eclectic taste.
The only things bought together, she said, were the living room sofa and chairs. There are still a few things she’d like to update, like the kitchen appliances and a few wall colors, but those decisions are still to come.
“You’ll see that my style is that I have no style. It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty, I’ll just put that over there,'” she said. “It’s a real mismatch.”
Art pieces and a collection of small jewelry boxes reflect Hamilton’s travels. One large piece a tapestry like canvas of shaved tree bark colored with mud, crushed berries and flowers encompasses almost an entire wall in the entryway.
“As I find new pieces of art, it sometimes changes the layout,” she said. “I’m always moving stuff around.”
From replica Moroccan lamps to silvery purple velvet chairs and stacks of music and fashion magazines, the living room beckons guests at the end of that long hallway filled with art and an iron church like pew. The mirrored dining room table is anchored by a formal vintage carpet. A card catalog cabinet, which Hamilton snapped up when a library had tossed it out on the curb, holds bottles of wine in each drawer.
“I’ve literally been carrying things around since about 1995, stuff I’ve bought here and there,” she said. “I have a big Christmas party every December, and it’s fun to see people sitting,
moving stuff. They don’t feel like it’s too formal or whatever. Like Henry Rollins in Black Flag: ‘Hang your hat/ put your feet up.'”