Entrepreneur grows book-related businesses in Grandville

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From left to right are Melissa Oppenhuizen and Jill Ashton, employees of A House of Books and The House of Elements, and Amber Skiles, owner. Courtesy Courtney Leclaire

Amber Skiles built two businesses inspired by her love of vintage books and her desire to keep them out of landfills.

Skiles started The House of Elements — a business that curates and sells decorative books and other home décor — in 2016 in her basement, then moved it to a 5,000-square-foot warehouse and studio at 3151 Broadway Ave. SW in Grandville in August 2019 to accommodate the business’ growth.

Also in 2019, she officially launched a companion business, A House of Books, which takes the books from her warehouse that are either too special or too damaged to be sold as home décor and sells them out of the space that she converted from the former studio to a storefront this January.

Skiles employs Melissa Oppenhuizen to oversee operations and creative development and Jill Ashton to handle sales to industry partners, including interior designers and home decor retailers. She also has two contractors who work from home making the shop’s fabric-covered books.

Collectors seeking signed and/or first editions often come to A House of Books looking for vintage gems, while others might be paper crafters looking to use the damaged books in “junk journals,” card making, and collage and mixed media art.

“A House of Books was created to solve two inventory issues,” Skiles said. “We often found signed and first-edition books during the sorting process, (and) we wanted a sister shop that sold these valuable books to collectors, as well as (to) provide education to those that may be interested in starting a book collection.

“We also received a number of books that were not in good enough condition to be sold as home decor. They had torn pages, broken spines and other damage. It is our mission to utilize every book that enters our warehouse, which aligns with our goal of reducing the number of books sent to the landfill. We found that there was a large community of paper crafters that would love to use these books.”

Decor from The House of Elements. Courtesy Courtney Leclaire

In addition to the above uses for the books that come her way, Skiles recently launched a “vintage ephemera” box subscription filled with bookish and other vintage items for paper crafters, with either monthly or quarterly options. The first boxes went out in March.

“(Subscriptions) continue to double every month,” Skiles said. “It now takes the entire last week of the month to build them all.”

Those interested in signing up for a subscription can go online.

A House of Books is open to shoppers from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and offers decorative books, vintage ephemera and book-related gifts, as well as access to the warehouse containing “thousands and thousands” of books, Skiles said.

The store also hosts a paper crafting open house from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. the second Thursday of every month that offers complimentary supplies and open stations for crafters to try new things without spending money on supplies.

More information on both businesses is available by contacting amber@thehouseofelements.com or calling (616) 534-3492.

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