It’s universally understood that having a private library in your home is the epitome of luxury. Not only the perfect space for storing your books and other collections, libraries offer a tranquil retreat away from the rest of your home and a chance to escape into the world of whatever tome you’ve chosen to enjoy.
Unfortunately, modern housebuilders don’t seem to feel a library is a necessity and they are seldom included in property designs. If you’re lucky enough to have room for a library, it’s likely that you’re enjoying it from the comfort of a period building, whether that’s a Victorian townhouse or a rural Georgian manor.
So, if you’re looking to refresh your library or transform a spare room into a new library, it’s important to work with the aesthetic of your home. Take cues from the existing architecture and the traditional, original stylings that your home would have featured, and use them to influence – although not necessarily dictate – the look of your home today.
Sitting down with an experienced interior designer is going to be essential. Their expertise will ensure that your new room blends seamlessly with the rest of your home, no matter what style. Before you meet with them, it’s a good idea to have a list of key features that you want your library to include – Here are our top six.
Shelving can be the difference between a nice library and a stunning one. It’s one of the most important features of the room, even if it’s simply for supporting your collection of books or other paraphernalia that you want to display.
To elevate your shelves above the ordinary, make sure they’re customised to the shape of your room and the demands of your collection. Is there an unusual ceiling shape to accommodate? Do you have a large number of coffee table books? Talk to your designer about how your shelving can be used to showcase these effectively.
Source: Azure Realty Group
Custom shelves make this space look more polished than freestanding generic bookcases.
There’s a common misconception that period interiors were drab and lacking in colour when, in fact, designing a period library is the perfect excuse to indulge in all kinds of fabulous shades. For example, Georgian interiors typically used delicate pastel tones, like pea-green, sage, mauve and Wedgwood blue. On the other hand, Victorian design favoured bolder shades, using earthy tones of dark red, emerald and amber and contrasting them against each other.
Take the time to do a little bit of research into what the original colour palette of your home may have looked like and use it as some inspiration for its next look.
A cosy reading nook
Even if you have the most luxurious sofas and armchairs, no good library is complete without a reading nook. Alcoves and bay windows lend themselves to this perfectly, although just about any secluded corner can be cosied up with a little bit of flair.
The most essential part is creating somewhere comfortable to sit. A squashy armchair is an obvious solution, but a comfortable bench or window seat will work too. Your nook should be in an area that gets plenty of natural light throughout the day, although the idea is that it’s so comfortable you’ll end up staying there into the evening, too! Make sure there’s a good reading light and have a small, sturdy end table nearby for drinks and bookmarks.
Libraries stash countless mysteries and secrets within the pages on their shelves – why not incorporate a few practical ones, too? The pinnacle of this would be disguising the entrance to a hidden room behind a hinged bookcase, but this very much depends on the space you have available! Alternatives include hiding storage behind picture frames, hollow books or other innocuous pieces of furniture.
This period design by Artichoke hides a secret drawer behind a dado rail.
Getting the right balance of lighting in a library is essential, especially if you intend to use the room frequently and for a variety of purposes. Task lighting (usually in the form of ceiling pendants or chandeliers) is typically used for this, but bright floor lamps or a practical desk lamp can work equally well.
Wall sconces are popular for ambient lighting, but employing a little creativity can create a more striking effect. Uplighters, spotlights and shelf lights are an excellent way to draw attention to different parts of the room, from your unique ornaments to elaborate coving. Even if you want to use modern lighting effects, try to incorporate some period fixtures to support the character of the space, like Georgian lanterns or Tiffany shades.
A functional workspace
Last but far from least is ensuring that you have a useable space in which to work. Unless you have so much space in your home that you can indulge in a separate room for productive pursuits, it’s likely that your library is going to double-up as an office or creative studio.
Consider this carefully when it comes to designing the layout of your room. Where you get the best light to work from? Do you want to be able to see out of the window? What about getting around the desk or table? Where will you keep the equipment you need?
Maybe your home has changed significantly over the generations or perhaps it’s barely been modernised at all. Either way, when it comes to creating a new space in an old home, working with the original style and design should be a pleasure, using it to inspire a functional, comfortable and beautiful new part of your life.