Home libraries come in all shapes and sizes. While some bookworms have the luxury of storing and displaying their best reads in a large study with a library ladder, those who dwell in smaller homes might opt for a reading space in a quiet corner or a reading nook. No matter where you keep your favorite tomes––whether the space for your volumes is large or small––you can design a stylish and inviting home library with floating bookshelves, comfortable seating, the right lighting, and a few styling tips.
“You don't need a grand room to accommodate a home library,” says Chris Daddio, New York cabinetmaker and owner of Wood & Co. “Floating shelves can fit any space and do a great job at showcasing books, which is the purpose of the library!” says Daddio. “A great chair, reading light, floating shelf, and small end table to rest a cup of tea is all the space you need.”
Explore Your Home’s Architectural Details
Your home’s architectural details can make the perfect hideaway to relax and curl up with a good book. From a downstairs alcove to an attic loft, homes are full of nooks and crannies (and walls) that make wonderful reading spaces to escape to and get lost in a gripping story.
So pick a novel off the shelf, pour yourself a beverage, and take a seat in one of these eight designated home libraries that make the ideal backdrop for unexpected plot twists, compelling characters, and some well-deserved peace and relaxation.
Try these interior decor style ideas or switch them up depending on the architectural features of your home.
1. Mid-Century Modern Alcove
Alcoves make great spaces for home libraries. Recessed walls, away from the rest of the main room can provide a private sanctuary area for reading and relaxing you can call your own. To decorate your alcove in a mid-century modern style, use walnut hardwood for your floating bookshelves, a hardwood that defines the style. Don't forget an iconic Eames lounge to stretch your legs and get lost in a novel.
To curate the space, stack your books both vertically and horizontally with a decorative object like a cool asymmetrical metal sculpture atop a pile of horizontal books to add interest, recommends New York interior designer and product designer Mina Lisanin. Add a colorful piece of art like a Lichtenstein print in the pop art style, and bring the outdoors into your interior space with plants or nature photos.
2. Vintage Closet
An unused closet makes a perfect one-seat home library to cozy up with a book that radiates warmth and purpose into the rest of the home, says Daddio. “Floating shelves can be made in various lengths to maximize every inch of wall space to accommodate a vast collection of books.”
Vintage decor covers a lot of territory, roughly 40 to 99 years. So look for furniture, decor, and lighting fixtures designed from 1923 to 1982. To style a vintage closet, let’s take a closer look at different decor throughout the decades.
1920s–1930s: The twenties and the thirties take us back to Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby, speakeasies, flapper fashion, and the era of prohibition. For this period, choose bold, vibrant colors, geometric patterns, luxury jewel decor made from emeralds and rubies, and a mixture of metal objects for your shelving. Add a brass or bronze lamp base with a glass dome to illuminate your favorite books.
1940s: The forties featured pastel color palettes, knotty pine surfaces, and furniture with scalloped edges and curves. For the ultimate forties bookshelves, choose Aksel radius floating shelves that feature curved edges. Style your shelves with a vintage radio or go for the look of Hollywood Glamor, a popular decor style for that era.
1950s–1960s: The fifties and sixties featured decor with sleek and clean lines. Legs on tables and chairs were tapered and reflected the mid-century modern style. Pair a chair with a tufted armchair in fabric, vinyl, or leather. For shelving that reflects the era, choose walnut and teak wood floating shelves and integrate nature into the space with plants or artwork with nature as the subject.
1970s: The seventies—nicknamed the “me generation”—was all about flowers, shag carpets, and natural wood. Fabrics featured floral and paisley prints on seating, windows, and wallpaper. Other hallmarks of the period included rattan furniture, macrame plant hangers, and velvet drapery.
1980s: Full drapes to the floor, swag valances, glass-top end tables with ruffled skirts defined the eighties. You’d also find glass dining tables, lacquered furniture, and plants with long vines and ivy hanging from woven baskets. For your floating shelves, choose a white or black lacquer that showcases your thoughtfully curated CD collections that might include musical artists such as Billy Idol, Blondie, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, and many others.
3. Old World Attic
Whether your inspiration is an Italian villa in the Tuscany hills, a Parisian bakery cafe street scene, or an English garden, you’ll have ample room in your attic hideaway whilst you read European classics like Madame Bovary, Great Expectations, and Room with a View.
“[Like closets], attics and lofts also offer a cozy space that allows floating shelves to transform the once-neglected area into a hidden home library,” says Daddio. “With more wall and floor space, attics can accommodate many novels and more than one seat [compared to a small closet.]
For a cool design, use the roofline to vary the length of your shelving, starting with shorter shelves on top and gradually elongating your shelves as you near the bottom. Mount bookshelves on additional walls to build a dream collection of books. For an Old World flair, display marble or bronze statues on your floating shelves. Put up some decorative molding and add weathered Italian leather or crushed velvet seating, or a French Provincial armchair and ottoman.
4. Farmhouse Breakfast Nook
A great architectural detail in the kitchen for a home library is your breakfast nook. Imagine flipping through the pages of cookbooks to find the perfect recipes. “[You can] create a farmhouse breakfast [reading nook] with shiplap wall paneling, a built-in window seat banquette, and distressed or unfinished maple floating shelves,” says Lisanin.
“To give your shelving a curated look, wrap your favorite books in linen for a clean, white-washed look that blends in with the wall paneling,” says Lisanin. “Layer in thin, black picture frames filled with old family [photos] printed in black and white, and pair the space with some Windsor dining chairs for the perfect country getaway.”
5. Modern Skylight
You can create a Scandinavian-inspired modern skylight reading area with white oak floating shelves, a wood that defines the style [and also provides] a warm and inviting airy loft look and feel, says Lisanin.
“To curate the space, stack your books vertically and horizontally [for] an effortless asymmetrical look,” says Lisanin. “Add in some character [with] your favorite vintage camera or decorative objects from your travels in groups of 3; this will give [your display] a balanced and visually pleasing look [. . .]Pair [your bookshelves] with your favorite platform daybed or pouf underneath the skylight, and you are ready to fulfill your Pinterest board skylight-meets-library dream.”
6. Under the Staircase in Contemporary Style
The area under your staircase is an often-forgotten interior space. Slide in a daybed and some floating bookshelves, and a reading lamp that complements your decor, and you’ve created an intimate home library with abundant legroom. To extend your book collection, install floating shelves on the exterior walls––or on the main wall that goes up the staircase.
7. Coastal Lanai
If you love a coastal vibe, a lanai (AKA a sunroom) makes a perfect home for all your beach reads. Listen to the sound of the ocean with a conch shell from your floating shelf and relish the sea-inspired ambiance.
“Grand Millennial is all the rage right now, especially when it comes to a coastal lanai,” says Lisanin. Pair your favorite wicker set and a sisal rug with some grasscloth shades in a cozy corner with white shelving, says Lisanin.
“Add your favorite Vera Bradley or shabby chic-patterned seat [cushions] and throw pillows for the perfect coastal lanai [setting] your grandmother would also approve of, says Lisanin. “Don’t forget a vase filled with fresh hydrangeas.
8. Mediterranean Arches
Originating in Italy, arches frame windows, accentuate fireplaces, and serve as architectural elements between entryways and rooms. But you can also buy arched molding at a home improvement store to add interest to your space. Whether your home was designed with arches or you nail them to the wall, they make a great architectural detail for a Mediterranean-style home library.
The Mediterranean style is on par with the modern rustic design aesthetic, integrating organic and contemporary materials. In a Mediterranean-style home, you’ll see wooden beams, natural and faux stone, terra cotta tiles, wood floors, and a mixture of color palettes––including cobalt blue and turquoise––depending on the region: Greece, Morocco, Italy, or Spain.
For your floating bookshelves, choose a hardwood with a lot of grain and texture to display your best reads and souvenirs collected on your last Mediterranean vacation––or the trip you’re dreaming of taking next summer. For a reading chair, opt for distressed wood seating dressed in a contemporary fabric and a luxurious floor lamp with an antique bronze or brass finish.
Whether you live in a tiny home or a mansion, your home features plentiful spaces that you can transform into the ultimate home library––a place to unwind that complements your style and offers boundless inspiration.