Carve out some space for your prized book collection.

By Nashia Baker
October 14, 2020
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Reading a favorite book transports you to another place, but as you continue to build your collection of reads, creating a concrete place for them in your own home is essential. This is more important now than ever before. Since we're all spending more time indoors, creating an at-home library offers the comfort you need and the organization you crave for your novels, magazines, and more. "Creating an at-home library is a great way to incorporate function and add useful space into your home," agrees Abbe Fenimore, founder and principal designer at Studio Ten 25.

Additionally, a custom library can elevate the overall aesthetic of your home—no matter its size. According to Molly Machmer-Wessels, the co-founder of and designer at Woodland Design Company, a room dedicated to your books can provide a sense of intimacy and "can be [a] quiet study for working, reading, or enjoying leisure time with board games." You also don't need a specific room for this—a forgotten nook works great. "You can pick up unused square footage such as a corner, window seat, or space under a staircase to create a functional retreat," she adds. "In doing so, this designated area can help to make the home feel grander." Here, our experts share their best tips for creating an at-home library fit for any space.

Choose a Location

When deciding where to add your library, Machmer-Wessels recommends first understanding how you want the room to function: It will either be a quiet sanctuary or a place to mingle with family. From there, you can create a designated library room or an area within a room to transform it into your personal book oasis. Fenimore's recommendations for the latter? Look to a formal dining or living room, which are often underutilized. "These formal spaces are typically located toward the front of the home and can easily become ignored," she says. "They are seldom used and filled with random pieces, making them the perfect spot to create an in-home library."

Prioritize Good Lighting

Regardless of the layout you choose, you should add several forms of lighting to the area, notes Machmer-Wessels. "Lamps and sconces should be utilized for ambient lighting and for specific task spaces—like next to a favorite club chair or over a desk," she says. "Primary lighting sources, such as small-format recessed lighting, can be used to allow the library to serve other functions, like entertaining."

Decide on a Bookshelf

If your space allows, consider building a bookshelf onto your library's walls—a must-do in Fenimore's book. "Creating storage with built-in bookshelves is a must in my opinion—especially if the room doubles as an office space," she says. "Opt for open, adjustable shelving with lower closed cabinets to create balance in your space." When building from scratch, Machmer-Wessels notes that these pieces should still match your profiles, trim selections, and scale of your overall home and tie into the surrounding rooms. 

You can also purchase a bookshelf to line the walls in your home—the Pottery Barn "Aubrey" Wall Bookcase ($4,195, potterybarn.com) is one of Machmer-Wessels' favorites, since it comes with crown molding trim which better integrates it into your room. Working in a smaller space or nook? Try out a smaller design, like Anthropologie's Handcarved "Paje" Bookcase ($1,298, anthropologie.com) or the Willa Arlo Interiors Gerde Standard Bookcase ($250, wayfair.com), which can double as storage and a chic accent, Fenimore adds.

Design Your Space

Once you have decided on the bookshelf you want, all that's left to do is design the area to fit your aesthetic. An easy way to do so is to work within the room's existing color palette and paint the bookshelf accordingly, Fenimore says. Next, look to what you would like to store and display. "I personally love having some negative space when laying out shelves," Machmer-Wessels says. "The tendency, particularly when you've needed shelf space and all of a sudden have it, is to cram as much as possible onto the shelves. This can wind up feeling imposing and cluttered." She also suggests wallpapering the back of some or all of the shelves to provide a punch of color or texture and stacking books with monochromatic bindings. When it comes to choosing objects, include pieces that speak to the seasons. And if you'd like to change up your library's aesthetic often, she suggests sticking with a simple design, which can help you accommodate any bookshelf changes you would want to make in the future.  

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