Art & Design, Interiors

5 Tips for Home Libraries

November 10, 2013 • By

The weather is turning colder and football season is here.  My husband, international-man-about-couch that he is, likes to spend  hours watching soccer on the weekend.  I prefer to curl up with a good book.

I grew up in a house full of books.  In fact, for my parents, siblings and me, books are practically part of the family and our combined collections must run into the thousands.  Even in my smallest single-girl apartments, I had a “library” – although sometimes that meant some unique combination of book and living space.

Desk Space in my Home Library

Desk Space in my Home Library

I have strong feelings about libraries, and a cozy, indoor afternoon like today, while the wind blows outside and leaves pile up in the yard, seems the perfect day to share.  Here are my top five, highly personal thoughts on home libraries.  Let me know if you agree, or disagree!

1.  Books are Not Decor:  This is big for me.  I cringe when I see old books with their covers torn off, tied into little “antique” bundles for angling on your shelves.  Not everyone agrees with me – but for me, books designed to match the drapes or to create a cloying nostalgia, have lost their dignity.  I’m embarrassed for them.  I feel their pain. I understand why they can’t quite look me in the eye when they’ve been treated in such a way.

2.  Books Don’t Have to be Precious:  I once visited the library of the Antinori family at their home in Florence.  The room was significantly larger than any of my first apartments and featured rows of library stacks, as well as an amazing Italian Renaissance painting of Leda and the Swan above a door.  There were large, leather-wrapped tomes lying on their sides on one shelf, (26 generations of family history) and too many books to count.  In this ancient palazzo, built in 1506, it seemed perfectly natural to see precious pieces of art, history and literature.  A library should reflect its owners, but yours doesn’t have to be filled with leather bound first-editions.  I loved seeing a photo in Aerin Lauder’s new book, of her NYC library.  Her shelves are filled with hardcovers and worn paperbacks, just like mine.  The titles were all intriguing. Some were familiar, some were not. Those are the kinds of libraries I want to spend the day in…

A Cozy Reading Spot is Crucial

A Cozy Reading Spot is Crucial

3.  A Library Must Have a Spot to Curl Up In:  I have a velvet loveseat with an extra-deep seat and loads of cushions that I can pile all around and prop up on.  There’s a reading light angled just so, and a table for a glass of wine or cup of tea.  Perfect.  I may never leave.

4.  A Library is a Great Place for Collections:  Book shelves are great spots for displaying your personal collections.  I collect hands (mannequin hands, glove molds, little sculptures) and I love that they are all grouped together on a few shelves.  I also love the giant insects under glass in my dark-paneled library.  But you could display anything.  If your library is also your dining room, maybe you’ll display plates on the walls.  If your library is under the stairs or on a landing, maybe your collection of keys, or tea tins or family photos will fit right in.

My Home Library

My Home Library

5.  Libraries Don’t Have to Be Traditional:  Mine is.  I’m thrilled with the wood paneled walls in my library, but not everyone would be.  I’ve seen libraries with glossy white walls and architectural shelves. I’ve seen staircases used as libraries.  I once saw a photo of a bedroom completely overtaken by books, shelves from floor to ceiling on every wall, books stacked up as nightstands, etc.  The bed was sort of an afterthought, with no headboard or decoration, but it looked rumpled and comfortable.  It was the perfect fit for someone.  Make your library personal.

What are your thoughts about libraries?  I’d love to know.