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There is something otherworldly about libraries. The array of colorful spines, the shuffle of paper, entire universes captured in print. First editions and best-sellers, autobiographical prose and fantastical verse—all these and more are found along a well-curated shelf. A library is a space to retreat, replenish, and dive in.
And then there is the study, a room that implies academic thought and intentional—if reclined—mental labor. Whether stacked with tomes or anchored by an impressive desk, studies carry with them an air of intentional curiosity, and a dedication to the reading life.
While a home has many purposes, studies and libraries make the claim that curling up with a good book should not be left to the bottom of the list. Read on for how to add fresh detailing to your existing reading rooms, or glean inspiration for outfitting a library for the first time.
Acquiring books is easy; having the perfect place to put them can be more of a challenge. Arguably the key feature of any good study or library, how you organize your books can add to your enjoyment of them. Opt for floor-to-ceiling built-ins to create a visual wall of books, or spread standalone bookcases around a room to allow for breaks in the scenery. Backless shelving in a contrasting shade lets your walls shine through, while painting cases the same hue as the room can help them blend seamlessly into the existing décor. Angled, floating, and square box shelves have all made design waves in recent years, meaning that whatever your stylistic tastes, you can mount your books to match. In rooms that need to serve multiple purposes, low shelving around the perimeter can store your treasures while allowing for art display and bench seating; elevated storage and rolling ladders can make the most of high ceilings.
While the masculine leathers and mahogany furnishings of yesteryear are still relevant today, a study can be as light and playful as the person designing it. The building blocks of an excellent library or study remain the same: comfortable seating, functional workspaces, and plenty of surfaces for setting down drinks or picking up a game of cards. Whether you opt for a traditional desk or a repurposed workbench, aim for what feels personal to you: resurrect an antique find or commission a custom piece to make space for your best creative sparks. Angled seating makes a space feel welcoming; add depth and texture with woolen blankets. Director’s chairs, Eames Lounge chairs, area rugs, bar carts, and window benches all have their place here.
When it comes to designating the different areas in your library, lighting can do much of the heavy lifting. Desks and reading corners should have their own task lights, and accent lighting can be employed to highlight art, collections, and shelving. Ambient lighting on dimmers lets you adjust the level of warmth in the room upon entering. Wall sconces can be used to bookend notable bookcases or prints, and swing-arm lamps can be moved in closer for illuminating important texts. Select metallic finishes to give your light fixtures a bit of additional gleam, and settle in for a perfectly visible visual feast.
As many good home libraries will attest, shelves have room for both the best books and the most treasured collections. Much has been made of how to display books—by color? by subject matter? back-to-front?—but the consensus seems to be that consensus isn’t required, and additional items are de rigueur. Fill out shelves with decorative pieces—photographs, sculptures, baskets, bookends—and don’t overlook the importance of the artfully-empty space. And if your shelves are feeling same old same old, companies like Juniper Books can create custom covers to take your bookcases from mosaic to mural.
There are fewer places in a home more delightful than the perfect spot to sit and read. And with a splash of organizational creativity and the perfect lighting for studying by, your library can be just that.
Find down your dream library in one of these homes, and shelve your classics in their proper place.