The best home library ideas allow bibliophiles to enjoy their collections to the max. After all, a home library can be a wonderful feature of a house or apartment with an attractive and impactful display of volumes, plus seating that allows you to read in comfort.
When designing a home library your bookshelf ideas should also make books easy to locate and access, plus keep them in good condition. But in addition to providing storage it should be a peaceful room you’ll love to spend time in.
Here, we’ve gathered home library ideas to inspire you, together with advice from interior designers so you can execute your own home library plans with ease.
Home library ideas
A home library can be a large room or a small one, and it might even be accommodated within another space. Essentials are, of course, adequate shelving for a collection, the right seating, and good task lighting for your book storage ideas.
1. Fit bespoke joinery
Book collections are unique to each bibliophile, and therefore custom shelving is one of the home library ideas worth considering.
‘A home library provides the perfect opportunity to step away from the business of life and relax,’ says Louise Wicksteed, design director of London and Gloucestershire-based interior designers Sims Hilditch (opens in new tab).
‘Whether your library is part of an office space or is designed purely for relaxation, we suggest installing bespoke joinery. This provides great book storage which helps to keep the space neat and organised.
‘When it comes to color, we suggest using similar shades to those in the rest of the house, helping to ensure continuity and flow. If the room is naturally dark, consider embracing this by painting the walls and joinery in a darker color.’
2. Center a home library around a fireplace
If your climate brings winter cold, what could be cozier than a home library with a living room fireplace at its heart? The alcoves alongside are also perfect for fitting extra living room bookshelf ideas while leaving sufficient floor space to draw up an armchair and take a place in front of the fire with a book.
A deep pile rug underfoot as used in this home library is a tactile and warm surface for the feet to enhance comfort.
3. Consider the finish of library shelving
When designing a home library, exploit the potential of interesting colors and finishes for shelving as part of home library ideas.
‘We finished the paneling and the bookshelves in this music room with an antique glaze over a lovely teal colored paint,’ explains Sandra Lucas of Lucas Eilers Design Associates (opens in new tab). ‘This finish was repeated on the diagonal coffers on the ceiling which visually expanded the space, while adding depth and interest.’
4. Accommodate a home library in another room
It may not be possible to dedicate a room to a home library, but it can still be feasible to accommodate one.
This version is part of the Wiltshire, UK home of interior designer Emma Sims-Hilditch (opens in new tab). 'We installed a bespoke library overhanging the open-plan sitting room and kitchen, filling what would otherwise have been a blank wall with an eye-catching feature which conceals the main bedroom on the first floor,’ she explains.
The library ladder ensures access, while the living room seating is below ready for a reader to enjoy.
5. Opt for a club ambiance
Contemplate home library ideas just as you would reading nook ideas, by opting for club-style decor with dark wood finishes and leather armchairs like those in this room by Meg Lonergan Interiors (opens in new tab) for timeless chic.
Choices like these can make the library feel like a long-established part of a home, and both wood and leather can develop an attractive patina, looking even better in time than they do when first used. Darker shades of the materials will make the room feel cocooning, too.
6. Create small-space comfort
A home library doesn’t have to be a large room and a small area can even prove a virtue, promoting the feel of an intimate retreat.
In this room, living room shelving painted in a mid-blue tone maximizes natural light from the window for a reader in the armchair in the center of the room. Meanwhile, a Roman shade and a pillow in fabrics patterned with a raspberry shade inject warmth.
7. Go all round
For the biggest collections, home library and reading nook ideas need to optimize the space available for volumes to keep them easily locatable, accessible, and to preserve them in the best condition.
‘The idea behind the floor-to-ceiling library was to simply create as much storage space for books as possible,’ says Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors (opens in new tab) of this room. ‘I tried to utilize every inch of the room, including above the door.
‘I then painted the back of the shelves in Farrow & Ball’s Green Smoke to give it more depth. The chairs are antique and cushions are from Susan Deliss.’
8. Plan effective library lighting
Plan library lighting that allows books to be found on the shelves easily as well as in order to avoid eye strain when reading. Wall lights might be incorporated into bespoke joinery to make the type on book spines legible, or lights can be fitted immediately above each section of shelving.
Provide task lighting in the form of table or floor lamps alongside seating to make reading comfortable.
9. Color code books
While book lovers may argue about how books should be organized, in terms of interior design, there’s no dispute about the impact of doing so by color when it comes to bookcase styling – and the appearance of the library.
‘To elevate the look of the space, we color coded the books on the shelves,’ says Jessica Davis, principal designer of ASID Allied JL Design (opens in new tab) of this interior.
Darker hues are used for the lower shelves, while the colors become lighter higher up with white spines dominating at the top.
10. Provide space to study
While a home library might be a place to spend time simply relaxing with a novel, it could also be a space for study for the adults or teens in a household.
If that’s the case, follow the example of this room with a desk built into shelving to allow the spread of reference books. This high shelving is fitted with a library ladder that runs along a rail to make accessing the highest books safer.
What does every home library need?
Number one on the list of what every home library needs – naturally – is living room storage for books. Choose between individual bookcases with the proportions that fit your space, or opt for custom shelving built into the room. The latter could allow the best use of the space available as it can be constructed to fit alcoves or work with the room’s architectural features. Unless you are willing to pass on books, allow space for a collection to build when planning the amount of shelving required.
For access, floor-to-ceiling shelving may require a book ladder if the room has a high ceiling to avoid accidents.
Also essential for a home library is at least one comfortable armchair or sofa, plus a good reading light so that print is clear.
And although not essential, to protect books – as well as furnishings – from the action of UV light, a solar shade can be a sound choice for the window treatment.
Where should a home library be placed?
A separate room is an ideal for a home library, but where this option is not available, there are plenty of other locations in the home that can be ideal for home libraries of different proportions.
Alcoves beside the fireplace in a living room can be a great location for a home library, creating generous storage with shelving that reaches as high as the room allows. Aligned with the chimney, it won’t impinge on valuable floor space.
A hallway or landing can also prove a suitable location for a home library as, for many books, shelving does not need to be deep. If you do opt for one of these locations, however, make sure free circulation isn’t impeded.
Library shelving can make a neat divider in an open-plan layout. Here, shelves deep enough to position two rows of books so there are spines visible from each side will make the best impression. And don’t forget that shelving can be constructed to fit around doorways in through rooms so you can accommodate a home library.
And, if you love to read before bed, it's worth considering bedroom bookshelf ideas – the perfect home library for night-time bookworms.
Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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