Thursday, March 31, 2011

For the Love of Books:
Displaying Your Book Collections

Choosing a deep red color for the ceiling gives warmth to this cozy home library. Image:

My fascination with books began in college while majoring in English and Poetry at the University of Virginia.  I love not only the intellectual stimulation they provide, but also the way they feel in your hand, their weight, the smell of the paper, and the numerous uses of typography. I have always liked the quietness of libraries and bookstores, and over the years I worked in many. Writing became a love of mine and I enjoyed having stacks of beautiful books around me and also collecting books that had a beautiful design component. Today, design books and books about Paris seem to dominate my shelves and I can't stop in a bookstore without going to the Home Design or Travel area and doing some research for anything new.

Colorful, tattered books. Pinterest by Bookmarklet
I bring this up because it came to my attention that a major book fair, The 51st Annual Antiquarian Book Fair, is about to return to the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, April 7-10, 2011.  This fair has over 100 international exhibitors who showcase rare and antique books, maps and prints, and the event is considered a little bit of heaven to book collectors around the world.

Even with the Kindle, the iPad and numerous other e-book applications out there, one thing is still clear: people love to collect books.

Displaying old books on a table just for the joy.
Where do all of these books go once they are acquired? How are they then collected and displayed?

There was a time when most homes built in America included a cozy, small side room, den or game room (definitely not a "home-office" or "entertainment room" which are considered de rigueur today). There was at least one wall in that side room that would be devoted to books. This room was also a place where Dad read the paper, Susie worked on a book report, and Jimmy did his Crossword Puzzles--okay, this is rather a 50's view, but true none the less.

Today, in place of this little room, many homes now have custom home libraries that are truly out of this world. I came across some amazing images recently of book-art installations and home libraries that really have a magical, dreamlike quality to them.

Books can be utilitarian by stacking them high and using them as a table, or they can be majestic, organized from floor to ceiling like Karl Lagerfeld's gigantic library collection seen below. Books can also be used as art, as seen in Wary Myers unique way of using books in his art installations.

Books take on a life of their own when they are organized in a voluminous way, and they not only give character to a room but they are ultimately THE character: engaging, inviting, cordial, and colorful.

Enjoy the images here and use them for inspiration in your own home. There are so many ways to design the home library of your dreams, and these can be just the start!

Love everything about this space, the white floors, bookcases, and wood beam ceiling, and using what appears to be kitchen shelves for both books and other collections. Pinterest, Katie Wilson For My Future Home
I think a lot of design inspiration for home libraries has come from the austere Trinity Library in Dublin, Ireland.  I have been in this amazing "Long Room" and can attest to the beauty of the mile-high bookshelves and numerous ladders. from Just Plain Pretty by Kathy Zynda,
An open, sunny room with upper reading loft. Ladders are important! From Pinterest, For the Home By Mel.

Mysterious book corridor with iron spiral staircase leading upwards. From

No need to be a neat-nik with your book collections! from
A place for conversation, to read, to enjoy the fire. Home of Bev and John Sullivan, Publisher of Atlantic Monthly and Mayor of my town. photo by Joanie Ballard

The old with the new: Beautiful ceiling plasterwork juxtaposed with modern bookcase and ladder.
Wish I knew where this was! Stunning use of vertical space. From

Art work at it's most sublime. Love this wall installation by Wary Myers. A little magical. Warymyers.blogspot.
You can do more than just stack books, you can also create artwork with discarded books! Basement Stacks Book Installation, Art piece by Wary Myers, Old Baxter Library in Portland, from Wary Myers.blogspot.

A ladder is all you need. Love the skyward approach. Innovative Design Inspiration on

Karl Lagerfeld, "happy victim of books" in his gigantic

Love the height and the green curtain that closes when you want to hide the wall. Lovelylittle

Secret Library Door from So cute and playful. Love the turquoise too.


  1. While I do read books online...there is nothing like taking a physical book, going to a corner, curling up and reading it. :) I wonder if i pads or kindles will give me the same experience. I don't know if it will be the same.

  2. So true, Anita. iPads and Kindles are truly amazing but holding a paperback book in your hands just gives a warmer feeling to the soul. Thanks for your comments. :)