There’s just something about the phrase “I’ll be in the library” that lends a little elegance to our lives. And you don’t need a large estate in the countryside or even a spare bedroom in your house to achieve this elegance. You can pick a cozy corner and turn it into a reading nook or line an empty wall in your living room with bookcases.
No matter where you put it, your library will become your favorite home escape. It’s the perfect place to get away after a hectic day or hideaway from your hyper kids. Bonus: kids raised in a house full of books turn out smarter! And with our budget-smart home library ideas, you won’t even have to dip into their college funds to bring your library dreams to life.
These 9 home library design ideas will help you create the ultimate literary escape.
9 home library ideas to help you curl up with a good book
Each of these ideas is adaptable for large and small home libraries and can be achieved on any budget.
1. Get the look of built-ins for less
If you can’t afford a carpenter to create custom library shelving, do it yourself with wall-to-wall bookcases or bookshelves. Bookcases with flush sides — like this 10-shelf bookcase — are easy to line up side-by-side. If you can’t find the exact right sizes for your wall, place a tall houseplant at either end to make the gap look intentional.
You can also create DIY built-ins by installing wall-to-wall shelving. Just remember: Books are heavy. Make sure your shelves are securely anchored into the wall and can support the weight of your entire book collection.
2. Set the mood with a dark color palette
If you want your reading room to feel warm and cozy, lean into dark colors. Unlike the neutrals of Scandinavian design, which set a light, airy tone, dark paint colors like burgundy, forest green, and navy are a total mood. They harken back to the more lavish home decor of Victorian England and will help you create your own Sherlock Holmes-style study.
When you choose a dark color scheme, it’s important to let light into your room somehow. (How else are you going to read those books?) Try adding wall mirrors to reflect light from windows and fixtures.
If you don’t like having a lot of mirrors, place house plants in front of them. It will keep you from catching your reflection when you just want to lounge in your stretchy pants, and the plants will be grateful for the extra light.
You can bring in even more light with a crystal or glass chandelier — again, those crystals have reflective abilities that amplify the efforts of your light fixture. And floor lamps are an essential library lighting solution that will shine bright on the pages of your favorite tome.
3. Add leather for a naturalist look
Whether your dream home library is more Charles Darwin or more Sherlock Holmes, it won’t be complete without a leather armchair. For a classic look, opt for a chair with rolled arms and nailhead trim, but don’t sacrifice modern comfort. A chair like the Princeton Rolled Arm Push-Back Recliner gives you a classic look with the option to kick up your feet in a recliner.
You can complete your naturalist design by adding a faux fur throw, a butterfly shadow box, and anatomy-themed wall art.
4. Get comfy with a cozy armchair
If leather isn’t your look, you’ve got options when it comes to library seating. One of the most decadent things about a library is that you don’t have to talk — to anyone — which means multi-person seating like sofas and loveseats are completely unnecessary.
Stake out a quiet place that’s all your own with an accent chair. Arm chairs and accent chairs can help designate a small space, like a cozy reading nook, as a separate area from the rest of the room.
For a mid-century modern home, add an Eames-style chair that doesn’t require you to pay Eames-style prices. You can also lean into Hollywood Regency interior design with a channel tufted velvet chair. Or, make this piece the focal point of your room with an accent chair in a bold print.
5. Go neutral — completely neutral
We love a cozy Victorian library, but the look isn’t for everyone. Plus, more modern decorating ideas can help you make the most of your extensive collection of books.
If you don’t need to read the spine of your books, turn them around so the pages are facing out. This allows you to create a monochromatic color scheme (interior designers everywhere would approve!) right down to the books on your shelf.
Add neutral-colored bookcases, furniture, art, and area rugs for a stunning home library with spa-like appeal.
6. Let your books shine with minimalist furniture
Many devout book lovers have a collection of hardcover books with stunning cover art. You can create a beautiful home library simply by letting those pieces shine.
While we love an ornate bookcase — exhibit A — this makes your furniture the focus of your interior design. To shift the focus to your books, choose furniture with clean lines and few embellishments, like this 4-tier bookcase in white and clear. Display some of your books with the covers facing out to show off the beautiful artwork or to give a place of honor to your favorite books.
You can also turn your books into a focal point if you organize them by color. This will create a bright and happy rainbow effect on your wall.
7. Base your decor on your favorite book
Stories let our imaginations run wild — so bring that imagination into your home decor. If you have a favorite book, incorporate artwork, wall paper, area rugs, and upholstery to match the themes of the book.
This can be easier to accomplish with classic books and kids’ books. You’ll find plenty of decor themed around “Alice in Wonderland” and “Winnie and the Poo,” for example. But with a little imagination, you can turn any book into a home library theme.
For example, if your favorite book is “P.S. I Love You,” you can incorporate an accent chair with upholstery that looks like handwritten letters. Then, add art and decorations that remind you of the adventures from the book, like a bedside lamp, a karaoke microphone, and some sunflowers.
Whatever your favorite book, you can add personal touches to your home library by thinking about the best moments in the story.
8. Create a focal wall with DIY wallpaper
If lining your shelves with books isn’t enough, you can also line one of your walls with book pages. Find old books in thrift stores or used book stores, then carefully tear out the pages and plaster them on your wall.
For a more colorful look, choose books with lots of images and illustrations, and only use illustrated pages for your DIY wallpaper.
Or, for a subtle take on this home library idea, frame book pages and use them as wall art instead.
9. Make your library do double-duty with a desk
Traditionally, home libraries also served as workspaces for studying, writing letters, and managing a family business. If you don’t have enough living space for both a home library and a home office, create a combined space.
Add a desk that matches your design aesthetic, like this Bradenton 1-Drawer Writing Desk for a minimalist space or this Gorman 5-Drawer Executive Desk for a more traditional library.
To keep the space feeling like an oasis of comfort and calm, choose a comfortable desk chair that you’ll look forward to sitting in.
Shhh: This is a library
So many people dream of having their own home library, and for you, that dream is about to become a reality. Choose a comfy chair, line your walls with bookcases, and proudly display your beloved book collection.
Then, the next time you need a quiet escape, remember this line: I’ll be in the library.
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