It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of his own library. With a little artistic licence, this well-known first line of a well-loved classic says it all.
A library can and should be the most magical place in your home. Indeed, for those who value academic pursuits and put the cultivation of the intellect above all else, it is the most important room in the house. Financial Times journalist Alexander Gilmour, a huge fan of home libraries and proud owner himself, puts it beautifully:
‘Here, a chap may write a letter to his aunt, or polish his memoirs. He may host light literary lunches or lapse into a snooze at teatime. He may even read. Yet the library’s merits are more than merely practical. No other room carries such hope. It is a place to aspire to – to keep books you have never opened but just might if life stopped interfering. It contains your best potential. It is your better, more charming self.’
A library, then, is the heart of your home’s intellectual credentials, a means for your escape from everyday life, and the answer to your continued mental wellbeing. That’s quite a brief for your interior designer!
It follows that creating a home library takes a lot more than timber and carpentry skills. If you want to remain true to the spirit of what a library should be, a roomful of books is just the beginning. So, how do you add the magic? Here are 4 ideas to inspire you, provided by Liam Houghton – an interior design commentator working with luxury, bespoke joinery specialist Artichoke Ltd.
- Create a reading corner or window seat
Ask your library designer to devise a cosy reading nook where you can curl up with a good book and let the hours pass by. A padded window seat with soft pillows, flanked by bookcases either side, with plenty of natural light and affording glorious views over the garden, could become your favourite place to sit and read. Imagine gazing wistfully into the distance as you lift your head from the book you’ve been engrossed in for hours… what could be nicer.
If there’s no suitable window available, you could create a comfortable reading ‘snug’ in a corner of the room instead, complete with squishy armchairs or sofas and suitable target lighting.
- Build a reading ‘den’
Convert a walk-in closet, store room or small bedroom – in fact any small space that can be sectioned off easily – into an intimate library and reading area. Fit built-in bookcases or custom made shelving to maximise book storage along the walls, and add comfy chairs or a slouchy couch – perfect for losing yourself in a good book.
You may even find that a small library is preferable to a big space, as it can provide a safe and secure home base from which to delve into the world of fiction, philosophy, architecture and other cerebral pursuits.
- Design a unique and inspiring space
Traditional library design can be a beautiful thing. If you are hankering after a bespoke library with period details and carefully designed joinery to fit in with your Georgian townhouse or listed Jacobean country mansion – fantastic! Contact a traditional cabinet maker with the experience and technical know-how to make your dream library come true without delay.
On the other hand, you may prefer to combine classic library features with contemporary design, bright décor and uplifting colours. Or you may wish to experiment with funky alternative bookshelving solutions, innovative materials and modernist architecture. Don’t be held back by convention: it’s your library, and only you know what inspires you.
- Add a sliding library ladder
What’s the quintessential feature that defines a roomful of books unmistakably as a proper ‘library’? A sliding or rolling library ladder is a must. Whatever area you have available in your home to install a private library, a ladder will give it the air of a much bigger, stately space.
Of course, from a purely functional perspective, sliding ladders are handy for accessing your books, allowing you to stack bookshelves all the way up to the ceiling.