Launch Slideshow

Room Study: Libraries

Room Study: Libraries

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    Brian Vanden Brink

    Custom Home
    January-February 2011
    Last Detail
    Shope Reno Wharton, South Norwalk, Conn.


    This round, sunlit library tower at one end of a Rhode Island house provides a restful sanctuary for reading, while also balancing out the building’s massing.
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    Jim Bartsch

    CHDA 2012
    Merit Award, Custom Detail
    Abramson Teiger, Culver City, Calif.


    The wall of books in this Venice, Calif., house creates a visual balance with the view to the garden outside.
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    Jim Bartsch

    Architect Trevor Abramson had the maple shelving recessed into the wall so that it becomes a part of the room's architecture.

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    Jim Bartsch

    The shelves add an element of color and texture that's partially visible from the street.

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    Durston Saylor

    Custom Home, September-October 2007
    On Site
    Duo Dickinson, Architect, Madison, Conn.


    Varnished cherry gleams in the library of this waterfront custom home in Riverside, Conn., with interior design by Raymond Forehand Associates.
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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis

    RADA 2005
    Merit Award, Architectural Detail
    Reader & Swartz Architects, Winchester, Va.


    When renovating their own 1960’s tract house, the husband-and-wife principals at Reader & Swartz Architects exposed the existing studs, backed them with birch-veneer plywood panels, and inserted wood shelving to create an integrated book storage system.
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    Anice Hoachlander/Hoachlander Davis

    The architects designed an alternating-tread staircase of oak and maple that lets them reach the upper shelves.
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    Erik Kvalsvik

    CHDA 2012
    Merit Award, Architectural Interiors
    Muse Architects, Bethesda, Md.


    This Maryland country home’s formal circulation gallery leads to an equally elegant library.
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    Erik Kvalsvik

    The wood-lined library feels light and airy, thanks to transom windows, French doors, and a large bay.
  • Anchored at floor and ceiling, the living room shelving unit supports a gas fireplace and flat-screen TV housed in the same aluminum surround.

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    Anchored at floor and ceiling, the living room shelving unit supports a gas fireplace and flat-screen TV housed in the same aluminum surround.

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    Julia Heine

    2011 RADA
    Merit Award, Architectural Detail
    McInturff Architects, Bethesda, Md.


    McInturff Architects designed custom modular shelving that works within the existing walls of this Washington, D.C., house. In the living room, the bookshelves also support an aluminum-framed box containing a gas fireplace and a flat-screen TV.
  • The shelving layout works within the existing scheme of windows and interior partitions.

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    The shelving layout works within the existing scheme of windows and interior partitions.

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    Julia Heine

    The flexible shelving system allows the owners’ extensive book collection to neatly spill over into other spaces, including the dining area.
  • Stock materials combine to form a flexible and elegant storage system.

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    Stock materials combine to form a flexible and elegant storage system.

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    Julia Heine

    Steel, cherry, glass, and aluminum make up a basic but highly adaptable kit of parts.
  • The shelving system doubles as a guard rail at the second floor.

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    The shelving system doubles as a guard rail at the second floor.

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    Julia Heine

    The shelves even make their way upstairs to a second-floor nook.
  • The first-floor plan.

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    The first-floor plan.

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    Courtesy McInturff Architects

    The home’s first-floor plan shows the bookshelves’ multiple locations.
  • An axonometric view of the first floor.

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    An axonometric view of the first floor.

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    Courtesy McInturff Architects

    An axonometric view of the house’s first floor.
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    Paul Bardagjy

    Custom Home, November-December 2004
    Custom Touches
    Limbacher & Godfrey Architects, Austin


    Cherry bookshelves play off the pine ceiling and concrete arches of this Texas library to create a rich mix of textures.
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    Harry Bates, Bates Masi + Architects

    2006 RADA
    Grand Award, Custom, 3,500 Square Feet or Less
    Bates Masi + Architects, Sag Harbor, N.Y.


    At this 1,200-square-foot residence in East Hampton, N.Y., the second-floor circulation space doubles as a library.
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    Harry Bates, Bates Masi + Architects

    An assembly of stock steel columns, arms, and brackets supports many of the home’s key design elements, including the mahogany bookshelves.
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    Harry Bates, Bates Masi + Architects

    A simple, open floor plan keeps the upstairs library within view from almost anywhere in the house.
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    Art Grice

    Custom Home, January-February 2006
    On Site
    Bernie Baker Architect, Bainbridge Island, Wash.


    A library tower with its own balcony stands sentinel at the entrance to this shingled house on Guemes Island, Wash.
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    Hoachlander Davis Photography

    Custom Home, November-December 2004
    Custom Touches
    Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington, D.C.


    A mezzanine level adds more storage space for books in this Brazilian cherry-lined library—and it helps humanize the scale of the room’s 25-foot-high ceilings.

Modern culture makes much of the need to escape from the pressures of everyday life. Exotic vacations and sybaritic spas often are seen as antidotes to stress, and rightly so. But the brain needs to get away from its regular routine just as much as the body does, and that’s where a home library comes into play. For bookworm homeowners, a place to retreat into a good story serves as the biggest luxury of all.

Along with providing a cozy spot to read, a home library acts as a storage and display device. It also creates an opportunity to add color and texture to an interior, especially when integrated into a larger space. And it gives an architect a way to inject some of the client’s personality and character into the home. Furthermore, books are style-neutral. They work equally well at lending warmth to minimal, modern spaces and formal, traditional ones. No wonder people still treasure their physical tomes, despite the convenience of e-books. As Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

Whether signed first editions or dog-eared paperbacks, favorite books deserve a well-designed place to rest their spines. Our slideshow of lovely libraries abounds with smart, sophisticated ideas for supplying the perfect space to get lost in a good book.