Tips AU

40 Cosy home library ideas

By Gianna Huesch

Published: January 22nd, 2021

Find the perfect place to exhibit your beloved book collection and set up a stylish mini home library

Most of us have some form of book collection in our homes, even if it’s simply an inspirational array of cookbooks or piles of well-loved paperbacks. Some people might qualify as true bibliophiles and possess enough books to fill a whole room–and they might also be lucky enough to have the space to devote an entire room to a home library.

But most of us don’t have the luxury of a dedicated library room, and that’s why I’ve gathered up a bunch of ideas for places to store your collection of treasured tomes. As Dr Seuss said, “Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks”—and no matter whether you have a big or small home library, I’m sure you’ll find the ideal nooks and crannies to house your collection in the 40+ home library ideas below!

1. Choose cube shelving

The simplest solution when it comes to home library design is to run bookshelves along the entire length of a wall and up to the ceiling, wherever it is that you have unused wall space. Any kind of bookcases or shelving will work, but cube shelving is always a neat and symmetrical way to display your books and ornaments. Whatever kind of shelving you choose, make life easier and find someone to handle the bookcase assembly for you.

2. Make it minimalist

Fixed, built-in bookshelves are another option for a home library and are a great way to utilise an unused corner wall space. Here, a small home library beside a window forms a chic little home office, styled up with a marble-topped desk countertop, mid-century wishbone chair, and a vintage rug over stunning parquetry floors. Need more home office ideas? You could also consult with an expert office decorator.

3. Line a hallway

Make your hallway more functional than simply acting as a corridor, by lining one (or both) walls with books. Whether you go for wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelving or perhaps just add a few floating shelves, you’ll maximise your space while creating a much more interesting passageway. And if you have a wide hallway, consider adding a bench or other home library furniture to create even more functionality and ambience.

4. Go for Scandi style

A bright white space comes to life with the pops of colour and contrast that books provide, as you can see in this authentically Nordic living room belonging to a Finnish couple. If you have a monochromatic or achromatic living space, adding shelving containing a rainbow of books is an easy and, if necessary, temporary way to introduce colour. I’m loving the mid-century chairs in this modern home library, and how good is that statement chandelier?

5. Make use of ceilings

Love a clean, modern, minimalist home? Then reduce visual clutter by storing your books in high perimeter shelving, such as above a doorway and all around the ceiling edges, where the storage will take up no floor space at all. Simple wooden perimeter shelving like this is a fairly easy DIY or you can find someone to handle it for you.

6. Set up sculptural displays

You actually can judge a book by its cover, because a stunning book cover is often just as much admired as the book’s content. So if you’ve culled your book collection back to only your absolute favourite, prized, coffee-table style publications, consider displaying them in a way that really shows them off as the treasured design objects they are. This 3D display shelving is both practical and visually appealing but obviously is only suited to a smaller book collection.

7. Create a room divider

Bookshelves that are perpendicular to a wall are a clever way to separate a multi-purpose area by acting as a partition. They appear as much more of a solid wall than a screen or other type of partition does, and of course, they are far more functional as well as offering up more versatile styling options.

8. Display shelving

This Japanese home is actually quite small but feels airy and spacious thanks to its smart design, which includes this gorgeous timber display shelving surrounded by windows. I love that when you use books as décor like this, you can endlessly change up how it looks on a whim– so much easier than switching out prints or artworks!

9. Make bookends

If you’re setting up a home office, you’re very likely going to need plenty of space for books. Installing twin bookcases to bookend both sides of a window looks pleasantly symmetrical and allows you to focus your gaze on the view outside. You can get someone to help you assemble your office furniture, including your desk or chair (and there’s even folk who specialise in office chair repairs).

10. Display favourites

As we all know, sometimes less really is more. Here’s the perfect example: a set of spice-rack style floating shelves to store your most beautiful books. You can actually find modular systems like this on the market which offer really versatile book organisation options, including things like magnetic wall panels and other forms of suspended shelving. Or, you could enlist a carpenter to build you something bespoke! I also love the unique coffee table here.

11. Frame a view

This shelving arrangement is similar to the beautiful timber design in the Japanese home I mentioned above, but in reverse, with the shelving framing the window rather than the windows framing the custom shelving. There’s plenty of natural light along with this corridor space thanks to the expansive window, and the wide windowsill ledge is handy, though I think a design where you can actually sit in the window sill to read (especially with a view like that!) is more practical—what do you think?

12. Float it

Floating shelves are a good way to incorporate books into a small section of wall in a way that looks really streamlined and airy thanks to the open-ended nature of the shelving. Perfect for a modern home library aesthetic, it’s a lovely minimalist look, especially if painted the same colour as your walls. How gorgeous is this dramatic cluster of pendant lights too?

13. Sit comfortably

Here’s another home featuring a stunning architectural design which makes the most of a beautiful aspect, but this time the practical storage cabinets are topped with cushioned banquette seating, which I think adds so much value and really makes the most of the view.

14. Use books to style

One way to experiment with home library ideas is to use the books themselves as a styling tool–a method that some find aesthetically pleasing is to turn all the books around so that the spines face the wall, which makes the books all have the same neutral, white or beige tone.

It definitely gives a striking and cohesive appearance, but book purists are often outraged at the idea because the emphasis is taken away from the individuality and the purpose of books (how, they ask, do you find a specific book? Or is it lucky dip?)

15. Keep it simple

A simple wall-mounted rail system will ensure that your shelves can handle the weight of books. You can place such a system on any wall in your home for a practical storage solution. Here, basic pine shelving holds an assortment of volumes and decorative items, with the metallic elements of the shelving complementing the chrome and leather armchair.

16. Reach the ceiling

Running bookcases from the floor to the ceiling is a classic look that takes advantage of all the available wall space, even above the doorway. Although this homeowner hasn’t been too fussy with the colour coordination, I do like how they have added a row of black books in the above-door space, as a small accent that complements the black table and chairs, and contrasts with the overall white aesthetic.

17. Use under window space

If your room is flooded with light thanks to huge windows and bright white paintwork, you won’t necessarily want to cover all the walls with bookshelves. But you can always line the space underneath the windows with cabinets full of books. I like how the neatly stacked magazines at the base level here create further blocks of white, which repeat the symmetry and parallel lines of the whitewashed floorboards.

18. Surround a bed

A book-loving teen would love a cosy bedroom space like this. And so much storage here, both on the inside and out. Lighting is extra important for a space like this so it doesn’t become dark and gloomy in there. But no need to use a torch under the doona—have an expert electrician put in suitable lighting.

19. Have a book island

This warehouse-style loft keeps walls free and instead houses a book collection in a standalone island in the living space. I like the idea of low shelving units like this, as they keep an area feeling really spacious and light (it does help to have plenty of undressed windows and a skylight!). And they provide an extra surface area which is always useful and increases your styling options.

20. Edge a room

This home also features low shelving units, once again keeping this light, airy space feeling very open and bright. This time, however, the shelving outlines the perimeters of the room, with one unit acting as a bit of a partition between living spaces. As mentioned, low shelving units are great for increasing surface area—here, the space is utilised to hold a series of framed artworks and photos.

21. Make a book nook

Book nooks are a cute way to add comfy seating to your living space and allow people to grab a book and nestle in. But if you’re building a reading nook, the shelving will obviously need to be deep enough for someone to fit. I’m really loving the amount of storage space in this shelving unit.

Being able to spread out your books and ornaments like this, and even keep some portions empty (or ready to be filled with new books) means you avoid any feeling of mess and clutter.

22. Go low

A low bookshelf not only helps a room feel spacious by keeping most of the wall uncluttered, but it also provides an additional handy surface area on top. Here, a waxed-wood bookcase has been built into a wall. I love the calm, neutral tones here in the home library furniture that has been chosen to complement the bookcase.

23. Go for bold colours

There’s no reason you can’t splash out with bright colours for your home library. This small home office’s library has been painted a beautiful peacock blue, but the crisp white ceiling, below the desk and the white chair keep things fresh and prevent the space feeling small. You can get some help with your home office paint job, especially those fiddly shelf interiors.

24. Have a dining room library

For avid booklovers, a dining room home library is a popular choice so you can be surrounded by your beloved books whenever you sit to eat. Also, dining rooms often don’t have a lot of furniture other than a dining table and chairs and perhaps a buffet or sideboard, so adding bookcases to walls doesn’t feel like it adds too much to the space.

25. Make it mid-century

This gorgeous New York home belongs to famed fashion photographer Steven Meisel and features a stunning home library wall, with walnut bookshelves and a vintage mid-century Haines stool. I love the mix of standard bookshelves and quarto display racks and the way the beautiful timber continues across to frame the window.

26. Have a staircase library

Staircases are ideal spots for book collections because the steps enable you to reach the highest shelving with ease, no ladder needed. It’s also a great way to make use of wasted space. You can create shelving all the way up the stairs and also in the hollow space underneath the stairs. This large home boasts a fabulously extensive staircase home library.

27. Make it moody

How about this beautiful modern home library? Painting your library space in a soft charcoal black gives an edgy contemporary look. I like the display racks and the minimal selection of books displayed here, which keeps the space feeling uncluttered. Black home library furniture complements the colour scheme, and a natural timber chair and table provide a nice contrasting accent.

28. Go for a classic look

Natural timber + books always work beautifully–perhaps it’s because wood and paper are related materials? In any case, displaying books in a polished wooden bookcase is a timeless combination that creates a traditional, classic look. And even better if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful wooden spiral staircase beside your timber bookcases, like this.

29. Colour coordinate your books

Slightly OCD perhaps, but arranging your books into a colour coordinated rainbow is a very popular way to display your collection. It’s cheerful, happy and harmonious—and makes it easy to find the right spot to replace a book! I like the black downlights here, adding a touch of sophistication.

30. Play with a painted interior

If you love colour, another option is to paint the interior of your shelving in your favourite hues. The beauty of this is that as you remove books or rearrange the display, you’ll always get a slightly different rainbow effect. Also, the varying colours of the book spines will create even more of a kaleidoscope of colour. I love the soft tones of the coloured shelving in this New York apartment’s home library.

31. Try something original

This is a very unusual curved bookcase design alongside a staircase. The organic, flowing lines add a lot of visual interest to the living room area. It’s also a quirky choice of paint colour (in fact chosen to match other architectural elements in this home). If you like the idea of something original like this, find an expert builder who can help you bring it to life.

32. Add art and lights

Bookshelf styling perfection in this New York loft, where a huge built-in unit houses both books and curated decorative elements. The owners liken their shelves to gallery walls, adding ceramic figurines and framed photos and artworks into the mix. Downlights play an important role with a massive unit like this, to illuminate all sections adequately.

33. Build arches

There’s something infinitely aesthetically pleasing about arches and they’ll always be a simple way to add style to your home. I love these arched built-in bookshelves. The solid lower cabinets contrast nicely with the busy-ness of the shelves full of books and personalised bric-a-brac. You can find an expert to handle your cabinet assembly for you.

34. Pair with a statement armchair

Have simple, plain, basic looking shelves? Add sophistication by placing a striking accent chair nearby. This retro leather butterfly chair looks so comfortable to sink into, as well as being stunning to look at. Statement light fixtures like these are another way to jazz up a relatively plain home library space.

35. Add plants

Lush greenery adds life and charm to any space, including your home library area. Choose a standing statement plant or have some trailing vines climbing down your bookshelves—or better still have both! Here, minimalist white shelving is wall-mounted on a rail system to ensure the wall can bear the heavy load of books, while the contemporary style of the shelving contrasts well with the mid-century vintage sideboard below.

36. Make a window seat

This odd-shaped, recessed corner of a home has been turned into a serene little reading nook with a narrow bookshelf and a plushly upholstered window seat. Such a lovely bright space and full of visual dynamism thanks to all the angles. If you have a beautiful and peaceful view like this, take advantage of it and set up a relaxing spot to sit and read.

37. Make it cosy

If you’re lucky enough to have the space to allocate a full room to your home library, you’re likely going to cover all the wall spaces with bookshelves. Choosing a dark paint colour will increase the sense of cosiness, then you can just add a supremely comfy armchair (like this classic Eames one with footstool), and great lighting. You may also want to add a table as a study space if you have the room, and a step-ladder is always useful to reach the highest shelves.

38. Liven up a living room

Books are such an easy way to add visual interest to a plain space. This modern white living room shows how simple cube shelving can create a beautiful display of books and other objects and trinkets. And you can adapt this look to suit any size of room or book collection. (Who else loves this popping pink zigzag floor lamp?)

39. Tuck it in a wall

Only have a small home library? Choose clever cabinetry in the living room with loads of storage and incorporate a section for displaying your books. The myriad colours of your book spines always look gorgeous in a whitewashed aesthetic like this.

40. Mix woods

A chunky, fixed shelving bookcase in matte black provides a wonderful contrast to all the light tones of this space. I really like the brave mix of timbers used here: a combination of painted black and white woods, as well as natural blonde, bronde and medium brown wood tones. And for a small space it has a very practical design too, with handy extra storage below and above the little window seat, declaring war on clutter!

And that’s a wrap on 40 ideas for modern home library design, whether your have a small home library or are the proud owner of a massive collection of much-loved books. Found the perfect spot to house your books and I’ve overlooked it? Share it with me in the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gianna

I'm an interiors writer living in coastal Australia and discovering all the joys of DIY renovating.

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