One of my favorite things about our house is that we have an extra bedroom. Now, some people might look at that room and think “ah, a guest room!” but not me. I looked at it and thought “ah, a library!”
Every reader has a fantasy library in their heads. For many of us, it looks a lot like this:
For me, it’s the reading room from The Night Circus: a tall tower room with a wide winding staircase and a huge cushioned bed as the floor. While those fantasies are out of reach for most of us (for now…), that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an amazing at-home library right now. After all, the beauty of a library, as every book lover knows, is that all you need is a lamp, some comfortable seating, and your books. Because it’s such a simple thing, there’s a lot of room for flexibility. A personal home library is even more fun when you put some DIY creativity into it and make it your own, so here are some ideas to get you going:
First of all, when shelving, be creative. Nice new bookshelves can get expensive, but you can also use crates, boxes, ladders with boards, or install your own shelves on the wall. I’ve seen gorgeous shelves made out of old boats, old drawers, benches, or even industrial pipes. The possibilities are endless!
Secondly, once you’ve got the shelves planned out, jazz them up. You might have found the bookshelf on a street corner with a sign that said “free” but you can make it your own easily. Beyond a fresh coat of paint, you can also paper it with your own contact paper to create dramatic contrasts hidden behind all your books. Or, if you’re looking at a wrought iron shelf, look into powder coating to give it vibrant, long-lasting color.
Last of all, when it comes to shelving, use all the space you want. Stack your books over doors, under benches, or surrounding your bed. I think one of the most heartbreaking things is when you end up double-parking your books, so you have to move the first row in order to see what’s behind them. Give all your books the space they deserve by using your wallspace effectively.
Personally, I judge my reading chairs based on how comfortable they are when you turn sideways (imagine that you’re being fireman-carried by the chair). Make sure that your chair is really comfortable, and that there are flexible positions. You’re not checking your posture here, you’re getting comfortable for hours at a time.
Because flexibility and comfort are key, remember that your seating doesn’t necessarily have to be a chair. Padded window seats, floor cushions, and hammocks will do just as well, and add to a creative, funky, and comfortable atmosphere. And P.S. if you’ve ever secretly wanted a chaise lounge, this is exactly the place for it.
3. Book Organization
I think the hardest thing about a personal home library is determining how I’ll sort out my books. By genre? Alphabetical by author? By preference or reading level? By how often I pull them out? Maybe by size or length. Every picture of glamorous interior design on the internet that I find tells me I should sort books by color, and I’ll admit that while the pics look beautiful, it’s just not a practical arrangement for me. The truth is that most of my books have multi-colored spines, and they’re not always picture-perfect. I like going by size, because it allows me to bundle sets of books together. But if your library is more than a shelf or two, that can make it really hard to find any given book. So, here’s my rule: If you have more than two bookshelves, sort the books by genre, and then cluster them together according to size or aesthetic. That way, you have a happy medium between looks and functionality.
Now, when it comes to loaning out books and keeping track of them, there are actually tech services that can help you out with that. These apps will allow you to build a virtual representation of your home library simply by scanning barcodes, and you can also keep track of books to read, and books that have been read, along with your personal feedback on each.
As I mentioned above, a personal home library really requires little beyond books and comfortable seating. And with all the shelving, there’s seldom blank wall space that needs to be covered. However, it can still be fun to incorporate decor elements that elevate your home library to the next level.
- First of all, get proper lighting. It’s nice if it’s luminous enough that you won’t strain your eyes, and I like it especially when it’s placed in a way that will give you brighter light closer, and less light farther because it creates a good atmosphere for you to snuggle in and focus.
- Bookshelf decor will give your shelves even more visual interest. As you cluster and bunch your books, mix them up with knick knacks, bookends, and jars and vases that will relieve the view of constant spines.
- If you have some space to spare, this is the perfect place for all your nerdy fandom stuff that you’ve bought off of Etsy. Put up some book-themed posters, or paint a mural on your wall dedicated to your favorite fantasy realms.