"A room without books is like a body without a soul," said Roman philosopher Cicero. After all, what is more revealing about a person than their book collection? From textbooks to books read for pleasure, a home library is a snapshot of its owner's personality, history, and interests, making it the perfect playground for interior design enthusiasts.
While the word "home library" may evoke images of a country estate featuring a room with floor-to-ceiling shelves full of hardcover books, a space of any size can be set aside for reading and writing, making your home feel both cozy and sophisticated. With their aesthetically designed covers and colorful spines, books make for beautiful and accessible decorations, but displaying them in smaller spaces can be challenging. Stacks of books can easily look cluttered when crammed together on a shelf, and their sizes and shapes can be limiting.
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Whether you're a voracious reader or just want to showcase the volumes on your hands, read on for 15 home library design ideas tailored to small spaces. These tips will help make your books look engaging and appealing together as they become an integral part of your home decor.
15 Small-Space Library Ideas
Reserving shelf space for books can be impractical in smaller homes, but interior designer Shea McGee shows us how effective it is to display books alongside other decorative items. Not only does it maximize the wall space you have, but the shelves also look more dynamic with an array of picture frames, vases, and glass canisters, infusing the bedroom with energy and visual interest. The vibrant spines add pops of color to the room's neutral palette.
2. Display the books pages-first.
If you have many books of different sizes, shapes, and colors, you might try putting them on the shelf with their pages facing out. The books appear more uniform this way, as you can see in this living room styled by Brittni of Paper & Stitch. The pages' beige and white color scheme matches the bright, spacious feeling of the high ceilings and minimalist decor.
3. Use books as furniture.
Books take up a lot of space, so why not utilize them as much as possible? For an at-home book nook, CJ of Between the Covers created a bedside table with a stack of reading materials. This is a great way to increase the function of your collection and keep track of to-be-read titles. Bonus: It looks whimsical and elegant, especially with a fancy candle and a reading light placed on top.
4. Gather your TBR pile in a basket.
If you're a bookworm, then you're probably troubled by your to-be-read (TBR) pile, a stack of books that's ever-increasing as you continue to purchase new titles. For her TBR pile, Renée of Some Kind of a Library utilized a metal shopping basket to create a stylish, organized look. For a softer aesthetic, go for baskets made with rattan or quilted cotton.
5. Showcase a good reading chair.
Chairs are the centerpieces of reading nooks. Just look at this minimalist sitting room designed by Eden Passante: The tree-patterned wallpaper evokes the ease of nature, and the window invites in plenty of natural light for a pleasant experience. The plush faux fur chair anchors the room and makes reading feel like a special treat.
6. Get creative with DIY bookshelves.
Book storage doesn't have to mean built-in shelving or even typical bookcases. Some of the best home library ideas involve creative DIY projects. Take this shelf made of crates in @kotoelisa's cozy living space. The warm color and natural woodgrain works beautifully with the green curtains and trailing plant. Just be sure to anchor the crates to each other if you live in an earthquake-prone area or have pets or small children.
7. Add plants to your reading space.
In this idyllic library room, Mina of This Hybrid Reads shows us how plants can add a dash of drama to any space. Her shelves of colorful books are surrounded by figs, Chinese evergreen, and other trailing plants, creating a cozy reading nook that feels secluded and elevated. The velvet chair in mustard yellow is the perfect accent piece, inviting visitors to curl up with a book in their laps.
8. Show off book covers.
This reading corner designed by Chelsea Carroll has it all, from a comfy hanging chair to a gold-framed mirror and stool with faux fur. The focal point of the room is the shelf of colorful books displayed with their front covers out, which infuses energy into the otherwise monochrome space. This display choice is especially effective for children's books since they tend to have bright, beautiful covers, and it also lets kids see all their reading options at a glance.
9. Mix in metal accents.
To add some visual structure to your reading room, metal accents can be a great choice. Just take a look at this dreamy study by Jen of Intrepid Prose. A metal bookcase displays volumes arranged by color, an ivory chaise lounge offers an inviting reading spot, and the globe brings just the right amount of old-world charm. It's perched on a brass table, which complements the bookshelf, floor lamp, and hanging frame, creating a cohesive and polished look.
10. Make your space multifunctional.
It's not always possible to carve out a reading nook in a smaller home, but there's no reason your home library can't fulfill another purpose as well. Designed by Sara Ray, this book nook is the perfect example of a multifunctional space. It doubles as a shoe case but retains the magic of reading with the forest-themed wallpaper, whimsical wall hangings, and the dragon print. The olive-green cushion and multiple pillows make it the perfect nap spot too.
11. Incorporate ladders and stools.
To evoke the feeling of library stacks or used bookstores, consider adding ladders and low stools to your reading space. Not only do they make reaching for the top shelf much easier, but they also create a more dynamic look by providing different visual levels. In this home library, Amber of Eyre I Breathe displays a wooden library ladder that goes well with the hardwood floor. The fringed low stool is utilized as a table, and the tartan throw adds a layer of whimsy and brightness.
12. Experiment with location.
Being flexible with the location of your home library can help maximize your space. Just look at this delightful mini home-office-slash-book-nook designed by Josie of The House Upstairs. The books are arranged neatly on the shelf and adorned with houseplants, adding to the charm of this rustic kitchen. Large windows provide plenty of natural light, inviting visitors to peruse a few pages while waiting for their favorite meal to cook.
13. Make it cozy.
A well-designed home library makes reading feel comfortable and fun, and nothing makes people want to linger more than soft layers and textures. This home library designed by Jenny of 7 Good Books looks extra welcoming with the cozy seating and piles of pillows and blankets. The plush rug is perfect for stretching out on the floor with a good book. Create a similar library wall of your own by lining up a couple IKEA Kallax shelving units.
14. Focus on wall art.
To create a sense of place around your books, surround them with prints and room decor that encapsulate your style. Nic of Painted Goose shows us how in this bedroom library setup: The books in bold primary colors pop against the pistachio and ivory color scheme, while the whimsical prints exude playfulness and fun. The pops of pumpkin and lemon yellow add to the visual interest of the room.
15. Use book carts.
Take a page from the pros: Rolling carts are great for keeping your books organized and transporting them throughout your space. For smaller homes, they can also be beautiful accent pieces. Just look at Elizabeth of @_its_liz_reading's mint green book cart in her library space. It's both a showcase for her collection and a piece of decor that complements the thriving monstera plant. Use it to highlight your TBR pile or recent favorite books.