Living with Books (lots of them!)

What to do, what to do????  Amazon is already preselling the Christmas season's design books - and it's a bumper crop, folks.  The covers alone can make you drool and wish that December would hurry up and get here!   These are the ones I've already ordered (some as long ago as April!)



This book, Domestic Art, has me the most excited and you should be thrilled too.  The book's co-author and editor for Paper City, Laurann Claridge, sent me a few stills from the upcoming book and they look delicious!  Thanks Laurann!   Included inside are glimpses of David Lackey's home, Lester Marks, and Dominique de Menil, among others.  Spanning the past decade's worth of home exposes from Paper City, this book will make a perfect Christmas gift and is sure to be THE book on everyone's coffee table this winter.  Look for an October release date,  available here for preorder from Amazon.


Michael Smith, #9 on Cote de Texas Top Ten Designers Series, has a new one coming out - just look at the oriental screen!  Beautiful.  And the blue and white porcelains, and the textiles, the pillows, the chinoiserie tea caddy, and on and on.


And Faudree - #5 on the Top Ten Designers Series is coming out with his fourth book this fall!



Betty Lou Phillips has her 99th book coming out in time for Christmas. 




And Henrietta Spencer-Churchill is releasing HER 99th too!  With a name like that - you can readily tell she is related to the late Princess Diana "Spencer" and Winston Churchill, both.



Washington D.C.'s fabulous Darryl Carter is debuting his first book.


Jeffrey Bilhuber is coming out with his second.


I like the title and cover of this one, of course!   1st Dibs previews it on their web site this week.



domino magazine's long awaited decorating book.  The cover?  Chinoiserie wallpaper - to die for!



Celerie Kemble  has her first book coming out this fall.



David Mlinaric from England, his first, too, is due this holiday season.  This one promises to be a serious book on interior design, his taste level is quite different than that of someone like Celerie Kemble, who has a distinctly fun and youthful sense of style.



And last, another prolific writer, Carolyne Roehm's tome on blue and white decorating sounds wonderful to me!  Thankfully, these are all the new books coming out this fall - and quite enough.  The problem for me is space.  I'm running out of room for all my design books.  They are an unorganized mess.  I long for a beautiful library, dedicated to my books where I can go and sit in a comfortable chair, with a hot cup of coffee, and read, peacefully and in blessed quiet, surrounded by my books.  But, where?

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My main "library" is upstairs on my landing over looking the two story entry hall.   For the first 10 years, it worked great as I filled up it's shelves.  But for the past five years, I've been looking for places to stash my growing library. 



Once I ran out of bookshelf space, I started stacking the books everywhere, telling myself it looked great, like a grand old country house in England, except it wasn't a grand old house, but a new one in the middle of Houston.  Everything was starting to look very cluttered, and not in a pleasing sort of way.  Which led me to buy The Book Spine, or whatever it is called.  Actually, I bought two, which, you can see below, clearly wasn't enough.


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The two book spines.  In between and in front of the book spines are stacks and stacks of books I gathered up from around my house.  HELP!!   My next plan is to get a carpenter to build another bookshelf on the landing right across from the present shelf.  Does anyone need two book spines?


What I REALLY need to do too, is toss out a bunch of old books - books from college (!)  and trashy paperbacks.  I think I could gain a lot of shelf space that way.  And truthfully, I could go through my design books - there are some real stinkers I've bought over the years such as "Faux Painting in Ten Easy Steps" and "Paige Davis - A Year of Trading Spaces" (SO embarrassing!)   I could schlep all those dreaded books up to Half Price Books and dump them there.     I'd have more shelf space, but, I still wouldn't have my library, with the cushy down chairs, and the coffee, and that peaceful, easy feeling.  One thought that I've had for years and years would be to turn my waste of a space living room into a two story library.   This room:



We don't ever use this room, really, except to retrieve mail from the slot in the wall, or to spy outdoors at our neighbors.  Certainly, this room really isn't used for entertaining.  It's sole purpose is to provide a little eye candy when you walk through the front door on your way to the back family room.   My fantasy has been to build bookshelves up to about 2/3 rds of the way on the walls.  Turn it into a true library, a two story library.   Something like this:



Maybe this would be feasible, built in bookcases with beautiful paneling - notice how the shelves don't go all the way to the top.   And I love the library ladder - I'll have one of those too!  Designed by Bunny Williams, this is elegant, interesting and functional.  

Who am I kidding?   I can't even deal with a minor job like restaining my wood floors without having a major anxiety attack.   OK, just for fun,  if I DID have the funds, the willpower, the energy - my living room would turn into this room above.


Besides the gorgeous paneling and the library ladder, I would have Ron from The Empel Collections custom make me a room full of beautiful and functional library lights that would attach to the built in shelves.  A girl can dream, can't she? 

And while I'm dreaming, how about two chairs and an ottoman from George Smith, because let's face it, no one makes a better chair than old George, do they?



This library looks pretty nice too - instead of built-ins, just buy a huge, mahogany bookcase.   You could be pretty comfortable in this library, I'm sure.  I like the desk.   A large desk or center library table would be essential for any functional reading room.



This library, the famous red lacquered one designed by Albert Hadley for Brooke Astor, is considered by many to be the prettiest library ever built for a home.   Presently, this apartment is for sale - this picture shows the red library as it looks today. 



A close up view of Hadley's famous Astor library.   While I certainly appreciate it, it's not my favorite home library.    If I had to choose between the staid elegance of the red library or the cluttered, deliberate chaos of the library below, I'd choose the hodgepodge reading room of Kenneth Jay Lane:



Now, THIS is a reading room.  Lane's huge, New York City library is a warm, inviting, cozy conglomeration of books and paintings, accessories and comfortable seating. 


The large room is divided into smaller seating groups with built-in bookcases on each wall.  Large mirrors further enhance the library's roomy size.   I love this space, to me it's utter perfection!!



Lane's library reminds me of Carolina Irving's New York apartment.  The main difference in the two is Lane has had about 25 years of collecting and accumulating over Irving.  Give her a few decades and Irving's library will rival Lane's.   Though not technically a library, her apartment has wall to wall bookcases which separate the space into different areas for reading, sitting, and eating. 




Half-height bookcases separate the different areas of the large room.  Here, the dining room section is shown in Irving's apartment.

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Another wonderfully cluttered library, where book space is no longer available:  Lynn Von Kersting, #7 on Cote de Texas Top Ten Designers Series.


Hailing from both New York and New Orleans, Julia Reed's NYC apartment has one wall of double height built in bookcases.  The library ladder is a necessary element with bookcases this tall. 


Thank you Stylecourt for the picture!


Most libraries are decidedly masculine rooms with dark wood paneling and leather furniture.     It's very hard to find a true library that looks like it belongs solely to a woman.    Charlotte Moss' library is the rare exception.  There is no doubt that a woman, albeit a very strong, successful and determined woman, runs the show in this library. 


Another Charlotte Moss library, this one is more gender neutral.



This formal Georgian library is filled with antique books.   I love how the mirror reflects the chandelier.  The bookcases are works of art themselves.



The masculine side of libraries.  I love how the bookcases have wired doors.  I'm thinking a fireplace is also essential to the perfect reading room.



This library designed by architect Gil Shafer features casual seagrass matting the brings the dressy tone of the room down  a notch.  Robert Kime fabric covers the comfortable reading chair, positioned just right, by the bookcase.  A flat screen TV furthers the unexpected casualness of an otherwise elegant room.



This red library, designed by Alex Papachristidis, is cozy and inviting despite the dressy book cabinet.



Another red library, lacquered, by Bunny Williams.  Red is a popular color choice for libraries.



Elegant and dressy, and so beautiful.  I love how the clock is layered in front of the bookshelves.  The large desk would be a wonderful place to work on a laptop or write a letter.  Notice the well worn antique rug.




This library, though designed with "dressy" antiques, is made more inviting by the use of the zebra skin and thick, rush matting on the floor.  These tactile elements brings a cozy atmosphere to what could have been a cold and distant space.




Another elegant library.  The doors to these bookshelves are stunning.  I love the large library table - that's something I would incorporate into my "dream" library.  What a great  place to spread out a mass of books!



Wow!  The double height round room, topped by a rotunda ceiling, is the ultimate in a home library.  The fabric choices need to be updated, along with a change of rugs, but the architecture is stunning.



Another two story library.  Notice how the round window motif is repeated in the mirror and in the doors' design.  Again, beautiful space, but awful interior design.  The fabric choices just melt into the wood stain's color, leaving a boring mess in what should be a spectacular space.




Ralph Lauren's library in his New York country home.   Comfortable, cozy, this is a perfect place to sit and read a book, especially by the fire on a cold winter night.  The deep green velvet drapes further the atmosphere of a room used in the cold months.



Notice the thickness of the wood used in these shelves.  It gives the bookcases a strong profile.  Also - thicker wood gives a more contemporary look to shelves.   I think I would have put a desk under the portrait -  the trunk looks too small to me.  



This casual library make great use of the space above the windows by adding built in bookshelves.  Bright and sunny, this is a charming space.



Houstonian Ruth Gay's library is strictly country French.  Her bookcases are behind vintage doors with spectacular antique hardware.  And why not?  She owns Houston's fabulous Chateau Domingue, a shop specializing in antique French building materials.  And yes, I would love a library like this!




This library from Phoebe Howard incorporates beautiful crown molding which sets it apart. The books are also filed by color, a new trend.


  Gerrie Bremermann designed this stunningly beautiful library - mostly decorative, these books are all antiques.



This library located in Belgium is typical of the trendy Belgian look:  unstained cabinets and floors, oversized, slipcovered furniture.  This Belgian look is a major trend alert swiftly overtaking the Swedish craze.



Another charming  Belgian library.  



Located in Colorado, this library is two stories high, with short bookcases lining the walls behind the railing.  A rustic and definitely cozy spot for reading away.



This elegant library was  owned by Greta Garbo, the great, mysterious actress.  A perfect example of how the use of antiques never goes out of style.  This library looks as if it could have been designed this year.  Though formal, this space looks completely feminine.





Another example of the timelessness of great, classic design.  This library belonged to Cecil B. deMille, the  film director.  His portrait stands on the desktop.




This traditional library is owned by the singer Sting and is found in his home in England.  Here the wood is stained dark in contrast to all the lighter stained libraries we've seen before.  I much prefer the darker wood myself.  It's more dramatic and elegant.



Todd Romano designs a contemporary library with a large zebra rug. The butterscotch leather pops against all the dark blue.



Markham Roberts' navy blue library.  Though this library is traditional, he uses the same color scheme as Romano above. 


For this library, the built ins were designed to form an alcove around the sofa.  The prints are a set of Galveston, Texas highlights.  The chandelier designed by Thomas O'Brien is from Circa Lighting.  Stark carpeting adds texture, as do the chairs from Janus et Cie.    The designer?   Moi!  Webb Design.    This high rise space is actually the dining room.  But, we chose to use it as the library, where it would get much more use.  I moved the dining area to an space off the living room.


Living Room Libraries:  So, what do you do when you don't have room for a dedicated library?  Schuyler Samperton added a wall of bookcases to her living area to create her library.  The zebra rug is the perfect touch in this room.



This living area incorporates a tall bookcase to hold overflow books.  Many designers say they like to add a touch of black to every room.  Other designers say the same thing about red!


In this home, a library was created in the hall space behind the living room and family room.  Large, floor to ceiling cases provide lots of space for books.  I love the concrete mantle fireplace wall and floors.  And the wire chair adds a touch of whimsy to the room.  The crystal chandelier contrasts with all the concrete.  All in all a wonderfully designed space.


This beautiful living room by Michael Smith incorporates bookcases in lieu of a dedicated library.



For this living room, John Stefanidis added a large skirted table to hold books.  The upholstered coffee table holds more books.  With the addition of bookcases on either side of the fireplace, this space could easily be turned into a wonderful library!  I love the carpeting here.


Double Duty:  In Alex Papachristidis' living room, a freestanding chinoiserie bookcase holds quite a few books and doubles as a room divider and a large accessory!

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Pam Pierce hides her overflow books behind a linen curtain in her family room.



For a small house near the ocean with no room for a library, space was made for books and magazines next to the fireplace.  The nearby sofa provides the soft reading perch.


Entry Hall Libraries:   Without a dedicated room for books, entry halls make interesting makeshift libraries.    Here in a spacious hall, Markham Roberts added shelves on one wall with a drafting table placed in front to break up the expanse of books.   Striped wallpaper placed on a diagonal is an extremely effective showstopper.




John Stefanidis turns a center entry room into a two story library.  Entry halls make great places to incorporate walk through libraries especially when space is scarce.  Here, bookcases are upstairs and down.



A closer look at Stefanidis' rotunda ceiling in his entry room - library.



Gil Shafer turns this entry hall into a library with the addition of a console/bookcase.  Books warm up a space, making it cozy and inviting.   As a designer, nothing is harder to decorate than a built in bookcase without books.  In those cases, I go to Half Price Books in Houston and buy a box or two of their Books By the Box.  Hardback and new, the boxes cost just $25 and are the best expenditure for a bookless family!!




Another entry way - pass through library space.  Swedish inspired with white washed floors and walls, the chair provides a space to sit and read, though it's not exactly a comfortable seat!



This walk through library next to the entry hall shows how seating can easily be incorporated into a galley space with windowseats built in between the shelves.   This is an effective use of what is usually just dead space.



Designer Anne Coyle takes advantage of the entry hall to create a small  library.    The books become accessories, rather than reading material in this instance.



An entry hall center table is a great place to store extra overflow books.  I should know - I did this for years!




Tom Scheerer uses this large entry hall to hang floating shelves filled with  books.  His ubiquitous Tulip table stands in the center of the room looking rather bare.  I would stack books under it to "ground" it.  Still, an effective marriage of entry and library.


Dining Rooms Libraries:    Dining rooms are often combined with libraries because, let's face it, dining rooms usually remain empty for most of the year.   Here, bookcases surround a banquette in a casual eating space. 


Designer Mimmi O'Connell combines this dining room with a large wall filled with bookcases.  One table serves as a library table, the other is reserved for eating.


On Christmas, someone has a big job to clear off this dining room table to set it!  Designed by Gil Shafer.



A round dining room has bookcases built in between the French doors.  Quite charming!


Another dining room/library combination, designed by Suzanne Kasler, #8 on Cote de Texas Top 10 Designers Series.


A wonderful architecturally significant space used for dining and reading. 


Bunny Williams combined eating with reading in this extremely large dining room.   I'm sure what she attempted here was to bring the very high ceiling down to a more human scale with the oversized bookcase.  Do you think she succeeded here?


To me, this is a perfect example of a dining room/library combination.  Rather than looking just like bookshelves were added to a dining room, it is a true marriage of spaces here.  The table is in perfect scale with the room.  The dark painted room makes it a dramatic space for an evening meal.  It's cozy and warm.  Notice the ceiling treatment - paint was used to give the room a suggestion of roundness.  A great idea!  Who wouldn't want to eat or read in this room?   Keith Irvine is the designer.



Bedroom Libraries:  Bedrooms, especially guest rooms, make good places to add library space when no other such space is available.   Here, Todd Romano combines guest space and library space.  The day bed doubles as a sofa in this toile enveloped room.  The zebra provides just the right punch!


David Easton combined his bedroom with bookshelves in his country home.



Gil Shafer added bookcases into the alcove of this bedroom.



A wall of bookcases provides space for lots of books in this bedroom. 


A finally, in a Houston home, this ultra feminine fantasy library.  An escape off the master bedroom,  the sitting room was turned into the wife's private library.  A French day bed provides a place a to read and rest.  A large gate leg  doubles as the library table.  The desk provides a place to pay bills.  And a window seat was built in between the two closets.  Love it!


If you are like me and have run out of space for your books, look around your house to discover hidden "libraries."   Can you turn your unused dining room into a reading room?   What about a guest room - can you find space in there for books, or how about your own bedroom?   Does your entry lend itself to bookcases or a center table piled high with overflow books?   Or do you have a long hall that you might be able to utilize as a reading area?   What about just moving to a new house with a two story dedicated library with a glorious rotunda ceiling?  A girl can dream, can't she?

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