Each week, Mansion Global tackles a topic with an elite group of designers from around the world who work on luxury properties. This week we take a look at how to design a room around your book collection.
Filling a room with a treasured collection of books gives a space its own story with visual and tactile narrative.
âBooks are an amazing way to add a very personal touch to an interior space,â said Stuart McLauchlan, Associate Director at SHH interiors, London. “Most people spend years collecting books, and it’s wonderful to be able to display them and allow your interests to be exposed.”
The trick is figuring out how to design a room around your tomes.
For ideas that inspire, take a page from these design professionals.
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âWe always say that no one wants to fill their house with furniture; you want to fill it with stories and things that make sense. A collection of books is such a unique and personal thing that always brings warmth and personality to a room.
âThe library can be a focal point in itself. In our collection we have a six foot bookcase in the shape of an antique drum, as well as our Globetrekker bookcase, which is inspired by vintage travel trunks. A large library can be just as interesting as the volumes it contains. Large-scale built-in elements throughout an entire wall can create a very dramatic look, especially if painted to complement or contrast with other key elements in the room.
âInstead of organizing your collection in a bookcase, you can stack them on the floor or stack them against a wall. It gives character to the room in a more relaxed way.
Adding an armchair and a lamp in front of a bookcase creates a cozy literary retreat in a living room, but in an office you might want to leave bookcases open and place the desk in the center of the room surrounded by your favorite books while you work. “
– Timothy Oulton, based in Hong Kong, Founder and Creative Director, Timothy Oulton Furniture and Interiors
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Let the collection take center stage
âDepending on the style of the interiors, whether traditional or contemporary, the book collections will bring an element of warmth, substantiality and interest to a space.
âA large bookcase can be central to the design of the room. This can create the illusion that the space has more depth or height. For a recent project, we created a large library that crosses the five floors of the house. The staircase winds around the library on each floor, so that each book is easily accessible by the owners. It also creates the central feature of the whole house.
âYou don’t have to fill every shelf with a library space. It is much more elegant to let the books breathe and to create a greater feeling of space.
– Stuart McLauchlan, Associate Director at SHH Interiors London
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“Shelves full of books, tables full of books, piles of books on the floor … everything is fine.” If your books aren’t displayed in an overtly stylized way, so that a person would be comfortable pulling a spine off a shelf or board, then you’ve created privacy. A visitor feels free to browse your books and learn about your interests and passions.
âOld books with intact leather backs are a feast for the eyes in a library. If there is one with a particularly special cover, I will support it with the cover facing out. It’s a fun way to present a book you love or a book with special meaning.
âStaying consistent with the style is the best way to keep things from getting too cluttered; that is to say, avoid junk and too many tchotchkes. When a client has a house with miles of shelves and has four linear feet of books, I call my favorite library curator. He deepens and maintains a library that uniquely reflects the interests of the client.
âWith great care and restraint, I occasionally place a small art object, painting or sentimental souvenir on a shelf. The books are very personal, as are the props I put with them. I also like to intersect standing books with stacks of books. When the library is large, subtle variations like this add interest.
âI often place chairs, chairs or benches near bookcases. I imagine my clients or an interested reader browsing the shelves and stopping to sit down and read a few passages.
– Janie Molster from Janie Molster Designs in Richmond, Virginia
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âWe often add built-in elements to projects to create a home for our clients’ personal libraries. In any room, books add character and texture, with a natural variation in color, shape and size. With carpentry, in particular, books provide a much needed soft counterpoint to the hard, angular structure of the shelves.
âStyling shelves is like achieving the ultimate balance between form and function. These are ultimately intended to be usable libraries where our customers can easily find a book. But I still find that mixing other objects helps break up the visual and adds even more personality to the space.
âIn general, the fuller the shelves, the better. Even with large collections of books, I like to add wallcovering to the bottom of the shelves. This naturally creates a cohesive appearance and thwarts any potential chaos. “
– Marika Meyer of Marika Meyer Interiors in Washington, DC
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