Designing Your Home Library

In this digital age, we sometimes forget the beauty of books, so in this issue’s piece, I want to bring back the glory and beauty in the display of books. And there is no better way than to look at how best we can decorate our homes with books, thus the “home library”.

Defining Your Style

The first thing we need to think about when designing a home library is the design intent we want to achieve. Are we looking for a modern contemporary look or something more traditional? While both have their merits, they both portray a different lifestyle. The modern contemporary look portrays a younger vision with clean lines and using primary colours, while a traditional design incorporates extensive use of wood and trimmings to create a statelier feel.

Bright red shelving give a much “younger” feel to a room.

One the things to take note of when working towards a modern design is to avoid the pigeon hole effect. The moment we start to compartmentalize the bookcase into small pigeon holes, the effect takes on an office feel, which may not be something you want to bring into the home. Consider different size openings similar to a Mondrian painting to create variety, which you can then use to balance the display of books, art and collectibles.

This bookcase acts as an aesthetically pleasing backdrop for the room.

In this example above, the bookcase display acts as a backdrop to the room which is recessed into the wall. The use of different-sized openings allows one to display not only books but collectibles to create a softer homier feel to the space.

Now that we have determined the type of feel we want, we need to look at the setting. For instance, are we creating a dedicated home library with the work desk and armchairs, or will we be working with fitting it to the living room or designing around the TV room as part of a backdrop wall effect?

The oak finish give an air of sophistication and old world charm in this dedicated reading room.

In this scenario above, the room is designed specifically as a reading room. The bookcase display is located at the far end of the room to create a feature wall design with the reading chairs placed in the middle of the room. But what enhances the design further is the use of large picture windows to draw in natural light, and earth tone walls to match the timber finish to create a warm and cozy environment.

A floor-to-ceiling bookwall helps accentuate the verticality of a space and creates an impressive backdrop.

For those living in duplexes or homes with double height space, consider creating a book wall. By introducing a floor to ceiling bookcase concept, it not only helps accentuate the verticality of the space, but we are able to create an impressive literacy backdrop to the room. Whilst uniformly-sized pigeon holes are used as a means of display, the ‘office’ feel is not felt, as the repetitive effect is drawn up to the upper level to create a vertical lattice structure, which when seen from afar starts to create a mesmerizing ladder effect, making you want to climb up the bookcase.

Boxlike shelving does not work quite so well in single height spaces.

When this box-like display is introduced into a single height space, the effect of the lattice structure is lost and we are again reminded of the sterile office environment. In this scenario, even with the large picture windows and landscape background, the way the books are displayed form too rigid a appearance, which makes it difficult to create a warm environment to relax into. To overcome this, one can use warmer colours, introduced through the furniture and carpets. The display shelves should be designed in a darker walnut finish, and shelving should be horizontal with different-sized displays to break up the monotony of the display.

The Importance of Lighting

No matter how you design the library or reading room, the most important thing to consider is the lighting effect. There are basically three types of lighting to look out for – natural, ambient and direct.


For natural light, a large picture window will help to draw in natural sunlight. But be sure to control this using blinds or sun-shading devices, as there is nothing worse than reading in a room flooded with direct sunlight, because not only is this glaring, but the heat generated will create an uncomfortable environment.

For those building a new house, consider locating the picture window such that it faces North, as this will prevent direct sunlight from entering the room and you will receive a balanced lighting effect.

Large picture window draws in invaluable natural light in a wood-panelled office that could otherwise seem very dark.

The next form of lighting is ambient light. Create this lighting effect either through the use of a chandelier or dimmable spotlights overhead. The reason is to create a warm environment, which is done through the control of how much light is flooding the room. Avoid all forms of fluorescent lighting unless you are designing a public library, and stick to the natural warm white temperature for the lighting colour.

And the most important is the reading lamp, which should use natural white light, as it proves to be the best light for reading. Make sure you select the right wattage in the bulb to suit your reading style, as being too bright can bring about fatigue to the eyes, and being too dim would send you off to sleep.

Always think about how we can improve our homes, and ways to bring back the beauty of books. As we grow more attached to the computer and iPads, remember there was a world filled with books and the memories we cherish from yesteryears. So do consider designing a bookcase display in the home, as even if you may not read those books again, it works wonders as a design element for the home.

For Interior Design services and consultancy, contact Chris Yeo at