7 Smart Home Library Ideas to Read Up On

Decoration and Design
Additions and Remodels
By Mateos Glen Hayes April 27, 2021

In our digital age of ebooks, YouTube, and instant news updates, books seem like a relic of a forgotten past. And yet, there are still so many bibliophiles out there and so much treasure hidden in the musty-smelling rectangles that stack library shelves. They may not be connected to the internet, but books still have a wealth of knowledge. They are our key to new worlds and our guide to new ways of thinking. It’s hard to imagine where civilization would be without books. It’d almost be easier to imagine living without oxygen. 

To celebrate the huge contribution of books to world culture, there are few better things to do than build a stylish home library. And if you’re already a book hoarder then there are few better ways to celebrate your love than by upgrading your shelving. Cool home library design ideas are endless, and they can help make your home library unique and useful. The great thing about a home library is that almost anyone can have one. Home libraries come in all shapes and sizes, and there is one for nearly every budget. An elegant home library makes for a pleasant refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Consider this your launching pad of home library ideas designed to make your home library stylish and spacious. 

1. Built-in Bookcases

built in bookcases

built in bookcases

Many of us don’t have a huge amount of space. Even so, there are a few ways the enterprising homeowner can work around a lack of space. When it comes to home libraries, one great way to save space is to have your bookcases built into the wall. That might sound like a challenging DIY project, but it's fairly easy. It's also not too hard on your budget. A simple home library with built-in bookshelves can be built for around $500. Built-in bookshelves can be quickly constructed with cheap materials such as plywood or medium-density fibreboard (MDF). Making them “built-in” is a simple matter of designing the bookcases to fit in flush against the wall. This will make the bookcases more visually appealing, and will also help to save space. You can even design your shelves to act as a passageway into your library. 

An even better way to save space is to make recessed bookcases, which are cut into the wall. This is a more complicated project since you’ll need to tear down a section of the wall to make space for the shelf. Checking for wiring or plumbing behind the drywall will help you avoid unexpected snags. You’ll also need to repair drywall after the project is complete. But all these hurdles will be worth it once you get to spend the money you saved on some classy home library furniture. 

recessed wall bookcase

recessed wall bookcase

2. Two-in-One

staircase library in living room

staircase library in living room

Why have a home library that’s just a home library? Set up your library for double duty as a home library that's paired with your other living spaces. For example, you could set up a library/dining room combination, or a library/living room combo. Building your home library to add purposes and a new theme to an existing room is an easy space-saving hack. And that’s really useful if you don’t have one room to spare for a home library. As a bonus, the rows of books will give your dual-purpose room a stately ambiance. 

3. Build Up Bookcases

bookcases along the walls

bookcases along the walls

If your home is rather short on space but has a lot of ceiling height, it’s time to build up. Building shelves that touch the ceiling allows you to take full advantage of the space your home offers. You may have to install a ladder to access your books, but this will only add to the aesthetic quality of your home library. But if you happen to have some dresser cabinets where you’d put bookshelves, you can still take advantage of ceiling space. You can put some small cubbies on top of these cabinets, giving you some space for bookcases. If you want to make sure that your tall bookcases are built and installed properly, consider working with your local carpenter on this project. 

4. Make It Modern

modern home library with wooden furniture

modern home library with wooden furniture

Modern home library furniture can go a long way towards making your home library a stylish place to be. When it comes to bookcases, there are many ways to build them to capture the modern aesthetic. One way is to build your bookcases with a metal and wood construction to give them a sleek industrial style aesthetic. Complement this with some modernist furniture to get a space that effuses minimalism and simplicity. 

wall mounted bookshelves

wall mounted bookshelves

To make your bookcases look even more unique, you can build them to have diagonal shelving. An even simpler solution is to install wall-mounted shelves. These “floating shelves” are sure to make any space look modern and uncluttered. Making your library ready for the digital age is another way to modernize your library. Make room at the center of your shelf for a computer, or maybe even a television. You can also integrate some power outlets and USB ports into your shelving and tables so that your library is smartphone-friendly. 

diagonal shelving bookcase

diagonal shelving bookcase

5. Make It Classic

This home library idea is a trip down memory lane. Public libraries were once grand affairs of decorative bronze, marble, and sandstone. Building your home library in the classic style is one way to capture a slice of the past’s grandeur. If your home was designed in the Victorian style, a classically styled home library will complement your home’s look nicely. When designing your classic home library, think big. 

classic home library furniture

classic home library furniture

Don’t shy away from lots of decoration and ornamentation. Design your bookcases and your reading nook to have exquisite details. Think Victorian gilded patterns, ornamental rugs, traditional furniture, and marble-topped coffee tables. That may all sound pricey, but a classic library can be built without breaking the bank. Many of the ornamental items (frames, wooden decorations, nostalgic posters) can be found at garage sales and flea markets. Distressed coffee tables and other vintage furniture can be found in similar places. Also, giving your home library a “classic” look doesn’t mean that you can’t install some modern features. You can still integrate places for power outlets, USB ports, and even a flatscreen television. If you intend to do this, however, it’s important to design these features to be concealable when they’re not in use. For example, a flatscreen television could be hidden behind faux book bindings. 

6. More Than Just Books

retro home library

retro home library

Your library doesn’t have to be just for books. Make it the place to be for everyone in the family with a dash of other media such as paintings, vinyl records, CDs, posters, or any vintage media formats. Your home library can be home to nifty decorations such as pottery, and vintage devices such as radios or tape players. This home library idea adds variety and color to any home library. Making your home library a “media center” will also make it a more useful addition to your modern home.   

7. Spruce up the Rest of the Room

french traditional style home library

french traditional style home library

Make your small library into a nice reading nook as well. A sleek coffee table, some cushy reading chairs, a chaise or two. There are many ways to make your home library a comfortable and cozy place to be. You can also decorate the walls around your bookshelves. Give your library that classy intellectual feel with some vintage maps or some old lithographs. Small tricks, like color-matching shelves and walls, can make even a small space seem spacious. 

vintage style home library

vintage style home library

Bonus Tip: Read a Book

How appropriate, a book which tells you how to take care of your books. If you want more pointers on how to make the style of your home library sparkle and pop, you can’t go wrong with Bibliostyle: How We Live At Home with Books. This Clarkson Potter book provides some great inspiration for those looking to spruce up their home library. It gives great examples, with some inspiring pictures of some very beautiful home libraries.

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes