12 Home Library Ideas to Make Your Book Collection a Focal Point

updated Mar 20, 2024
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Sitting area with green wall-to-wall bookshelf, floral chairs, and round leather ottoman

Between television, movies, video games, live streaming, and more, it’s easy to feel plugged in all the time. But books are a uniquely analog pleasure in a world of screens. There’s just no replacing the sensory satisfaction of a book’s smell, the feel of its pages, and its weight on your lap. They’re relaxing yet still inspiring and mentally stimulating. That’s why we book lovers are so proud to display our collections (even in small spaces!) — that and they look incredible while also insulating our homes.

If you want some ideas on how to make your currently messy book collection reach its full aesthetic potential, these 12 home library ideas can help you figure out the best way to put your favorite titles on display.

1. The Books Under the Stairs

A nook under the staircase proves to be an incredibly clever and unique place to stick a bookshelf. The non-symmetrical shelves in this Philadelphia home are a visually stimulating alternative to traditionally rectangular bookcases.

2. Encasing the Outer World

Your door opens to the outside world, while books help you travel anywhere in this world and beyond. By surrounding a pair of French doors with books, the owner of this Atlanta home made it easy for guests to go anywhere they can imagine with a turn of the door handle or the opening of a book cover.

3. Living Colorfully Carefree

The problem with organizing bookshelves into rainbows is that you can often tell home library owners bought their books based on the color, not the contents, meaning the titles themselves are probably less-than-impressive. But with the bold pinks, purples, and yellows in this Seattle home, the homeowner was able to sort their books mostly by hue without having to hide away the titles that didn’t fit in the overall color scheme. The end result? A rainbow library that still maintains its credibility among bibliophiles.

4. Closing the Book on Small Spaces

This Washington D.C. studio is only 480 square feet. Fortunately, that’s plenty of room to curl up and read a great book. While many people with this little room would try to get rid of space-consuming bookshelves, they cleverly used this stunning pink bookcase to divide up the area, creating a distinctive living room and bedroom space.

5. A Dark Library with Speakeasy Vibes in Oak Park

It took two years of renovations for Elizabeth Hernandez to accomplish the vision she had for her Oak Park home. Thanks to her dad, who helped her with the remodel, her space now looks and feels exactly how she had hoped — like a dark, tranquil library. Inky blue walls and dual Chesterfield sofas upholstered in navy leather anchor the room, while a wall of matching blue shelves holding books, wine, and liquor lend a speakeasy vibe. 

Credit: Emily Simmons

6. A Cozy Library Nook in San Francisco

Emily Simmons had always dreamed of having a room lined with mahogany bookcases, but the clean-and-airy feel of her San Francisco apartment called for a lighter touch. Instead, she opted for a pair of white ladder-style shelves that lean against the wall. Tucked into a small corner, the library nook offers small pops of color in a mostly neutral space. And its shelves are “laden with books and a lifetime of objects,” which Simmons feels speak so much to her personality.

7. A Living-Room Library in Ukraine

Before Helen Henz and her mother remodeled their Ukraine apartment, they decided it should be sophisticated and whimsical, too. Because their book collection totaled over 1,000 titles, they decided the living room could pull double-duty as a library and dedicated an entire wall to it — even extending the book shelves over the door. By painting the shelving a soft sage and hanging brass sconces, the room has the sense of refinement they wanted, while the folkloric mural wallpapered on the opposite wall adds whimsy. 

Credit: Erin Derby

8. A Mini Fireplace Library in Brooklyn

When you’re the founder of a book club, like Nina Haines, you’re going to need to get creative with your book storage — especially if you live in a railroad-style apartment in Brooklyn. There are over 500 books in Haines’s personal library, and she has found many resourceful ways to organize and display them. Floating wall shelves, ladder bookcases, and a shelf lamp are all examples of clever book storage, but perhaps her most unique idea was to utilize the fireplace in her bedroom as a mini library. With books stacked inside, lining the outside, and on top of the mantel, it creates a stylish and unexpected focal point.

Credit: Heather Shilan

9. A Library with Vintage Vibes in British Columbia

Surrounded by two acres of forest with stunning views of Shuswap Lake, the Canadian home of David and Mitzi is a nature-lover’s paradise. It’s the type of place that practically begs you to read and relax in the great outdoors. Because both homeowners are avid readers and have hundreds of books between them, they placed bookshelves in each bedroom, even the kids’ room, and filled them with the many titles in their collection. Nestled among the books are unique treasures from Mitzi’s Etsy shop that lend a vintage vibe to her home library.

Credit: Erin Derby

10. A Floating Library in NYC

When living in a 450-square-foot home, you need to maximize every inch of space you can. That’s just what Brendan Dugan and Kiersten Krog did in their New York City apartment on the Lower East Side. To house the voluminous collection of books that Krog has acquired from her “bookstagram,” Dugan installed floating shelves throughout the space to utilize the walls for vertical storage. Despite their home’s modest footprint, they use one of the space’s bedrooms as a library, where their books, artwork, and ceramics live harmoniously.

Credit: Jenn Jacobs and Phil Shore
The Living Room

11. An Over-the-Desk Library in Brooklyn 

Creating a comfortable haven to come home to in the evenings after work was Jenn Jacobs and Phil Shore’s goal when decorating their Brooklyn apartment. For them, that meant prioritizing art and books as the focal point instead of a television. So they hung original work over the fireplace and installed two bookcases in their living room — one of which is a series of floating shelves over their desk area. The result is a stylish display of their literary collection, which pops against the dark blue paint on the wall.

Credit: Jason Rampe

12. A Botanical Library in Park Slope

The light and airy feeling of a treehouse is what drew artist Maggie Mae and her boyfriend, Jesse, to their apartment in Park Slope. They didn’t waste time filling it with her original artwork or various instruments from his work as a musician. And seeing as they’re both big readers, they installed his-and-her bookshelves in the living room, filling the shelves with titles that reflect their individual interests (musical biographies and plays for him, and art books and poetry for her). Unifying the two shelves are a series of terra-cotta pots with trailing plants that offer a beautiful botanical touch.