I have a little problem with books. I love to read, and I have built up over the years quite a library full of them. I love the physical reminder of a book - the sense of accomplishment of looking at a row of books on a shelf and remembering the hours that you spent reading and thinking about the contents, as well as the actual look of them aesthetically. I love book cover design, and I love the look of books in a room. They add a richness, have the side bonus of absorbing noise so will make a space seem quieter, and are most definitely the fastest way to ascertain someone's interests and hobbies by looking at the titles on their shelves.



My sister has been on a campaign to eradicate her books - she has donated all of hers to charity and then bought them back "so cheaply!" on the kindle. It's just not the same to me. A kindle is great for travel maybe, but when the tangible reminder is gone, the memory of the book fades for me as well. This is why I've been known to borrow the same book from the library a few years apart and then realise I've already read it when I'm part way through...



The main problem that I have though, is that I don't have any shelves for my books. Not anywhere in the house. My bedside table has an overflowing bottom shelf stacked to the drawer above, so much so that I worry the table will collapse under the weight. I have a pile of Art and Design books growing precariously in the study and which can be used a somewhat unstable drinks table. Clearly something needs to be done.

We have a room in our house that we call the Study. It's going to be the one formal room in our house when the renovation is completed - somewhere to entertain other grown ups after dinner, or during the day in Winter (it's a nice sunny room, and will be very cosy)... most definitely not a space for the Children. They have the run of the house, so I don't think they're going to miss out. The problem with the Study is that it is currently used as our main Living room. We have a few pieces of furniture that will stay after the extension is completed, but the current sofa and armchair will go (to other rooms) and I will hopefully get on with organising the bookshelves that I've been trying to sort out in a very half hearted way since we moved in, and ridding the niches of the big screen tv and a random Victorian chest of drawers being used as a linen press. It's all a bit of a hodge podge. Currently, all my books are still boxed up in the Shed at the bottom of the garden. I worry about them... that they will get damp, that they will house bugs, that they will not be in good condition when I finally open the boxes and put them on the shelves that I've been trying to design for the past 2 years... unfortunately other things keep getting in the way.


I was planning to do something fairly traditional - two shelving units in the niches on each side of the fireplace with cupboards at the base a little like the image above and painted in the same colour as the walls. But lately I've been thinking about making it a little more modern... I think it might juxtapose quite well with the antique furniture in the room - the very large 1920's Scandinavian desk and chair, and the George 3rd drinks table. The curtains are modern with their random squiggles, so I was thinking that a mix of old and new might work.




And then of course I've been on Pinterest having a look... and fell in love with these diagonal shelves. Not the most practical from a book storage point of view, but quite visually interesting. I'd do them in a dark walnut veneer which would complement the dark furniture in the room. Mr AV is not entirely sold on the idea, and it would probably cost around double what I had initially started drawing up (which is still in pencil... the story of my drafting life, I never manage to ink anything up). So I'm interested to hear your thoughts... too modern, or a classic juxtaposition?



At any rate, I miss my books! So many are in storage that I'd love to flick through for reference but can't. I'll be sorting out the shelves in a few months time... once I've finished off the extension drafting that is still to be done, and which is most definitely needed a little more urgently than my book shelves.

All images via my Pinterest Libraries board, except for the two from my study

39 comments:

  1. I love our library....it is circular and two of the walls have bespoke floor to picture rail book shelves (it was a palaver we had to measure all of our books and work out shelves accordingly) and the other walls are 'Imperial Trellis' wallpaper which matches the coloured glass in the windows. The only problem is that we have outgrown our library so am now toying with another wall of books on the landing upstairs with a concealed door which leads through to the guest suite. Those diagonal shelves are stunning....probably worth double?! Rx

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    1. Oh I do love your library. Curved bookshelves must've cost a bomb though?? I was trying to show my husband the pics above on Pinterest, and he got distracted by a curved bookshelf image I had there... I had to point out it wouldn't work in our rectangular room. Yes, think the diagonal would cost double, especially with veneer, rather than plain painted MDF. Like the sound of your landing upstairs with bookshelves. Mr AV's family have a book problem, and there are shelves absolutely everywhere upstairs, on landings and in hallways. I love it. xx

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  2. I love books too! We had to give away heaps of our books when we moved away from the UK. So sad - I still miss them - all of my books from childhood onwards.
    We have typical bookshelves on either side of the fireplace in our study, but they are super messy and one has been hijacked for children's stuff!
    I have to say that I'm not a great fan of those diagonal bookshelves. They do add visual interest and look rather fabulous in the more modern, second picture, but they would drive me mad.
    I would go for traditional bookshelves and let the books themselves add the visual interest! Xx

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    1. That's very sad you had to get rid of your books. I still have all my childhood ones at my parent's house... the children are almost old enough to read them - so many great books that I can still remember well. I worry that if I do the diagonal ones I'd find it irritating to be constantly with my head on the side looking for something, although you have to do that anyway with normal shelves...hmmm. xx

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  3. Gosh, this was a hard one Heidi. I am umming and ahhing about this.

    I love that you are going to do an organic blend of modern and traditional that you have. Either too modern or too antique seems to forced ; a blend is much more natural.

    Pros to traditional shelves, it is easy on the eye. There is a calming visceral effect. You would also be able to design shelf-scapes ( is that a word?) or vignettes with a mix of books and figurines or pictures that sometimes hang on a shelf on the outer layer.

    The pros to the diagonal shelves is that they create this movement and is quite dynamic; There is a sense of gravity sideways. But looking at it for quite a while I worry if it might be too much "energy" and one gets distracted by the diagonal shelves plus you would only be able to use for books and not put any chachkes on it.

    Have you seen SJP's library?

    http://hookedonhouses.net/2012/09/17/sarah-jessica-parker-matthew-broderick-selling-greek-revival-townhouse-in-greenwich-village/

    She does that magazine shelf in her library along with traditional shelves which allows you not to see just the spine but also the facade of books and I am guessing you probably have loads of lovely coffee table books that you might like to walk by and admire the lovely photos in front of the book? I actually got some magazine shelves from Ikea that I intend to use sometime in the distant future.

    I have to say the traditional look of shelves on either side of a fireplace is one of the most soothing formulas.

    As you probably remember I totally agree with you about books! Cant wait to see what the library is going to look like! xx

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    1. Knew your vote would be in favour of books! I'm thinking that it might be a little bit too much looking at the sides... plus while I have a lot of design books, most of my books are novels and biographies, so are not large books and they won't fill up a whole diamond shape well I'd think...
      Love that library of SJP's. Was thinking of doing a magazine rack style thing for the kids playroom so they could see their picture books... they're available in IKEA? Shall have to check it out! xx

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  4. Heidi.. books just make a home ... whether piled neatly on a hall table ... or I also love book shelving that surrounds an opening into another room. There is something familiar and comforting about books - just as you say - I have to agree with Ruth though - also not keen on the diagonal shelving as I fear you might grow tired of that look and want to revert into the more traditional way of displaying them. The diagonal method kind of looks like a shop somehow.... also... you might get a stiff neck as you are continually tilting you head!!! I have also been thinking about the study in our new home ... I love a study.. and am sure it will look wonderful when you've decided what to install. I love the drinks table and the curtains! xx

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    1. I think you might be right Jenny and the head tilting may make me go a little crazy. Am also thinking the extra cost might be not such a good idea... hmmm decisions! xx

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  5. I think I'm with your sister on this one. Whilst I love books and reading I have been trying to get rid of a lot of my books. My parents both collect books (and are very proud about it) but I have seen them trying to downsize house later in life and how the books have just become such a burden. My father has a library but no library to house his collection. I just think that it is easier to get rid of things as you go along. Having said that, I cannot part with my political thought and history books from my undergrad days. I think that it is 100 per cent vanity... we want to keep cerebral books around us as a reminder that we have read important texts, etc.
    Having said all of that, if space (and budget) were no issue for me I'd love a library with a lovely wooden library ladder... sadly this is not an option for me in central London!
    On the diagonals, I think these look really interesting, but that you might get frustrated when looking for things.
    x

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    1. My sister moves a lot for her work, and said she's become tired of lugging around crates and crates of books. And she reads a lot... She also lives in an apartment with two children and a book collecting husband, so space is an issue for her too.
      That's funny about your comment re cerebral reading... I'm a book snob and Mr AV tends to read what I term airport novels (easy reading of the Jeffrey Archer variety - either that or biographies). I'm also fond of the light chick lit while on holidays... but I don't allow either to sully our library shelves!! They're for "serious" books. Too true about the vanity! xx

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  6. Hi Heidi,
    We (our family of 6) all love books, too! We have bookshelves either side of a fireplace in our family room with cupboards at the base (a little like the 3rd image you have shown) and love it. It also enables us to put other items there as well - but, saying that, we also have a wall of shelves in the children's tv/rumpus room (full of books!) and trying to work out some study storage (for more books!) Agree they add richness and the bonus of absorbing all that "white noise". Love them!
    I absolutely love the first of the two images you have of the diagonal shelves - very "retro-modern" - especially with the starburst mirror and Featherstone chair. Perfect spot for a martini or two! Saying that, though, I think although it looks great as styled in the photo, the reality of practically living with it would be quite different! (and would personally drive me a bit crazy!) The first few horizontal bookshelves all have books placed every which way, but still look great - whereas I think you would have to be very "considered" where you placed books back in the diagonal shelves.....but maybe it would be worth it for the effect! Good luck in making a decision! Caroline

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    1. Your house sounds lovely Caroline - lots of children and books and full of life. I think you're right about the library on diagonal problem... I probably wouldn't be able to keep it looking perfect, as in that top image, so it would drive me a bit batty. And once you've filled up the shelves and start stacking books ontop of the spines of the other books, it wouldn't look good at all xx

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  7. I love to read as well but have to admit I'm trying not to buy too many books. I find I read them too quickly and they take up so much space (I already have a vintage armoire filled with books in my no-storage-at-all house). I've started borrowing or downloading them to read, and then if I really love them I buy.

    I've just had a beautiful set of shelves built for a client with some closed storage and open shelves. We paid the cabinetmaker cash to keep the costs down and he installed over the weekend. So gorgeous, and not much more expensive than the Ikea options! xx

    Anna (My Design Ethos)

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    1. I've been trying to borrow more from the library for the same reason Anna, and fortunately I do get passed a fair few by my mother in law, so get to return them.
      Your client's shelves sound lovely, especially if they didn't cost much more than IKEA! I somehow think that it will be hard for me to do that here, judging on past cabinetry expenditure both here and in Melbourne. xx

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  8. I love to read and began a book cull in 2008 that continues today.

    I don't do kindle...maybe I should. Love the diagonal shelves and love all those shells on the mantle- are they real? Did you find them? Or buy them? Tell me everything x

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    1. Kindle would be very handy for your upcoming World Wide trip I'd think. The shells and coral are a mixture of real and faux. Some were found on the beach in Fiji (smallest ones like the clam shell and brain coral) and the large coral ones were all faux from Pottery Barn. They have them now in the online shop in Australia, so you could get your own. I bought mine a few years ago when shipping was from the US and frightfully expensive... but still much cheaper than buying the real deal. The really big shells came from my parent's place up the back of a cupboard when I was helping Dad do a clean out! xx

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  9. Nah to diagonal, go traditional! Maybe just do simple, streamlined shelves, still a modern look.

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    1. I was thinking simple modern might not work so well as radical modern... shall give it some more thought! xx

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  10. I adore books and can say that the Kindle/iPad approach has been so brilliant for me as I don't have to order books online or wait til I go to Perth to a bookshop. Plus the storage issue helps. I do still buy some books though - especially if I want quality images.

    I always laugh when people display books - I think for every gorgeous shelf of intellectual books there is an old suitcase or shelf behind a door somewhere stuffed to the brim with Jeffrey Archers and Jilly Coopers! A bit like when people used to have extensive CD libraries in the 90s in those tower thingies... it was always all Miles Davis and obscure indie rock/pop. Everyone used to keep the Bananarama and A-ha well hidden in the TV cabinet drawer...

    I love shelves of books and think they look stunning - not sure about the diagonal. Think it looks good but would be annoying after a while plus you couldn't put anything other than books in there.

    Take care Heidi

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    1. Ha! That's the problem with electronic media devices, your real taste is there for everyone to scroll through. I often say to my husband that if I'd met him and looked at his iPod I would have run a mile...he has terrible taste in music. The kindle is the same, everyone would be able to see that for every Moby Dick you've downloaded you have 3 Jilly Coopers on the file. xx

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  11. Ah...books...couldn't live without them....or wouldn't want to, at any rate....they are like old friends...e reading is great too, but different...and a room filled with books gives a fabulous clue into the personality of the owner....I always love having a sticky beak to see what is on people's shelves...is that bad????

    Well you already know that I preach mixing modern and antique from dawn till sunrise to anybody who will listen....so you already know my thoughts I suspect!! Keeps the space lively and in the current day. Who wants to live in a museum???

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    1. I do the same thing Virginia, and others have always done it to me - it's a good way of getting recommendations for other things to read as well!
      Agree with mixing it up - I think it makes a house look more personal and lived in. I worry that the original shelving design would make the room a bit too traditional... xx

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  12. BB from MelbourneMay 9, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Heidi, I'm a book and library lover too and I'll always read old skool style (no Kindle for me). I never felt alone as an only child with books to keep me company. In fact, just looking at books makes me so calm and happy. When people come over to my place for the first time, the non-readers will always comment that I have a lot of books (as in, too many) and I must like to read (as if that's somewhat suspicious). One person even accused of me of being an intellectual. Small 'i', I'm sure. I always tell them that it's my dirty little secret and please don't tell anyone.

    The first library you posted is wonderful. I'd love to spend time there! The diagonal display gives me a bit of a headache. I like displaying some books with the cover facing forward so I'd like one of those tilted shelf bookcases. I'm not into colour-sorting of books. I alphabetise all the fiction, and then do an informal Dewey type sorting of the non-fiction so I can locate them more easily. I find the easiest time to cull a book is after you've read it. This involves an immediate and brutal assessment - if I don't love it, I know I'll never read it again, and it's straight to the local library or Vinnies for donation. I give a book 50 pages, if I'm loathe to keep reading after that, no matter how worthwhile it's meant to be, it's out. Would love a photo of your library when it's back in action; I'm sure it will be wonderful.

    Best, BB from Melbourne X

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    1. Ha! - I'm always personally suspicious of the non readers myself, so I guess if they turned the table on me it would be an interesting thing...

      I love that first library too - full of books, but calming and not cluttered. I've never finished a few books... The God of Small Things was one I remember. I know it's supposed to be really brilliant, but I didn't like it at all. Atonement was another that I did finish, but didn't enjoy much. I do donate books as well, try to keep the stash manageable. xx

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  13. The diagonal book shelf is cool, but definitely in small doses. I think a wall of it is too much. But books can be such great decoration props.

    Ali of

    Dressing Ken

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    1. The whole wall was a little bit too trendy bookshop looking to me, but I think it is an interesting dynamic overall. I probably have too many books for this look at any rate!! xx

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  14. No way could I get rid of my books. I really like your Georgian drinks table. I love it that your childhood books are at your father's house .I have four generations of books with me ...yes alot of books

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    1. That's lovely smr - I have a couple of my grandmother's old Girls Annuals from the 1920's, I love that I have books from her childhood too. xx

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  15. I love the diagonal shelves.
    I once had the ambition to have a room filled with books that I had read but I'm afraid I find it hard to find time to read and I will have to up the ante considerably if I'm ever going to achieve it!
    Penny x

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    1. Maybe a small room Penny?! Then you'd fill it! xx

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  16. I agree with all that you have said about books. I don't have a Kindle although I am starting to wonder whether it might be a good idea for travelling. I love the feel of a book and book covers and I like to keep favourites. We have run out of space in the study - the shelves and cupboards are full yet I can't resist buying more. I shall pop over to your Pinterest board for more inspiration!
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. I think if you travel a lot a kindle is great, especially for hard cover books. I have the same problem as you, am trying to resist buying more while I don't have anywhere to store them! xx

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  17. I love what you already have in your study, the old table and the bronze mirror, those top two photos of sooo divine that now I really want a library (would have to do it without those two white chairs though). I am a voracious reader but since 10 years ago have given away all my books. I usually take them to NZ for my family as books are so expensive. When we remodelled three years ago we decided not to have a book shelf but sometimes when I see pics like this, I yearn for those memories again.

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    1. Books are expensive too here in Oz, but the internet has really changed that. Can't believe you've managed to survive without even one shelf? You're very disciplined! xx

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  18. Oh Heidi. I love all those goodies on the mantle <3

    I prefer traditional to diagonal.

    B

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  19. Hope you are having a lovely day with your loved ones Heidi <3

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment. You are absolutely right, if I had never seen so many gorgeously styled vignettes on the internet, I would probably never have wanted one either. Doh! And now I want one too. Oh and perfect lighting at all times would be nice too, hehe. Maybe I just need a better camera :P

    B

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    1. Thanks B - had a great but busy day. Glad my comment helped... I think we can all go chasing perfection a little too hard. I know I fall victim to it as well! xx

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  20. The study sounds like it will be a wonderful space Heidi! Initially when reading this post, I was all for the diagonal shelves - but considering what you have shared of your home, my un-educated opinion would be to stick with the traditional look. Perhaps some minimalist shelving will be a nice juxtaposition with the classic furniture in the room and tie in nicely with the curtains. And ps, love the drinks table, I think it's perfect for the 'adults only' space.
    Have a great start to the week. K x

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    1. I think traditional is going to win... I've pretty much kept the front of the house traditional in feel, with a bit of modern thrown in.. I worry that it might not last the distance and we don't intend to move from this house for a very long time to come. The drinks table is a big improvement on how the bottles used to be stored... along the windowsill!! It looked like a Uni student house before! xx

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