By Simon Farrell-Green, Houzz
For some people, Sundays are spent organizing bookshelves by Dewey decimal and author (though, please, never by color). The more extreme enthusiast, the bibliophile, may assert that books have personalities and histories all their own regardless of what lies inside them — and that they should be displayed, not hidden away. During renovation, though, books go into storage, and the bibliophile will miss them in a way you’d miss an old friend. Once back on the shelf, every volume will remind you of a time, place, person or feeling, even if the plot is a little fuzzy. And disposing of them? Well, that would be a challenge, even for those books that weren’t particularly enjoyable.
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Consequently, you run out of space and buy another bookshelf. Then another, until rooms have been taken over or you’ve filled an entire wing of a historic homestead.
The following book obsessives, though, have taken things further. These rooms celebrate and display books as the alluring objects they are. More than that, they provide their owners with daily contact with their books, along with a place to reflect, work and read.
Siemasko + Verbridge, original photo on Houzz
This house in Marblehead, Massachusetts, had sat eerily empty on the beachfront for decades before its owners — with architects Siemasko + Verbridge — rescued it from oblivion. Outside, it’s classic East Coast seaside (clapboard siding, white-painted columns on a deep-covered porch), but inside it’s contemporary, and includes a two-level library linked by a spiral staircase.
The shelves here run floor to ceiling on both levels, which gives the spaces an appealing density. A custom-built ladder provides access to the top levels — a must for easy browsing.
Takashi Araki Architectural Office, original photo on Houzz
Top to Bottom
This house in Hino, Japan, designed by Araki Architects takes the idea of a house designed around books to a new level. Along with a cavelike study for the owner, there are shelves spread throughout the house on two levels. The exposed wood beams and shelving are simple — the decoration comes from the vast collection of books.
The volumes stretch up through two stories, accessed by a spiral staircase, at the top of which is a simple table for contemplating the garden over a novel by Haruki Murakami, say. A metal gantry with exposed steel tread gives access to the books while allowing light to the floor below.
In a sense, the whole house is a library, with token areas for the bathroom, dining area and kitchen. (Though there are shelves there too.)
Don Welch Architecture, original photo on Houzz
Turning the Corner
The cardiologist owner of this house on Lake Champlain, New York, is a passionate book collector — as is his wife — and he’s also a gifted woodworker. The two passions are united in the library, designed by architect Don Welch. Welch converted a fourth bedroom into a bookish retreat, crafted from cherry and maple wood. The shelving rises and follows the angle of the ceiling; an elegant wooden ladder, made by the owner, provides access.
The bookshelf was built in pieces, then carried up the stairs.
Welch was determined that the room not be overwhelming, the idea being to display the books so their full beauty could be shown off. He designed a pattern of square “bookends” built into the corners of the shelving and double-height nooks for displaying art.
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, original photo on Houzz
Bookend in Oregon
Even the simplest of houses can do with a library space to anchor them. In this tiny house by Jessica Helgerson, on Sauvie Island near Portland, Oregon, a great room houses built-in furniture and a wall of books.
Above the library, accessed by a simple ladder, is this sleeping platform — within easy reach of something good to read.
BWArchitects, original photo on Houzz
Books and Art
If you can’t spare a whole room for a library, then a whole wall will do nicely. Especially when that wall is tall and flooded with light from the neighboring floor-to-ceiling window.
Giacomo Cosua, original photo on Houzz
Meanwhile, in Venice, Italy, the poet-professor owner of this ground-floor apartment shows you don’t necessarily need lots of custom cabinetry to show off the books you love — not to mention other paraphernalia such as hats, mannequins and a collection of teapots.