Five things you need to know to create your at-home library

Create a full-scale library, or even scatter piles of good reads around the home. Colour coding is optional

Whether you wish for a private library filled to the brim with your favourite books, or you’re simply looking for an aesthetically pleasing storage solution, bespoke library joinery is the answer. As well as providing an opportunity to display your books, trinkets and treasures in style, it can elevate a room and make a not-so-large space feel grand. But to get it right, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps.

While dedicating an entire room to a private library is a nice luxury, it’s not essential. Library joinery can be incorporated into almost any available space. “I think with the increase in people working from home, we’re looking to find almost any under-utilised area to create library and office storage,” says interior stylist Heather Nette King. “Niches next to fireplaces, in corners, and even along hallways are being repurposed to create shelving.”

Timber may seem the obvious choice for constructing shelves, but not all are equal in strength and endurance. “A freestanding shelving unit needs to be durable, so you can’t go past a nice hardwood timber – depending on the look you’re going for,” says Matthew Menichelli, a former The Block Australia builder. “By simply using a stain or oil finish, you can create an effective and functional feature in any room.”

Reach out to a professional tradesperson who can measure your room to determine the shelving possibilities without impacting the space and its primary function. “First, decide on the number of books you need to house and ensure you have the room to do so,” says Matthew. “Based on the overall size of the room, the shelving unit should always be in proportion. Avoid having the top shelf above 2400mm as it makes access an issue. The ideal depth is about 350mm, which gives enough room to store books of all sizes while not taking up valuable floor space.”

Warm timbers such as oak and walnut will always be a library classic, but pops of colour via paint and surfaces such as Laminex laminate are popular. “There are some dynamic colour combinations, such as reds and pinks, plus stunning pared-back palettes of black with warm neutrals,” says Heather. “There is also a definite trend for closed cabinetry on the lower half of shelves as everyone needs space to store the necessary but not-great-looking stuff. Arches are still a strong trend, too, with arch-shaped mouldings even appearing on otherwise rectangular cabinet doors.”

Once installed, the way you style your bookshelves will affect the look and mood of your space. “Stick to the old library system and group books by theme rather than colour – it will make hunting for a certain book far less frustrating,” says Heather. “Always leave some space for things that are not books, such as little sculptures, bunches of flowers or photo frames, and mix up the orientation of the books to create visual interest: stand some up straight and stack others on their side. For a beautiful layered and lived-in look, stack books on other surfaces, such as side tables and deep windowsills. Try to have a comfortable chair near the bookshelf to remind you to sit down and fully enjoy the way your book collection can transport you to another time or place.

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