“This house was designed in collaboration with our close friend designer and writer David Netto,” recalls Gray Davis, of Meyer Davis. “It actually started as a bet: David was planning to tear down his 1980s Amagansett beach house, and we bet him that we could beautify it through a renovation instead.”
With three design powerhouses involved, it’s no wonder that the library in Netto’s refreshed Hamptons home is chock-full of beautiful furnishings, from the Finn Juhl Pelican chair to the Ann-Morris sconce.
Sean Leffers designed this Rancho Santa Fe, California, sitting room for maximum enjoyment of simple pleasures. “We wanted to provide a generous table and chairs to allow for the comfortable perusal of larger art books while enjoying tea and the view over the fields in the distance,” he says.
The view isn’t the only eye-catching element. A 1960s chandelier by Carlo Scarpa for Venini serves as the space’s centerpiece, with William Curtis Rolf’s photo of a taxidermied zebra vying for our attention.
Subtler but just as stylish, the table and chairs seem made for each other, despite their different pedigrees: The former is an original Pierre Cardin, while Leffers bought the latter for $50 each at a yard sale.
“We wanted to create an inviting and warm library space that had traditional detailing in the millwork, to fit the architectural style of the house, but with some contemporary touches, such as the light fixture, stool and cabinet hardware,” explains Laura Jenkins, who brought it all together. “The artwork is by local Atlanta artist Kerry Hayes and is a perfect color combination to complement the design.”
Books line the entry to the Park Slope, Brooklyn, home Gideon Mendelson created for his late mother. “I live in the building with my family, and we were all excited to have Nana close by so she could spend time with my children and me,” Mendelson says.
“Unfortunately, during the renovation, she was diagnosed with cancer and never moved in,” Mendelson says. “While the story is certainly tragic, we completed the project, and it really felt like we created the space she was dreaming of. It’s beautiful, sophisticated, thought-provoking and whimsical — just like her!”
“This is a new Chicago house with an old look that references English manor houses,” says designer Heather Wells. “We actually traveled with the clients and architects to England to look at different houses that might inspire us.”
To get the right feel for the decor, Wells and her then-partner, Bruce Fox, sourced noteworthy antiques from around the world, including the fireplace, Persian rug and chairs. “What I love most about this home,” says Fox, “is that it’s not an homage to a time gone by but instead a real family home that has changed and evolved over time.”
“For this Soho loft,” says Steffani Aarons, a partner at DHD Architecture, “the aim was to keep the rawness of the apartment and even highlight it by keeping the original tin ceilings, exposed sprinkler heads and radiators.” In the library area, this rawness is offset by the playfulness of the funky Moroso chair, echoed in the custom David Howell bookcase.
“The mega stone structure is actually a bench,” Aarons continues. “It weighed so much — 1,500 pounds — that we had to have a structural engineer confirm that the floor could hold the weight before it was craned in!”
James Huniford created this sitting room in a converted barn outside Woodstock, New York, to connect with the present while referencing the past. “I wanted the volume of the modern bookshelves to complement the tall beam ceiling and work with other vintage pieces in the space,” he says. “And instead of putting in a built-in cabinet, I decided to use the antique cupboard.”
For tips on converting an outdoor structure into your own studious space, take a look at our guide to backyard offices.
“For a family of voracious readers and young children, the idea was to ensure that the living area of their Chicago home was suitable for exactly that: living with books and art,” says Studio 6F principal and founder Gil Melott.
For the library of Lynn Nesbit’s duplex apartment on New York’s Park Avenue, the duo behind Brockschmidt & Coleman knew they needed to create something as special as the literary agent’s book collection.
“The room was inspired by great European libraries, where the books are the main feature and serve as the architecture,” Bill Brockschmidt says. The orange chairs are new and inspired by neoclassical klismos seats. The giltwood sconces, however, are as old as they look, dating to the 19th century. The desk is from Rose Tarlow.
Describing the design of a nursery in Washington, D.C., Owen Fisher, of the firm Christopher Boutlier, explains that “Chris’s intention was to create a fun and casual space for the baby that is also sophisticated enough for the parents to enjoy at the same time.” The plush armchair and ottoman are perfect for reading bedtime stories together.
In designing a brand-new apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park, Kati Curtis faced a challenge: how to create a cozy niche in the high-traffic main hallway? “The obvious solution was to put a freestanding bench here,” she says, “but I wanted to create a nook that could serve not only as a place to put on your shoes before you head out the door but also as a place where you could hang out with a good book.”
So, out with the bench and in with an olive-green velvet sofa that she designed herself. Karen Tompkins’s stark abstractions counterbalance the overall plush richness.
The designer’s favorite part? The gold leaf ceiling. The area “is in the interior of the apartment and doesn’t get much light, so I wanted something moody but that would also reflect light and open up the space,” she says. “This hallway is a little jewel box.”
“Designed for an urban gardener, the space is a peaceful oasis that provides solace and seclusion from the bustle of city life,” says Anna Karlin, who thoughtfully arranged this sunny corner in a New York City high-rise. The table is by Faye Toogood; the chaise, vintage; and the pendant light, designed by Karlin specifically for this nook. Winning combo, we’d say.
This Pawling, New York, library is the result of a collaboration between JAM Architecture and FIG Design Studio. The room “is on the front corner of the house, but a non-period porch put it in shadow,” JAM partner Joseph McGuier explains. “So we removed the porch, and now the quality of light in the room is incredible throughout the year!”
The decor lends the light a somewhat somber tone. “We wanted to create a library that felt a bit like a London gentlemen’s club, so a dark, moody space and a Chesterfield were essential,” says Nina Garbiras, principal designer of FIG.
“We wanted a library space that felt very kid-friendly,” says Sara Queen, daughter and business partner of designer Lisa Queen, describing this cheerful room in an artist’s Tarzana, California house. “And I think we pulled that off nicely with the floor-to-ceiling bookcases and low seating.” The Rajasthani chairs and colorful rug on which they stand are both vintage.
“Those windows in the photo are actually interior windows,” Queen adds. “We wanted the space to feel small and cozy but not dark and dismal, and since there is no natural light in the room, adding interior windows allows natural light from the room beyond to filter through and give the room some soft light.”
The client wanted a colorful yet sophisticated study in his Austin residence, and Kacy Ellis delivered. “This particular area is where he can enjoy his coffee and read the paper in the early mornings, before relocating to his desk to work from home,” she says.
The Holly Hunt lounge chair and ottoman fit perfectly with the rug, a design by Joseph Carini developed in collaboration with Japanese ceramist Yuki Hayama. The Eastern inspiration continues in the paper-lantern-like Stilnovo ceiling fixture from Donzella Ltd.
“The sultry mood suggests a modern English clubroom,” says Tim Pfeiffer, partner at Hoedemaker Pfeiffer, describing to this Seattle den. “Vintage Swedish club chairs remade in oxblood leather contrast with a large-format photograph by Isaac Layman that’s hung above a teal chesterfield sofa. A Tom Dixon brass and glass side table adds another modern layer.”
“In this open-concept Venice, California, loft, delineating smaller cozier areas was really important to make it feel like a home,” says Vanessa Alexander. “A vintage rug and lighting and the large L-shaped sectional helped create a warm and inviting living space, with a plant serving as a sort of boundary. This area was a great opportunity to inject textures, with throw pillows and a live-edge coffee table, that balance the industrial touches inherent to the loft.”
“This library was the only traditional-style room in the modern and cavernous Soho loft,” Ernest de la Torre says of the calm New York City cove. “The client wanted a place to curl up with a book and be surrounded by her family heirlooms. The color for the woodwork was chosen to accent her collection of Ming Dynasty porcelains.”
“I wanted to design a cozy room that could hold its own against the amazing view,” says Brian Murphy of this San Francisco library, which faces the Golden Gate Bridge. “I started with an unusual 19th-century Turkish Oushak carpet and upholstered the walls in an Indian paisley print. The comfy club chairs combined with the 18th-century Louis XV and Italian antiques makes for a warm and sophisticated touch.”
Todd Davis of Brown Davis Interiors says: “Our architectural inspiration for this Potomac, Maryland, two-story space was the quintessential English library. The interior design is a nod to the traditional with a unique update courtesy of the white curtains and a contemporary rug.” He adds: “Our hallmark has always been striking the right balance between classic and contemporary, which is why this room is so inviting.”
“The built-in bookcases and the antique marble mantel both frame the room beautifully, making it the perfect place to relax. The upholstered sofa and the well-worn antique chest feels warm and inviting,” says Nate Berkus Associates’ Design Director, Lauren Buxbaum Gordon of this library in a Greenwich Village townhouse. “Everything about this room makes me want to reach for a book and never leave.”
“The outside of this quiet mahogany-paneled room is surrounded by lush tropical gardens. Four handsome chairs covered in deep green velvet circle a French deco coffee table,” Kerry Joyce says of this Santa Monica study. “The room doubles as a quiet reclusive library as well the perfect place for a digestif.”
“This study is tucked behind a large dramatic living room in a historic Spanish-Moorish house in Los Feliz, California,” says principal designer at Commune, Steven Johanknecht. “We actuated the transition and intimacy of the space by lacquering the walls and covering the ceiling in textured jute wallpaper. The custom sofa and built-in bookshelves tuck into a corner niche and we used a variety of textures and rich colors. The vintage chandelier is Robert Sonneman and the table is Roger Capron.”
“This is the quintessential cozy library. Although there are other rooms where the family can all be together, this smaller room has all the draw,” says Amy Kehoe of this intimate space in the Hollywood Hills. “We hung some of the client’s treasured art on the face of the bookcase,s so she can really live with the beautiful and meaningful pieces that she and her husband have collected.”
“This Lake Forest, Illinois, Georgian-style library retained its historical structure during renovation, but we lined the walls and the bookcase backs with an embossed faux crocodile wallcovering in a bittersweet chocolate color for contrast and drama,” says Tom Stringer. “Hot pink accents add punch and personality and indulge the owner in her love of bright colors.”
“The overall concept for this Dutchess County, New York, house was to complement its old bones with a contemporary and transitional interior. In this master suite, I especially wanted to create a space that felt luxurious, calming, cozy and sexy all at the same time,” says Nicole Fuller. “The whites, creams, silvers, taupes and grays blend together like a perfect symphony. The textures bounce off one another to create an very chic spot to curl up with a fabulous book.”