by Becca Bergman Bull and Colleen Egan

The library. It sounds like one of those formal, antiquated spaces — akin to the conservatory or the drawing room — that one associates with, say, BBC programs or the board game Clue. Yet unlike such relics, home libraries still proliferate in a rich variety of styles, as demonstrated by the examples here. Sometimes, they’re entire rooms. But even when there’s no space to spare, homeowners and designers carve book-filled niches out of entryways or find a way to make a dining room do double duty. And no wonder: In this age of digital onslaught, an area dedicated to quiet, thoughtful pursuits — reading and writing, with nary a screen in sight — holds boundless appeal.


Brockschmidt & Coleman, New York

To meet the dual needs of a prominent literary agent — housing her many books and offering ample room for entertaining — Brockschmidt & Coleman built bookshelves on three of the living room walls in her Park Avenue duplex, adding a custom-made library ladder, large reading lamps, a pair of Rose Tarlow tables and several leather-padded Regency chairs well suited to scholarly pursuits. “The bookcases are painted in a strie glaze that is waxed for a subtle glow,” says firm principal Bill Brockschmidt. “The palette of the room is soft, so the colors of the book spines stand out.” And when guests come over? The tables can each seat up to 8 or be combined with leaves to accommodate a party of 24. Photo by William Waldron


Studio Shamshiri, Los Angeles

When Pamela Shamshiri first took possession of her Los Angeles home, created by modernist architect Rudolph Schindler in 1947 and known as the Lechner House, the space that now serves as its library was a closed-in grass-covered terrace, and the whole place was in disrepair. Shamshiri, one of the founding principals of the design group Commune and now design director of Studio Shamshiri, embarked on two painstaking years of restoration. She modeled this room after Donald Judd’s library in Marfa, Texas. For furnishings, she combined such modernist pieces as a Charles and Ray Eames lounger and lighting by Serge Mouille and Louis Poulsen with contemporary creations like an Alma Allen coffee table, a desk light from Lawson-Fenning and a bowl by Victoria Morris. Photo by François Halard


Ike Kligerman Barkley, New York

According to architect Joel Barkley and interior designer Mia Jung, of the firm Ike Kligerman Barkley, their literary-minded clients have actually read every volume that occupies the custom-built steel shelves in this Tribeca loft. Their pared-down approach puts the spotlight on the soaring height of the space — a former butter warehouse — and the books themselves, an effect enhanced by such understated pieces as a pair of Thonet chairs and a custom walnut side table. Photo by Durston Saylor


Jayne Design Studio, Lincolnville, Maine

In this new-build shingle-style house, created by architect Peter Pennoyer, all the rooms have large windows framing views of Penobscot Bay — except the library. It was conceived as an inward-looking space to encourage quiet introspection. Interiors master Thomas Jayne framed the modest windows with red linen curtains to both screen the view and contrast with the wood paneling, which he painted a bright shade of turquoise popular in 18th-century Georgian homes. The four chairs are in the Martha Washington style, while the 1920s Spanish bronze chandelier is from Thomas Gallery Ltd. Photo by Jonathan Wallen


Richard Shapiro, Los Angeles

Los Angeles’s Richard Shapiro is an accomplished designer, a collector of art and objects and a design and antiques dealer. Obsessed with patina, he masterfully blends authentic period details with cleverly executed new ones to create interiors that are entirely transportive. His talents are on full display in his own home, which feels more like an 18th-century Tuscan villa than the 1920s Holmby Hills house it is. In the master bedroom, he carved out a library space, placing an 18th-century Italian giltwood bench in front of floor-to-ceiling bookcases trimmed with picture-frame molding. Pieces from his eclectic art collection add to the layered, age-old look. Photo by Jason Schmidt


Sheila Bridges, New York

For a library that could double as a work space in their Harlem townhouse, a young couple asked Sheila Bridges to create a room that was both classic and comfortable. To achieve that, “we built layers upon layers of interesting textiles, colors, art and rugs,” says Bridges. The furnishings include an Odegard hand-knotted wool carpet, a George Smith kilim-covered ottoman and a custom Bridgewater sofa from Sheila Bridges Home, Inc. Photo by Dana Mejelison


Goodwood House, West Sussex, England

For his new book, Great Houses, Modern Aristocracy (Rizzoli), author James Reginato decided to see how today’s landed gentry live by dropping in on some of the finest historic homes in England, Scotland and Ireland. One of these was Goodwood House, in West Sussex, home to the Earl and Countess of March and their five children. The earl has termed the large library (as distinguished from the adjoining small library) his favorite room in the manor and recalls his family’s receiving the queen there when he was young. Charles Reuben Riley painted the room’s door panels and ceilings between 1772 and 1775; the books on the shelves, mostly in French, largely date to the 18th century. Photo by Jonathan Becker


Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Los Angeles

Hollywood decorator Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s interiors possess a bold glamour to match his high-wattage clientele, which includes Sir Elton John, Cher and Tamara Mellon. Although not a library in the traditional sense, Bullard’s Los Angeles office is ringed with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, lending a studious quality to a room that otherwise channels Studio 54. The center of the room is outfitted with furry pillows, a mirrored Paul Evans table from Fat Chance and a showstopping 1973 De Sede sofa by Ubald Klug, which Bullard found on 1stdibs. “I love the whole look and vibe of seventies leather,” he says, “It’s disco fabulous!” He designed the Zanzibar rug for the Rug Company. Photo by Tim Street-Porter


Neal Beckstedt, New York

“As with the rest of the apartment, my goal for the library was to create a warm space that felt modern yet deeply rooted in tradition,” Neal Beckstedt says of this home near Gramercy Park. To achieve a classical modern room, his first step was to add custom French limed-oak paneling and bookshelves. Next, he turned his attention to the baseboards and crown moldings, “flattening and distilling them to a refined minimal level.” The result is a casual look that still evokes traditional architecture. The furnishings also mix new and old, with such vintage pieces as a Paul Dupré-Lafon coffee table, André Arbus sconces and a folding Poul Kjærholm stool sitting alongside a contemporary Christian Liaigre club chair and Roman Thomas sofa. Photo by William Waldron


Timothy Whealon, Monte Carlo

His clients’ move from London to a smaller residence in Monte Carlo presented Timothy Whealon with serious spatial challenges. But he overcame them handily, as demonstrated by the entryway of their home, which he transformed into a library. The look “was inspired by Jean-Michel Frank’s simplified classical detailing,” Whealon says. Items imported from the London home, such as a smoked-glass George II lantern, mingle with pieces from the late, great antiques dealer Amy Perlin, including a Continental center table and chairs. In the center of the room, a terra-cotta bust of the French architect Charles Garnier keeps watch. Photo by Simon Watson


Riviere Interiors, Amsterdam

Riviere Interiors wanted to create a mood of quiet comfort and understated sophistication in this Amsterdam townhouse, which it designed for a couple who admired the British colonial style. “We wanted the space to feel layered by generations of the same family, rather than just a new build,” says Robert Young, who owns Riviere with his wife, Josyane. To achieve this effect, they furnished it with vintage and antique books, silver sporting trophies and carved Indian animals, in addition to vintage leather and ebony furniture. Photo by Elizabeth Zeschin


Workstead, Brooklyn

The library Workstead created for this Brooklyn brownstone features beechwood bookcases that include an angled shelf for displaying special books and another only eight inches high, for small objects and stacked tomes. “The base of the bookcase is left open to express the inlaid border of the floor,” says Workstead’s Ryan Mahoney. The firm also designed the cherrywood and leather Sling chair and ottoman shown here. Photo by Matthew Williams


Suzanne Kasler, Columbus, Georgia

The Oriental rug that Suzanne Kasler chose for the study of this Georgia home inspired the rest of her selections for the room, its deep Prussian blue reflected in the club chairs, throw pillows and Christopher Spitzmiller lamp. “I love the masculinity of the leather sofas and the wood paneling,” Kasler says. The two leather-topped benches double as side tables, and the brass library lights illuminate the bookshelves to create a warm glow at night. Photo by Simon Upton


Richard Rogers, London

In the London home of Pritzker Prize–winning architect Richard Rogers and his chef wife, Ruthie (of River Café fame), a mezzanine overlooks a double-height central living space. Once the couple’s bedroom, it now serves as a library and office outfitted with Harry Bertoia chairs. Rogers combined two 19th-century Georgian townhouses to create the airy, open-plan home, which echoes his famous industrial-style design for the Centre Pompidou, in Paris. Works from Andy Warhol’s “Mao” series are just visible on the living room wall beyond the railing. Photo by Kate Martin