26 August 2009

Style List #5 - The $150 Max Library Edition

I love home libraries, or studies, as they're sometimes called. These are relaxing retreats from the madness of everyday life. In her game-changing Not So Big House book, architect and author Sarah Susanka coined the term "Away Room" for a retreat that can be closed off from the home's hustle and bustle. My Away Room would be a library, filled with my favorite art, collectibles, family photographs, music and, of course, books!

Those are the elements that make a home library your personal sanctuary. What are the elements, though, that make it workable and comfortable?

A great library incorporates all five of these Style List components:

1. Comfortable seating
2. Excellent lighting
3. At least one terrific table
4. Stylish bookcases
5. Inspiring d├ęcor

Let's take a look. And let's do it with the Recession in mind. As in all of the Style List postings, none of the items included here costs more than $150. Many are less than $100. All can turn that spare bedroom or even a corner of your basement into the library of your dreams.

Comfortable Seating

You probably aren't going to find a leather Buster recliner or Eames lounge chair for $150 or less, unless you're a very lucky flea market shopper. If you already own such a classic, your new library can be its new home. If you don't, here are a couple of seating substitutes that may warm your fanny, if not the flames in your heart.

Ektorp Tullsta from Ikea offers different slipcovers to match your decor.
I like this neutral one that can be dressed up with colorful pillows and throws.

Ikea also offers the Poang Chair and Footstool, which would look great in a library with rich dark, wood cabinets.

Other great resources for finding the right chair for your library include Craig's List, Freecycle, local thrift stores and ebay. (I spotted two sets of Poang armchairs with footstools for only $165 on the site today.) I believe strongly that you should be able to sit in a chair before you buy it, so I'd avoid situations where you can't do that, unless you've already tested that model for comfort elsewhere. I'd also inspect any wood for termites and store your chair in the garage until you can have the upholstery professionally cleaned.

Excellent Lighting

You're going to want at least two types of lighting in your library, (possibly three). The two essentials are ambient/room lighting -- most likely a ceiling fixture -- and task lighting. The latter will be floor and/or table lamps to read, study or work by. The third possible lighting type you might incorporate is accent lighting. This might highlight a favorite painting or sculpture, or even uplight a small tree in the room's corner.

I like this pair of coordinating Regatta II Polished Steel lamps from Bellacor for your floor and table or desk.

This Gotham Bronze Five-Light Chandelier, (also available in a smaller Three-Light version for smaller rooms), also from Bellacor just says "library" to me!

These Photographers Lamps from Pottery Barn can both illuminate and update your library.

Here's an old-world style accent light with new world technology: The Natural Daylight Cordless Gallery Lamp from Hammacher Schlemmer works on long-lasting LEDs.

Terrific Tables

You don't need a large table for a library, just a small surface to park the book you're currently reading and maybe a cup of tea. Some larger home libraries can accommodate a large table for spreading out papers or enjoying a hobby. Many more won't. Here are some smaller tables to consider, the first three from Cost Plus World Market, the last from Ballard Designs.

Each one of these Ajara tables costs less than $150. Choose which one suits your needs the best.

These charming Moroccan Painted Tables will add a touch of the exotic to your library.

This Puri table is probably my favorite. I love the versatility of tray tables and already own one for my future library.

Ballard calls its tables, cloths and glass tops "Terrific Trios." The cover on this one reminds me of Cote de Texas' guest blog post on burlap last month!

Stylish Bookcases

Libraries just wouldn't be libraries without books and bookcases! And a beautiful wall of built-in bookcases, like the one shown top right featuring KraftMaid cabinetry, can cost many thousands of dollars. (I know. I've designed them for custom homes.) You don't have to go bankrupt to get great-looking units. Here are some affordable solutions, any one of which can hold your books, collectibles, family photos and CDs. (I'm not a fan of TVs in a library, so I'm intentionally not mentioning DVDs and other video storage.)

Ikea's Billy Bookcases come in multiple finishes, sizes and with accessories like glass doors, for the most versatile, affordable library imaginable. Add your own crown molding for a traditional built-in look.

I love the look of white built-ins, which these free-standing Do Your Room Bookcases from Target mimic. They come in multiple sizes, each one for less than $150.

Pier1's Fretted Folding Shelves hold books and collectibles in transitional style.

Ikea's Expedit bookcases come in light, dark, stained and painted finishes. They also come in low, shown here, and tall units. What I really like is their open backs, which can help you carve a library out of an existing room.

Target's X-Text Three Shelf Bookcase brings modern style to a library that wants to break away from the traditional.

Inspiring Decor/Part One - Incorporating Your Personality

Because a library should relax and recharge your personal batteries, I believe they should host your favorite family photos and collectibles. Your new bookcases can house your pottery or crystal. They can also show off your favorite photos, as can your table tops. Your walls can display your travel mementos and other memorabilia. This is all about reminding you of the best in life as you unwind at the end of a tough day or week.

This handsome Parchment Paper Globe with Stand from Cost Plus World Market will remind you of your favorite vacations.

These stylish Everglades Frames from Z Gallerie will make even ancient Uncle Edgar look amazing.

Celebrate your favorite books with jacket-inspired posters. This Harry Potter title comes from Posters.com. Dress it up with a coordinating frame.

Fill these Hayden Hurricanes from Williams Sonoma Home with your favorite flowers, scented candles or even shells from your list beach trip.

Inspiring Decor/Part Two - Adding Creature Comforts

Your library should be a space you feel comfortable enjoying, not just a storage spot for your books. Consider these additions to enhance the homey quality of your retreat.

Toss a cashmere throw onto your favorite armchair for added coziness and luxury. On sale at Restoration Hardware, these fit our Style List budget.

Soften your space with one of these French Vintage Pillow Covers, also from Restoration Hardware

Put your feet up in style on American Signature Furniture's Taos Coffee Ottoman

Enjoy your favorite tunes with JBL's On Stage III Speaker Dock for your iPod, available on Amazon.com.

Inspiring Decor/Part Three - Toss in a Few Classics

Show off some classic details with these library additions.

Enjoy this handsome Editor's Desk from Levenger, a retail resource for serious readers.

Brighten a row of books with these Crystal Ball Bookends from Restoration Hardware

Vent your style demons with these 20th Century Scroll Register Covers, also from Restoration Hardware.

Give your ceilings old-world charm with this Victorian Effect Paintable Wallpaper from Grandin Road.

Enjoy the entire Style List - $150 Max Edition Series

Home Office


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. Wow, you came up with so many fabulous library-on-a-budget ideas!!! I don't have a library, but I do have a little home office that I need to accessorize. I just might have to buy the photography table lamp from PB and those big crystal ball bookends from RH :-)

    Thanks for the inspiration :-)


  3. Cheers for the lighting. But I think my wish list is in major multiples of $150.

  4. Ektorp Tullsta is miserably uncomfortable, and the slipcovers have to be ironed after washing. Awful!

    For cheap, sturdy, good looking library-style bookcases, I prefer Sauder. AFO.com is the best online source that I've found.


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