When it comes to collecting books, reading them is only part of what brings so much joy.

There’s something special about having a space in your home dedicated to books, and you don’t need to have a ton of extra square footage in order to make it happen. A home library can be any size so long as it’s functional and serves your needs. And even the tiniest of home libraries will provide you with a perfect cozy spot to wile away the day with book in hand. They can also make for a fantastic work from home solution.

As with any DIY home improvement, the best place to start when setting up a home library is with a plan. So whether you’ve got a room, a corner of a room, or just a spare closet to devote to your books, here are the steps to follow for how to create a home library or reading nook, including all of the things you need to make it complete (beyond a stellar book collection, of course). 

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How to Make a Home Library

If you dream of having a home library, then you’ll be glad to know that it’s actually a pretty simple project to take on. It’s also a renter-friendly one, since it doesn’t necessarily require any permanent changes to your space. Making it happen really just comes down to determining what you’re working with, as well as deciding what you can do to personalize your library and design a space you love to spend time in.

Here are some of the big things to do and consider as you navigate the ins and outs of home library design.

bookshelves with chair
So long as it’s functional, there’s no need for your home library to be big.

Figure Out How Much Space You Really Need

The size of your home library will largely be dictated by how many books you have. There are plenty of creative book storage hacks for fitting a large collection into a small space, but you’ll still need to make sure that there’s enough room for shelves and a seating area, as well as a lamp if there isn’t sufficient overhead lighting.

Make a Mood Board

An interior design mood board is a fantastic way to gather inspiration for the look and feel of your home library. Browse Instagram and Pinterest to find home library ideas that speak to you, then add the images to your mood board for quick recollection. As you find ideas that you like, try to define exactly what it is that appeals to you, paying attention to things like design styles, furniture choices, layout, organization, and color palettes to hone in on what you like the most.

Take Ambience Into Account

Just like a public library, your home library should be conducive to quiet concentration and relaxation. If you have a few spots in your home to choose from, go with the one that offers up the most privacy and the coziest feel. And if you’re limited to just one option, evaluate the ambience of the space and make design decisions based on what will make it most suitable for your needs.  

Curate Your Book Collection

When was the last time you went through all of your books? Setting up a home library provides you with a good opportunity to curate your collection and donate any duplicates or books that you no longer want or need. Going through your book collection also gives you a chance to take inventory of what you intend to keep and start coming up with a plan for how you’re going to organize it.

As for those books that you decide to get rid of, call up your local library to see if they accept donations, or look into charitable organizations that accept books, such as Reader to Reader Inc., Books Through Bars, Operation Paperback, or the African Library Project. You can also exchange books with people in your community through sites like Bookmooch.

lots of books
Curate your collection so you’re not wasting space in your library on books that you don’t want.

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What Does Every Home Library Need?

There are a number of key items in any home library. Bookshelves are an obvious one, but beyond storage, there are several things that you can include in your library to give it added utility and make it all your own.

As you work out how to create a home library, here are the various décor details to pay attention to.

Home Library Bookshelves

What is a home library without bookshelves? Shelves serve two key purposes in your home library: they’re a place to display your books, and they’re a place to store them. They can also make a style statement, with a wide variety of options in terms of the material, size, and shape of your shelving unit.

If you’re tight on space, you’ll want to go vertical with your bookshelves. This can be done with structured bookcases or with floating shelves. You may also choose to go with tall shelves even if your space isn’t limited, since they can lend a grander look to your library.

Before shopping for library bookshelves, take the time to accurately measure the dimensions of your space. This will tell you not only what size shelves you should be looking at, but how many you can fit. And if you do opt for floating shelves instead of a standard bookcase, be sure that your measurements account for spacing, since there’s no use going through the trouble of hanging bookshelves only to find out that your books won’t actually fit on them.

Measurements are key for making sure that your bookshelves fit your space and your collection.

Other Home Library Furniture

As far as home library furniture goes, the next most important piece after your bookshelves is a comfortable place to sit. Chair or couch, it should be a place that you can curl up in for hours if need be, and ideally something that provides arm and back support so you don’t end up stiff.

Other functional items that you can bring in include an ottoman for stretching out your legs and a side table for setting down your phone and a drink. If you plan to work in your library, a desk and ergonomic chair could be a smart investment, though an over-the-lap desk could be more versatile for those times when you’d rather relax than scroll through emails.  

Home Library Décor

There are no rules when it comes to interior design trends for home libraries. Instead, the goal is to create a room that’s cozy and peaceful, whatever that may mean to you.

Various types of home library décor that you may want to source include artwork, candles, and shelf decorations. Plants are another fantastic addition, and can heighten your sense of serenity in the space. For extra cozy vibes, browse antique stores for one-of-a-kind finds like vintage books, vases, globes, and prints.

There’s always room for décor in a home library. Styling by Skillshare student Kaja Wrobel.

Home Library Accessories and Lighting

Last up is home library accessories, of which lighting may be the most crucial. Great library lighting is not too bright, not too dim, and perfectly positioned so that you never have to squint. A table lamp or standing lamp are probably the easiest and most affordable options, but sconces work too. If you want to work with existing overhead lighting, look into installing a dimmer so that you can better set the mood.

Other accessories that you may want for your home library include a comfy throw blanket and a charging station. Additional storage could be warranted, too, if there’s room for it.

Choosing the Best Home Library Paint Colors

You don’t have to paint your library, but it can certainly help you create a calm interior. Color has a powerful effect on mood and can be used strategically to make you feel more productive or peaceful in the space. It’s also just one more way to personalize your library and make it seem more luxurious.

When choosing a color palette, skip the bright shades and opt for rich, warm hues instead. Neutrals will always work, but you can also go bold with deeply saturated jewel tones. And if you’ve already chosen your library furniture, then you’ll want to keep that top of mind when choosing paint colors, selecting complementary shades for the materials in the space.

Make sure to account for the general interior design style that you’re trying to achieve. A modern Scandinavian vibe, for example, would warrant warm whites and other muted neutrals, while deep greens and golds fit nicely in a more traditionally-inspired room.

Helpful Tips for Organizing Books

Books are the focal point of your home library. As such, you’ll want to organize them in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing—and in a way that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.

You don’t need to go full-on Dewey Decimal System with your library organization method, but you should put at least some thought into how you display your collection and what goes where. Here are six helpful tips to keep in mind as you get started.

taking a book
A well-organized book collection is easier to navigate, and it also makes your home library look more put together.

1. Think Logistics

You only have so many books and so much space to work with. These two factors will dictate a lot of your organization tactics and should be front of mind as you decide how you want to arrange your collection. If you have more books than shelf space, be extra judicious in editing down your inventory. And if you have more shelf space than books, plan ahead for how you’re going to use décor to fill in the gaps.

2. Create a System

There are many systems for organizing books. Do you want to go by size? By author? By color? By genre? Decide what system is the most appealing to you, but also consider functionality. Color-coding your books in rainbow order might look fun and stylish, but is it going to be helpful when you’re trying to reference a specific title? Likewise, organizing by author or genre is great for functionality, but will it create a harried look that doesn’t flow well on your shelves? 

It’s up to you to decide what matters most as far as aesthetics and organization and to make a plan for how you want to display the titles in your library.

3. Keep it Consistent

However you decide to organize your bookshelves, follow through and maintain the same system throughout your home library. You don’t have to display books in exactly the same way from shelf to shelf, but the overarching guidelines that you set for what goes where should stay consistent and should be set with some sort of intention (i.e., don’t just cram everything in wherever there’s a spare spot).

4. Bring Your Books Forward

It’s natural to push your books all the way to the back wall when arranging them on shelves, but for the cleanest appearance you actually want to pull them forward so that the spines are closer to the front edge of your bookshelf. This looks more uniform, and it also helps keep dust from accumulating, which makes upkeep of your home library a lot easier.

5. Distribute by Weight

Organize within your designated system, but also accommodate the weight of books on your shelves. Your heaviest books (coffee table books, hardcovers, etc.) should go on the lower shelves, while paperbacks and other light tomes should go on higher shelves. This brings more balance to your space, and it also helps protect the structural integrity of your bookcase.

6. Change Up Your Display Orientation

Create diversity in your book display by organizing books in stacks instead of just side by side. It’s a small but impactful way to bring more visual interest to your space and can help you end up with a more style-forward (but just as efficient) home library.

Big or small, your home library is a place to celebrate, display, and, above all, enjoy your book collection. From how you design it to how you organize it, make decisions that align with your personal preferences and that make the most of the space you have. When all is said and done, you’ll have a spot in your home that’s well-suited to its purpose—and that’s ideal for lazy weekends spent deep in a page-turner.

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Written by:

Laura Mueller