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All About Libraries

All About Libraries

Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.

While we live in a digital age, nothing beats the feeling of curling up with a good book in your hands. And if you’re an avid reader, there’s something almost sacred about the ritual of reading.

The room in which you read should feel just as unique and inspiring as what you’re reading. Here’s how to design a home library that feels personal, intimate, and comfortable.


Do all homes have libraries?

Definitely not—you are either a book person or you’re not. If you’re not a book person, you have a TV room. If you are a book person, the library is your sanctuary. People who are avid readers tend to have thousands of books, but their favorite ones go in the library—they should be on full display and within easy reach.


Does the library tend to be a large room?

It’s not a traditional library or study, where you’d have a desk with a computer. This is not a working room where you’re getting stuff done; it’s really just for reading. So for that reason, it’s more cozy in scale, and it doesn’t have to have a lot of square footage.


How do you determine how much shelving to put in?

Ideally, all of your books are catalogued by size, genre, and importance. They often don’t fit into one room—the overflow can go into a closet or storage—and when you have lots of books, you don’t want any wasted space. We plan for enough air space to get the book out, but otherwise it’s floor to ceiling shelves filled with books.


Are built-in shelves the way to go?

Definitely. We use hardwood and either stain or paint it. Based on the collection, we customize the shelf height for various sizes of books, rather than using adjustable shelves. I personally think adjustable shelves look a little tacky, with all the pegs and little holes. We do make the shelves removable, in case you need to shift things around.


Does any other furniture go into the room?

There is actually a lot of reading that goes on in this room—it’s usually one person’s sacred space, more for relaxation than working—so we tend to put in really comfortable seating with an ottoman. People who read a lot are particular about the ergonomics of their reading chair, and it’s more of an armchair versus a sofa.


What about lighting?

Lamps are important—table lamps, floor lamps, or task lamps. Usually overhead lighting is not a request in this room, nor do people want sconces or library light on the shelves, because that would take away space from actual books. Decorative lighting is not the priority here.


Does anything decorative go into the library?

Book storage always trumps décor, but anything that makes the room cozy, like a warm area rug, is good. We’ll do linen or wool wallpaper on the walls or upholster them to add depth to the space. Comfortable touches like throws or pillows on seating always works. Sometimes people want to hang some of their favorite artwork in between books, but nothing that would take up shelf space. The only exception to that would be a freestanding or gas fireplace—that’s worth sacrificing space.


Think of the home library as a sanctuary—like a spa or gym.

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