A passion for the printed word inspires a library redo


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Alice and Bob’s five-story townhouse is filled with books, books and more books. Their library was jammed with rickety old shelves, stuffed with publications on just about every subject under the sun.

It’s Bob who is the book lover in this family, but as his collection outgrew the room, even he reached a point where he agreed that something needed to be done.

Both Bob and Alice use the library as a place to relax, curl up in front of the fire, or watch TV. Since Bob thinks of his books — each and every one of them — as his friends, he can’t get rid of even one outdated old paperback. This fact speaks volumes about the task at hand: Design a warm, inviting library with room for all of Bob’s books — and even a few more that will surely be added in the future!

The focal point of this book lover’s retreat was the fireplace. But, with its outdated mantel and the inconvenience of schlepping real logs upstairs to the library, an update was definitely in order. We selected an elegant cast stone fireplace surround, with clean-burning ethanol log set. The difference was dramatic: The new mantel and classic surround elevate the fireplace to the prominence it deserves.

To accommodate all of Bob’s “friends,” I designed three walls of custom floor-to-ceiling shelving around the room. The only wall that does not have shelving is the window wall; we maximized every possible inch of storage space. The shelving flanks the fireplace, and is unbroken except for the place we reserved for a wall-mounted flat screen TV.

On the wall opposite the fireplace, we installed a mural depicting a map of the world in muted browns and creams. Bob and Alice have traveled extensively, and the library features many of their souvenirs, so the mural is a nice touch to remind them of their happy travels.

In front of the mural is an ivory sectional sofa placed on top of a linear-patterned area rug. Over by the windows sit Alice’s two existing tub chairs, recovered in a sparkly black velvet fabric with nailhead trim — just the touch of glam the designer ordered for this book lover’s paradise. Add an inviting ottoman and a small side table and presto — you have a ready-made reading nook.

I went with a modern ivory and dark espresso color scheme for this room, which is played out in the richness of the dark shelving, the ivory sectional sofa and fireplace mantel, the drapery fabrics, cushions and area rug. We disposed of the old carpeting and brought in new, dark hardwood flooring that sets off the ivory walls, couch and area rug beautifully.

What is the No. 1 must-have when it comes to reading? Good lighting, of course! We really bumped up the lighting quotient in this library, with overhead recessed fixtures, sconces and a table lamp. Two wall-mounted lights behind the couch are even on flexible arms, so they can be perfectly positioned as over-the-shoulder reading lamps.

Bob loves the fact that his books have become the big story in this space. They wrap the room in comfort and warmth, with the extra-inviting touch of the elegant new fireplace and updated furnishings. It’s a room that caters to the owners’ tastes, while making a stunning impact with the contrast between light and dark hues.

All of this change makes for an exciting new chapter in the life of Bob’s library. It’s always nice when a story has a happy ending!

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All.”

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