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Saturday, February 12, 2011

I dream a dream of libraries

The smell of paper, the crisp feel of pages as they turn, the beautiful bindings, and the dampness as you unwisely take them into the shower with you. Books are a wonderful thing and since I love books I am, by proxy, a library lover.

To christen my blog I wanted my first “real” post to be about something I love and aspire to. I love beautiful libraries and I aspire to own one (being reincarnated as one would also be acceptable).

My favorite libraries always have beautiful ceilings, lots of dark wood, and multiple bookcases stacked on top of each other creating a literal wall of books.

The Abbey Library St. Gall in Saint Gallen, Switzerland holds manuscripts dating back to the 8th century. Notice the incredibly old murals on the ceiling. It’s also fascinating how the bookshelves are built around the columns rather than backed against the walls.

Abbey Library St. Gall in Saint Gallen, Switzerland

The Czech Republic Klementinum National Library is darker in it’s decor while the library of Melk Austria uses a great deal of gold and brighter murals to lighten the feel of the room. However both have the same basic layout. It shows how just a little tweaking can change the whole feel of a library.

Klementinum National Library in the Czech Republic
The Library of Melk Abbey, in Melk, Austria
The Jay Walker private library holds my double love of art/cool-weird stuff and books. By combining these two things in an interesting manner it creates a more magical and imaginative reading space. 

Jay Walker's Private Library

However, the most beautiful library I have seen, in person, is the Library of Congress. The building itself is rife with symbolism, art quotes, literary names and paintings.

The library itself isn’t as big as others but the architecture it’s housed in combines beauty and functionality. For being built by such a fledgling nation I feel it is the equal of many a great library.

An honorable mention should be given to the José Vasconcelos Library in México City. While it doesn’t have a lot of classic beauty it certainly gets points for a creative take on the traditional library.

José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City, Mexico

For my library, which would obviously not be as big as those above, I want something like this.

Warm colors, a hodgepodge of art and collectibles, and no shortage of comfy chairs makes an ideal space. I especially love the bookcases built around the doors. It’s a clever use of space and displays the books beautifully.

Another interesting use of space is this home library, but I don’t like all the white wood. It looks too clinical.

I love the lights aimed at the bookcases here and the use of modern colors in an old-style library. A new twist on a classic.

If I could combine funky architecture with an interesting use of bookcases and round it out with art, warm colors, nice lighting and comfortable chairs we have the makings of a perfect library.
What would your perfect library be?

Check out Arika's "My fantasy home" which was the inspiration for this blog.


  1. I think I would go for sunnier or more reddish woods in my library. I enjoy dark wood rooms, but after a while they make me feel claustrophobic. Also I want a bunch of old weird books on obscure subjects like alchemy, and one of those giant hand painted Audubon books.
    I would of course be maddeningly rich in this fantasy.

  2. Oooohh one of the hand painted nature books would be amazing. I firmly believe we are all insanely rich in our fantasy world.

  3. Wow, I have to go to Switzerland someday just to see that library- it's gorgeous! I like it better than some of the others you listed, though they're all beautiful. I like the warm colors and the natural light; I've never liked gloomy libraries.

    If I had one one day, I'd go for dark wood, big windows and comfy chairs. And it'd be awesome to decorate the walls with old fantasy novel covers and illustrations. Probably though, I'll just cover my entire house with shelves.

  4. Your taste in libraries is very similar to my own. I too want a home library with the warm colors, comfortable chairs (and sofas!), artwork, lighting, etc...a very good book you might be interested in that just was published is called "The Library: A World History." The photos in it are spectacular, to put it mildly. It has a whole chapter on Baroque and Rococo libraries, and you will think you have gone to library heaven when you see those.