Home library design - traditional elements and ideas

If there is anything that clearly separates a home library from a public or collegiate library of any kind it would have to be the presence of additional elements, apart from mere book cases, desks, lamps etc. Naturally, when even the most useful and well organized collection of books is housed in a person's home that room must be treated as a part of a living space, not just a large storage facility with rows of bookcases. In this article I am going to explore some design elements that enhance the looks of traditional house libraries. Perhaps this will serve as a guide for those who are struggling to come up with ideas for making their home library more personal and comfortable.

Pictures and engravings

In my opinion, the choice of paintings for a home library should be limited to art pieces that do not have bright colors. Such elements can be distracting. Also, a multicolor environment that is created by hundreds of book covers will not interact well with such paintings. Engravings can be a much better solution. They are also cheaper, and the selection is extremely wide. My personal favorites are engravings from antique books. Individual pages can be often found at stores and on the Internet at very reasonable prices. If you are designing your home library on a budget, you can order printouts of old book illustrations. As an example, I am publishing here an illustration from a 16th century edition of Virgil's works.

Statues and busts

(See also: Marble busts and principles of home library design)

The tradition of displaying statues and busts in a person's home goes back to Roman times. It was a custom to have effigies of one's ancestors. Gradually, statues and busts of famous literary figures became popular. They can vary in size, from the small ones you can put on your desk, to the larger ones that need a special base.


Back in the times when every educated person was very well rounded and had sufficient expertise in all spheres of knowledge it was a necessity to own items such as globes (including celestial globes). Similarly to sculpture, such design elements add volume and much needed curved lines to the environment dominated by straight lines.