Home Library Design — Books in Your Decor

I learned about the most fascinating design niche recently, when—through trusty Twitter
I met Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books. Thatcher specializes in the design of home libraries for homeowners and designers around the country.

We’re not talking the cabinetry here – we’re talking the books.

Contemporary Library Wall

I asked Thatcher a few questions and I think you’ll enjoy his answers. He’s given me volumes of ideas for my collection.

HomeWorkshop (HW): What can a thoughtfully assembled library bring to one’s life?

Thatcher Wine (TW): The books on a homeowner’s shelves are a reflection of their personality and interests. They may be collections of books they have read, books they want to read, or the books that they want their guests to think they have read!

Libraries remind us of the pleasure of reading and the accumulation of knowledge. Physical books have a timeless place on our shelves regardless of whether one does all of their reading electronically. Family members, children and guests can pick up a book at any time and explore the book itself, as well as appreciate how it came to be part of the owner’s library.

ski house library before

ski house library after


HW: What role do you think that books can or should play in one’s home decor?

SolidColorFabricTW: Books have a very important role in home decor that can range from being accessories to being the focal point. In either case, it is important that they contribute to the design, not distract from it. I believe that the possibilities for designing with books are endless – one can always find books in the right color or subject, or both, that work within a design and there is no reason to use books that will seem out of place.

One homeowner may want a library of literary classics in blues and neutrals for a beach house, while another may want antique leather books for a traditional dining room, and yet another may want to wrap their art books in matching red jackets for a contemporary living room. All of these uses of books are wonderful and they are just the tip of the creative iceberg for how books can be used.

Antique Leather Mix
HW: What led you to start this specialty business?

TW: I started selling books as a hobby then turned it into a business and it has evolved gradually from there.

A friend of the family asked me for help a few years ago filling their large house with four thousand books. When I talked to their interior designer I realized that there were many homeowners and designers with a similar need for instant book collections that looked nice and did not come across as haphazard assemblages.

I love books, history, art and design, so everyday I have fun sorting books for clients and contributing to their creative projects.

HW: Tell me about one or two of the most unique libraries you’ve worked on:

TW: We are building a library right now for a client who wants all literary classics and important histories in English in vellum (white sheepskin leather) and light brown (calf) leather bindings. They are very discriminating about the colors of the books right down to their titles and accent colors as well as the content of the books. As it is a large library of approximately two thousand volumes, the project is taking several months to accumulate the books but the end result will definitely be unique and luxurious, as well a serene place to spend some time.

Lit Classics Before Wrap

Lit Classics After Wrap

We also just completed a project for the 41 North Hotel in Newport, Rhode Island, filling their lobby shelves with brand new art, architecture and photography books, and each of their 24 suites with about 20 carefully selected works of literature, history and other “serious” subjects. That was a fun project, and reminded us of many of the residential libraries we have built, although it is a commercial setting.

We also have some clients for whom we have created a customized version of the “book of the month club.” We send them a handpicked selection of books per their specifications each month and they get to appreciate the books a few at a time and spread their investment out as well. We have clients collecting Easton Press and Franklin Library (modern leather) books this way, books about New Mexico, works by British authors, and so on. I see so many books in my business that I’m happy to give a regular client a great flat rate deal on something this way.

A Well-Designed Library Wall
HW: How can one take advantage of the color of their books?

TW: The colors of a single book may be interesting but will not have much of a visual impact. By grouping books together, one can achieve some very nice effects either from creating a solid color backdrop or a nice range of complementary colors.

I am seeing a lot of demand for books in neutral colors – these books help make the bookshelves look “lighter” and other parts of the design show through. For those looking to create either a formal or traditional look, it is best to use books that are either antique leather or evoke antique leather by using traditional warm tones of browns, reds and black. For a beach house, I would recommend a palette of neutrals, blues, and perhaps some yellow.

For all of these books, it is possible to have the content, titles and authors you are interested in as well as the desired colors; one does not need to settle for one or the other!

HW: Tell me about why/when someone might want custom covers for books in their home library, where the books are wrapped in colored paper or fabric?

TW: I think of custom book covers as a way to “remodel” or “reupholster” a book collection. No one has ever done this or thought this was possible with books before. People routinely remodel their furniture and homes, and then put the same old books back on the shelves where they might look old and disjointed with the new interior.

Books can be re-covered in any number of papers or fabrics so that they coordinate with the interior and with each other. If a homeowner wants to keep their existing book collection, but it just doesn’t look good, we can create matching jackets with nice printed titles so they look beautiful and like they belong. Alternatively we can replace certain books or create an entirely new book collection.

Thatcher Wine of JuniperBooksFor a purely decorative look, we can wrap stacks of books in the same fabric as the couch! The possibilities are endless and fun.

HW: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start his or her own book collection/ library?

TW: Start with a theme and go from there. Good collections all have something that ties them together. As a very open-minded bookseller, I’m fully supportive of any type of collection or library whether it’s based on an author (Mark Twain, Jane Austen, etc.), a subject (mystery novels, Texas history, etc.), a color, a binding style (vellum books, Victorian bindings, etc.) or just about anything else.

Books are great because they are inexpensive and available everywhere, so you can start small and add to a collection or library over time.

Design Junkies, what’s the state of your, or your clients’ bookshelves? Could they use a little makeover?

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9 Comments for “Home Library Design — Books in Your Decor”

This design suggestion could only be made by someone who does not read. I find the suggestions absolutely horrible and suggestive of nouveau riche tendencies from a time when books could be bought by the yard.


Lighten up! I think the designs are creative and fun. Sure, not everyone will choose to wrap their books, but you must agree that books are an element of the room’s aesthetic. I love the idea that—even though I am a voracious reader—I am not stuck with the marketing decisions of those who created the covers.

What do the rest of you think?

I find this highly offensive.

I hear what you are saying, XMalice. I know this is not for everyone, but don’t we need to face the fact that books in a room have a visual impact as well? I think that at minimum recognizing that is important.

Thanks for the comment,

I think this is a unique concept and I imagine many people would want to implement it in their home. Some of these libraries do have a “wow” factor. Realistically, though, it seems like a luxury that the average homeowner could not really afford even if they wanted to do it. Maybe if I won the lottery I would.

For those who actually read, and continually add to their collection, it would be a long term commitment. For those that don’t really read, it’s trying a little too hard to impress.

Hi Ivy,

You make good points. What do you think about trying this on a smaller scale (one small bookcase of a certain category of one’s books, for example)? Or only sorting one’s books by color?

Thanks for contributing to this conversation,

[…] had some heated discussion here lately about books, and about book covers, as elements in one’s home […]

“For all of these books, it is possible to have the content, titles and authors you are interested in as well as the desired colors; one does not need to settle for one or the other!”


Honestly, when I see someone with a fussy set of books, or a complete collection of matching leatherbound books, I feel sad for them, because I can bet that they probably aren’t reading them. If you’re not a reader, why not make a statement with something that you actually enjoy?

I think the idea of covering books is cute for people who actually read, though. Our books are usually so mismatched and all different sizes that it would make a collection look more cohesive in a room. A bookmark with a title for easy selection would go a long way with covers that don’t have titles printed on them.

I look at the first two pictures, the ‘before’ pic and the ‘after’ pic. I way, way, WAY prefer the ‘before’ pic. Those books have character. They are a living part of the decor. The ‘after’ pic looks like a dummy bookcase in a furniture store. The books look dull, lifeless and completely dead.

I love books. I read books. I love how books have lots of different colors, sizes and textures, much like the writing inside. To replace my collection of colorful, mis-matched books with regimented, hide-bound uniform dark embossed books would make very very sad. And it would make my house look like a dullard lives in it.

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