A Paean to Painted Libraries


I have a dilemma. It's to do with the trend of colour co-ordinating your library. We've all seen them. The private libraries where the red spines are filed together, the green ones are in another shelf, and the pink ones beyond that. I might even be guilty of it. (Shhh, I didn't say that.)

Even since it appeared, this design trend has caused an uproar among Dewey purists, who believe that books should be categorised according to their subject matter, not the shade of their jackets. My partner's sister is outraged that books are being filed according to colour. She thinks its bibliophilia heresy. (By the way, she and her husband are lawyers and have THE most enormous library. Whenever we visit they always ask me what I'm reading. And whenever I hear this question I always feel like a criminal on trial for reading misdemeanors. Often I feel compelled to invent something. High-brow, literary titles. But I'm a terrible liar and so my literary fibs show. Once, I said "Churchill's biography". To which they immediately replied: "Which one?" Barristers! You can't fool them, can you?)

The thing is, if you're going to file your books according to colour, you'd better remember what the jackets looked like if you want to find anything again. I have a vague idea of what most of mine look like. But it's very easy. Garden books are often jacketed in green or purple covers. Architecture and fashion titles are quite often black. Books about the coast are often blue. And whimsical books are often white (The White Jacket was a big publishing trend five years ago.)

But now I'm changing allegiances. I'm starting to think books should be filed according to subject matter. I mean, Lily Brett may not want to sit next to A.S. Byatt. Lily probably wants to be in the New York section. Where she belongs.

And so I have a solution for all you design perfectionists who feel that libraries should match a room. PAINT YOUR LIBRARIES! It's so simple, I'm surprised Mr Dewey didn't think of it. I'm leaning towards navy blue bookshelves, which would be very sophisticated, but I've seen green and pink ones too. Here. I'll show you. (NB Library purists look away NOW.)

{Top image of a traditional library from a mansion in Maine via Peter Pennoyer Architects and House of Turquoise}


The emerald green library of Tony Duquette's legendary home. LOVE that leopard print carpet! {Via Christopher Sturman for Harper's Bazaar and Habitually Chic}




The whimsical and artistic library of Anne Gridley and Gary Graves, which has been painted in Benjamin Moore's Prairie Green. Located in the countryside, this is one of my all-time favourite libraries. So courageous, and yet so inviting. {Via Country Living}




And another green library, this time by rising designer Ken Fulk. {Via California Home + Design}




One of the most beautiful libraries I've ever seen, this enthralling, pale sea-green space is delicate and yet grand at the same time. It belongs to the Duchess of Alba in Madrid, and was featured in W magazine. {Via W Magazine. Photographed by Simon Watson}


You may not think turquoise bookshelves would work, but this library shows that even pretty tones can look stylish and distinguished, especially when the shelves are filled with much-loved old books. Personally I think the turquoise looks beautiful with the vintage beige covers. It makes the whole room seem very modern, without detracting from the fact that these are old books. {Via Sk├Âna Hem and Apartment Therapy}



A poem in navy blue, this library is part of a trend of darker-toned book rooms, many of which are being painted in rich hues of blue. {Via House Beautiful}




What about a red library? Red is often used in dining rooms to provide a theatrical backdrop, but it's rare to see it in libraries. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to try it, but it's certainly dramatic. {Via Elle Decor}



Here's another one. I have to say, it's growing on me. It's such a delicious red. {Via The Decorista}



And another one. {Via Yatzer}

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