At Home With Books

Instant update ideas for your home library

Whether homeowners realize it or not, they most likely already have a library. It might be a dozen cookbooks on a kitchen shelf, rows of picture books in a kid’s room, or even stacks of design magazines. Whatever your pleasure—learning about history, solving a mystery, escaping to faraway lands—reading enriches life. 

Home library consultants help homeowners organize and style their libraries. They can create a collection based on individual reading preferences and arrange the books in a purposeful, artistic display. Christy Shannon Smirl is a great example of this niche service. A former public librarian, she founded Foxtail Books & Library Services in 2016 and quickly expanded her business from designing home libraries locally in Jackson, Wyoming, to working in states across the West, including Colorado and California.

Designed by Christy Shannon Smirl of Foxtail Books & Library Services, this modern home library in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, features generous shelf space and a rolling ladder

Of course Smirl loves books, but she feels that the most important part of creating a home library for private clients is “listening to the reader … about whatever subject or genre they might be interested in, about the books that they want or need in their life, about a love of reading.” After the initial consultation, she tailors a collection that responds to their particular passions.

It’s not just about gathering the right books, however. Boutique library curators also style libraries. Modern homes might benefit from spare, linear arrangements, while more traditional spaces might call for alphabetized, uniform stacks. A custom library service can also incorporate art objects, personal photographs and home accessories in order to create a cohesive space.

For the Grange Furniture showroom in the Denver Design District, Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books combined ready-made book sets with a custom Eiffel Tower design. Along with the space's blue shelving, the book jackets create an escapist scene, reinforcing that books can transport readers

Thatcher Wine, founder and CEO of Juniper Books in Boulder, Colorado, offers a distinctive approach to library style. Wine and his team design custom book jackets and readymade sets, often focusing on book spines. When arranged on one or more shelves, the book spines together reveal images or words. Wine explains, “With the artwork, we try to turn the books inside out and really reflect their content on the exterior of the jackets.”

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."
— Jorge Luis Borges

More interior designers are collaborating with boutique library curators. Claire Owen Adams, director of marketing and business development for Snake River Interiors and Twenty Two Home in Jackson, teamed up with Smirl to create the company’s own design library. Owen Adams believes a library expert “brings a fresh perspective and ultimately the best outcome for our clients.” 

A curated home library represents a homeowner’s personality and style. Smirl puts it beautifully: “Books elevate design and add character to a home like nothing else can.”

Photo jackets featuring a skier on a majestic mountain highlight the beauty of nature. A large expanse of bright sky and white snow complements the dark wood shelving

Tips on organizing a home library 

Christy Shannon Smirl of Foxtail Books & Library Services offers advice for getting started on building your home library. Besides the obvious distinction between fiction and nonfiction, arrange books by subject area or popularity. If you return often to a particular book or group of books, place them somewhere accessible. 

Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books advises homeowners to take everything off the shelf and start with a blank slate. Then get creative: “Play with how to organize the books—whether by color, size, subject or another approach that works for you and your books.” One interesting option is a monochromatic library, which creates cohesion and visual impact.

Smirl also stresses practical issues like shelving. Is it adjustable? Do you need to use a specific shelf for oversized books? Consider the size of books and objects before you organize.

A contemporary home library in Wilson, Wyoming, showcases elegant gray bookcases with beautiful books and decorative objects

Another interesting factor homeowners often forget is shared space. Smirl tells clients, “Decide whether your partner or family are sharing shelves or keeping your books separate.” This is a special consideration for kids. If they have their own shelves within a family library, they’ll feel a sense of ownership and pride.

Both Smirl and Wine agree that different people need different organizational approaches. “There is no one right way to organize your books: there are as many options as there are books and people,” Smirl explains. Ultimately, the only person who needs to understand the library is the homeowner.

Categories: Books, Furnishings & Accessories