home library, Lewis and Wood wallpaper, styled shelves, game table, white linen upholstered chaise lounge, lilac, white, blue, by Morris Lare, Des Moines Iowa Interior Designers

How We Created a Dreamy Home Library Retreat from an Unused Dining Room

Have you ever dreamed about having your very own space devoted to the quiet luxury of reading your favorite novel, playing a game, or working a puzzle without the distractions of television? As book lovers, we know the feeling! When you are an avid collector of books, they tend to accumulate throughout your home, piling up on tables, filling your shelves, and even in the odd corner. Our Brentwood clients are also book lovers, so when we proposed transforming their unused formal dining room into a dedicated home library, they were all for it.

Dining Room Before Photos

The first time we met at their home, we gathered around the table in the open dining room off their front formal entryway. This layout is so typical of homes from this era in the Des Moines metro. The space was only large enough to seat six with little opportunity for adding more guest seating. Even so, it felt cramped. The cluster of pillars in the corner, along with the dentil trim and crown on every door were fussy and overdone for our clients’ more refined taste. 

When we initially discussed the scope for this project, the line items for the entry and this dining space were few. A new wallpaper, address the columns, simplify the trim, and some light styling. But, as we analyzed the space plan of their entire main level, we realized that the dining room was superfluous. And, in the adjacent living room, a wall of built-in shelves commissioned during a previous project impinged on the seating area.

Knowing how much our clients enjoyed reading and spending time as a family playing games or doing a puzzle, we proposed that we turn their dining room into a home library. It would be a space for relaxing, reading, dreaming, and spending time together. It was close to the living room so the family could still be close to one another while pursuing separate activities but separate enough to feel like it’s own space. As an extension of the formal entry that greets guests upon arrival, it was necessary that the new library also be beautiful to look at.

Entry Before

The formal front entryway of the home, which is directly adjacent to the dining room (now library), was always part of the original scope of the project. Our clients wanted to update the front door and remove the palladian window. From a styling perspective, they requested an fresh look for their entry wall with the existing console table that felt cohesive with the concept for the rest of renovation and design.

This photo shows a direct view of the console table in the entryway. The table itself was perfect for our concept, but we wanted to create a lighter feel in keeping with the fresh, feminine, and Scandinavian inspired style we had in mind. 

Home Library After Photos

The new home library feels like a breath of fresh air. A large scale botanical paper from Lewis and Wood is the true hero of this charming space. It inspired the palette of soft creams, dusty blues, and lavender. A natural wool rug adds subtle texture along with the ivory woven Roman shades that grace the new front windows. The client’s own petite chandelier feels perfectly at home with it’s bronze and mercury glass finish.

home library with white painted built-ins Lewis and Wood wallpaper chaise lounge
A traditionally styled home library with Scandinavian influences.

We used the furniture arrangement to create two distinct zones within this room. A curvy chaise with traditional lines, upholstered in a white performance fabric with nailhead detailing, floats in front of the front window. A slim floor lamp and a petite iron table complement the chaise and create the perfect spot for our client to curl up with a book, cup of tea, and a soft throw blanket.

In the opposite corner, we paired a pale walnut pedestal table with lavender linen slipper chairs and a gilded task lamp. The client’s daughters play games here or work puzzles, and it can also be used for laptop work or homework. We love how this space enables the family to be together while focused on different activities.

The furniture arrangement helped transform the unused dining room into a multi-functional space.

We specified the natural woven wood Roman shades to complement the botanical wallpaper. We motorized the shades for ease of use and to reduce wear and tear through frequent handling.

Motorization is our go-to option for shades in hard to reach spots like the one on the right behind the chaise. Automation through a handy phone app also allows our client program specific times of day for raising and lowering the shades in each room.

A curvy chaise lounge with a view to the front yard.

The pedestal game table and comfortable slipper chairs are tucked into the corner of the space, with a view to the entry and adjacent living room.

home library, game table, lavender slipper chairs
Walnut pedestal table with slipper chairs upholstered in lavender linen with ivory banding detail.
home library, game table, lavender slipper chairs
A view to the formal front entry from the home library game table.

We styled the relocated built-in shelves with a mix of the clients’ own books and objects while layering in organic elements and vintage pieces. The curated collection draws on the color palette for the space – and for the home overall – drawing on the palette of soft warm neutrals, blues, greens, and purples.

styling bookshelves with art and accessories by Morris Lare Interior Design
Styling bookshelves is an art form in and of itself.

Hours of planning, shopping, and thoughtful consideration precede a styling session. Creating the perfect mix evolves over time to arrive at just the right mix. The beauty is that open shelves in a home library, or any corner of your home, can evolve over time as your collections and interests change and grow.

styled bookshelves with art and accessories by Morris Lare Interior Design
Carefully selected objects add interest to the shelves through layered textures and a variety of forms.
styled bookshelves with art and accessories by Morris Lare Interior Design
Soft blues and greens reinforce the color concept for the space.

Entry After Photos

The formal front entry to this gracious home received a face lift as part of the renovation project. We selected a new double front door with divided lites to complement the new Pella windows. The trim carpenters simplified the busy trim, and all of the walls and millwork received a fresh coat of paint.

traditional entry, console table styled with a mirror and lamps, by Morris Lare Interior Design
The new entry feels fresh and bright with updating styling and a new double door.

The clients wished to keep their existing console table and chandelier. We updated the overall styling for the feature entry wall to flow with the fresh light feeling we created throughout the rest of the main level, including the adjacent home library.

The entry and the library feel like extensions of one another, and it was important to both us and the client that we establish visual flow and harmony between them.

close up of styled entry console
An assortment of pottery and glassware graces this expansive console table in a medium hued wood tone.

The new beveled mirror with its thin metal frame feels more complementary in proportion and style than its predecessor. The curved lines echo the form in the console table and chaise lounge opposite.

Slim, rattan wrapped table lamps with pleated shades add a layer of light to the two-story entry, contributing to the intimate atmosphere in the evening.

traditional entry, console table styled with a mirror and lamps, by Morris Lare Interior Design
Layering textures and forms on a entry table creates visual interest.

Pottery pieces in shades of blue echo the blue hues in the library while the large baskets bring in texture while adding practical storage.

traditional entry, console table styled with a mirror and lamps, by Morris Lare Interior Design
Large baskets add texture and storage!

The linen slipcovered chairs on either side of the console extend the arrangement visually, but they also play a practical purpose. The lightweight chairs can easily be moved into the library or the living room to comfortably accommodate extra guests when the family is entertaining.

Our Tips for Creating Your Own Home Library Retreat

A home library room or space is something that every book lover dreams of. Your home may not have the space to accommodate a dedicated home library, but it’s possible to carve a library space out of an existing room.

marble chess table on a medium wood round game table with a bouquet of pink tulips in a vintage fluted ceramic vase, stack of books, , by Morris Lare, Des Moines Iowa Interior Designers
A simple pedestal table can be used in a variety of ways from reading mail to working to playing games.

Libraries, including public libraries, are multi-functional by their very nature. Think of the last time you visited a library. Yes, you will see visitors reading, but you will also see them playing games, working, writing, lounging, and even napping. You new home library doesn’t need to function solely for books…it can support your lifestyle in a variety of ways.

close up of a white upholstered traditional chaise with a blue throw and pillow in a home library, styled bookcase, metal accent table with stack of books, by Morris Lare Des Moines Iowa Interior Designers
A petite table is the perfect place to rest a book or cup of tea and is easily moved about the room.

1. Decide how you will use your home library.

The first step in creating your own home library is the carefully consider the activities that will take place there. Will it be dedicated solely to books and reading? Or will you, like our clients, also use it for laptop work, puzzles, or playing games? Will you use it to host friends or enjoy it with only one or two others? How you plan to use your library space will help you decide what type of furniture, and how much of it, you need.

2. Determine how much closed vs. open storage you need.

Next, how much storage do you need for your books? Are you an avid collector, holding on to every book you acquire? Do you have a variety of books from decorative hardbacks to paperbacks? The type and number of books and other items you will store can determine how much open storage you might have vs. closed storage.

If you are combining your library with another space, your storage needs will adjust accordingly. If it’s also your office, then perhaps you need a drawer for file folders. If it’s a guest room, then you might want a dresser to hold extra sheets or blankets as well as guest’s belongings when they come to visit.

3. Identify a room or portion of a room in your home for the library.

Now that you know how you want to use your library, it’s time to figure out where in your home you can create space for one. You could transform an empty bedroom or carve out a portion of your office or living room.

A guest room that is used once or twice a year can be the perfect place to set up your library. Consider swapping a double bed for a queen sleeper sofa, and now you have a multi-functional room that is perfect for lounging while you read or work.

4. Source the items that you need to bring your library to life.

A library, like any room in your home, can come together all at once or evolve over time. With a plan in place, you can source the furniture, lighting, shelving and other pieces that you need from your existing furnishings or you can start fresh.

Begin with the largest elements in the room like the shelving and upholstered furniture. Once those are in place, it can be easier to fill in the smaller accent pieces. Don’t forget about task lighting for reading or other activities that require brighter lighting as well as ambient lighting to help the space feel cozy at night.

5. Remember that a library will evolve over time.

Leave mental and physical space in your library for it to evolve over time. Your interests, hobbies, and pursuits may change over the years. Design your library to be flexible. Leave room in your shelves for new books in your collection. Hold space with objects or art pieces that can be relocated later. 

One of my bigger regrets was purging too much of my own library during a Marie Kondo tidying up session. I let go of many books that I now miss. Books and reading are great passions of ours at Morris Lare. We feel like they bring life to a home to life.

If you love books as much as we do, consider dedicating a portion of your home to your book collection and love of reading. Large or small, a home library can become the most loved and well-used space in your home.

Do you have a specific spot just for reading in your home? Large or small, share with us in the comments what makes this space special to you!

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