6 Ways to Set Up a Cozy Home Library You’ll Actually Use + Cherish

Inside: How to set up a cozy home library that you’ll love to be in. It doesn’t matter if your home is small or you’re on a tight budget.

Do you have a formal living room with china dolls and uncomfortable furniture? A sunroom with lots of plants and nothing to actually, um… do in there?

Creating a reading nook at home is one of the best ways to turn a pointless space into something you’ll love. But there’s more to it than throwing up some bookshelves and calling it a day. Do this right, and it will be one of the best things that make your house feel like a home.

Key Takeaways

  • How to create a dedicated cozy reading space in your home, whether it’s a home library or a book nook.
  • You don’t need a separate room to make your home library.

1. Make It a Place of Refuge

If you think about the table you always prefer at a restaurant, it is a cozy booth with a view of the room. Or picture a window seat, with a person sitting with their back against the wall and their head looking out the window. 

Why am I talking about this in an article about libraries? Because they illustrate two very important design principles. Prospect (looking out into open space) and refuge (feeling safe and contained, without your back exposed). They both feel good to the human mind in a way we can’t always explain.  

A sunlit room featuring a wicker sofa with patterned cushions, placed near a large window overlooking a garden.

Your home library should combine these principles as well, but it is mostly a place of refuge, and designing it should reflect that.  It should be a place that feels cozy and secure.

If you try to put your reading nook in a grand two-story entryway with a spiral staircase and shiny marble floor, it will never be right. Never.

2. Create a Dedicated Room or at Least a Dedicated Space

I am not saying that everyone needs a room that is nothing but a library. (I certainly don’t have one!). But be careful making things multipurpose.

Combining a home office and library sounds like it might work, but it doesn’t. Working from home and relaxing with a good book are two totally different things, and combining them into one room means that those two functions will fight each other.  

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If you don’t have a separate room that can be turned into a library (such as an unused formal living room), then the best candidates for reading spaces are rooms that are relaxing spaces such as a sunroom. If you don’t have any extra rooms whatsoever, then the best choice for your book collection is simply your living space. Ours lives in a corner of the family room, the only living space we have, and it works perfectly fine. 

 3. Use Practical Shelving, Not Display Shelves

Some spaces say, “curl up and get comfortable,” and some say, “sit up straight and don’t touch anything.” If you want your home library to be a place for use and not for show, make sure that your shelves are accessible.

A bookshelf filled with various vintage books, each cover adorned with intricate floral designs, creating a charming and artistic display.

Children’s books should be kept low so they can take them out and put them away themselves.  Favorite books should be at eye level so that when you look at the shelves, you see books you actually want to sit down and read. Anything truly precious should be up very high, so you don’t have to worry about mishaps.  

Don’t overly style your shelves or arrange them in such a way that people feel that they are just for decoration.

If you have floor-to-ceiling shelving, realize that the top shelves are useless without a library ladder. So either invest in one or keep them for display only.  

Key Tip

When you embrace the idea of attractive utility, you don’t need to buy decorative items to make your home feel alive. A library is loaded with this. Books are beautiful!

4. Cozy Lighting

Light is a big factor in making a room inviting. Natural light can really change the feel of a room during the day. But if you don’t have much natural light, that can actually work just fine in a home library. Warm-colored light bulbs in your light fixtures can make the room feel cozy.  

A cozy reading nook with a comfortable armchair draped with a colorful blanket, next to a large window showcasing a beautiful autumn landscape.

In a space that has a specific function, such as a home library, make sure you have lighting that is for that task. Each chair should have a floor lamp or table lamp that a reader can personally adjust. There should also be ambient light to light up the whole room. 

If you have a generous budget, it is nice to have lights that illuminate the shelves and any special artwork in the room. You want pools of light, not perfectly even lighting that makes you feel like you are in a warehouse.

5. Comfortable Seating Is a Must

If you are going to curl up and read a well-loved novel, you need a comfortable chair to do it in. Keep in mind that people like their own chair to read in, not a sofa to share with someone. Chairs should be physically comfortable, but they also need to be emotionally comfortable. 

A bright and cheerful reading corner with a cushioned window seat, decorated with vibrant throw pillows and a cozy plaid blanket.

You’ll remember the idea of “refuge”. In order for a chair to have that sense of refuge, the seat should have a view of the door so the reader does not feel like someone could sneak up on them. Obviously, not every seat in the room can have a direct view of the door. Just keep in mind that having your back to an entrance point is psychologically uncomfortable, and do your best. 

6. Home Libraries Need A Focal Point

Every room benefits from a focal point, but especially a home library since a lot of time is spent relaxing. If your room has a natural focal point, such as a fireplace or a nice view, orient your seating around that. Of course, this can often conflict with not wanting chairs to have their backs to the door. 

There will often be one best seat in the room, and in a home library, that’s okay, as it is usually a space used by one person at a time.

A cozy home library featuring a warm, inviting fireplace surrounded by bookshelves filled with a diverse collection of books.

If you don’t have a natural focal point, you will either want to invest in a piece of high-quality artwork with a cozy picture (this is, of course, very personal) or spend some time styling your library shelving.

I know, I said not to do this, but you can do it without being crazy. Just group books together and mixing in personal items such as small pictures, vases, or souvenirs from trips. Just remember that books are there for reading, and you want them displayed in a way that invites a person to pick one up.

If You Want to Explore Home Design and Psychology Beyond the Library:

Of course, true book lovers will have a home that reflects that in many spaces. Besides a central home library, there will be hallways and bedrooms with personal library collections.

But committing to turning a room into a library changes the feel and heart of a home and sends a message to the family. It lets them know that the home is a place for everyone to feel comfortable and that reading is valued. 

I hope these home library ideas have inspired you to set up a space, no matter how small, to feel comfortable with a book and some peace and quiet.

6 Ways to Set Up a Cozy Home Library You\'ll Actually Use + Cherish

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  1. We have a little home library in our office/dining room area… but now I’m looking at a wall in our living room that might just need a bookshelf too because your tips sound so cozy and lovely!

  2. We have a warm, cozy second bedroom that has become a beloved library. From books about decorating, to pop-up books that are just as much art as stories. A red electric fire stove adds additional warmth. My grandsons know exactly where the Longaberg basket full of M&Ms and Hershey kisses are. Pumpkin scented jar candles add a finishing touch. I feel totally safe.

  3. I loved this article, thanks. I am moving into a house with a spare bedroom which I intend to turn into a library, so searching Pinterest for ideas. This article has given me lots to think about! K

  4. We turned the breakfast room into a sitting/reading area because we always eat in the dining room. We put 2 leather club chairs and a floor lamp. It’s extremely cozy because it’s in the kitchen! 😉

  5. Loved this article. I’ve turned my unused living room into a library. It has made me so happy. I’m a librarian my trade so books and reading are very important to me. Your tips were very helpful. Thanks