One could say that librarian Ellen Schmid brought her work home — literally.
Schmid, reference coordinator at the Geneva Public Library District, and her husband, Erich, recently built their own home library.
“We bought the shelves from Borders when it was going out of business and a ladder that slides,” says Schmid, who has been a librarian for 12 years and before that owned a children’s bookstore in Arizona.
“[Erich] knew I always wanted my own library,” she says. “It took about a year from start to finish to conceive what we were going to do and gather all the books in the house. We had quite a number of books.”
How to display, organize books
Schmid arranged four 9-foot floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, complete with lighting, along one wall in a small, parlor-like room in her Geneva home.
Each member of the family — Mom, Dad, daughter Emily, 16, and son Elliot, 9 — has his or her own shelving unit for a personal collection.
On holidays, Schmid switches out books on the shelves, and an additional book display rack — also snatched up from the now shuttered Borders — displays that holiday’s theme.
For example, during Christmas, she displayed Christmas cookbooks and storybooks. For Halloween, she displayed haunting Halloween-themed books.
Schmid is preparing to use pressed letters to run the beginning lines of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” on a wall across from the bookshelves: “Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary … .”
And at the top of the bookshelves themselves she has already pressed black ravens reminiscent of her favorite poem.
The cozy, little room is decorated with her favorite things, subtle lighting and two button chairs in a nook with an overhead lamp near a window for reading.
When it comes to organizing books in a home library, Schmid says homeowners can make it visually appealing by displaying books based on color and size.
Schmid has gleaned many of the ideas for her personal home library’s physical appearance from Internet sites such as Pinterest, Etsy and Houzz.
LibraryThing, a full-powered cataloging application, also is useful in organizing a home library, Schmid says. She adds there are many other personal library kits on the market to aid in organizing and keeping track of books in a home library. She recommends personalizing book titles with personal bookplates as well.
“Or, you can always arrange your books, music, photographs — whatever your library consists of — by size, color, group or whatever speaks to you,” Schmid says. “To me, a home library is a place you lovingly create so you can be immersed in the things you love.”
Create a stunning library
Jon Nutt, designer and sales representative for Southampton Builders, a second-generation custom home building company in St. Charles, says libraries — also referred to as dens, studies or offices — are growing in popularity in new construction and remodels.
Nutt, whose father, Greg Nutt, began the construction company 25 years ago, says homeowners today are opting to eliminate a formal living room in lieu of a library.
“We are making studies larger,” he says. “A lot of people have in-home businesses ... .”
He says that many times, both parents work from home and need larger-sized studies they can share. Thus, remodeling unfinished basement spaces to create large studies to accommodate the entire family’s growing needs is trending right now.
Home libraries that take up an entire room of their own are typical in high-end custom homes.
When designing a home library, Nutt incorporates gleaming dark, rich, hardwood floors; floor-to-ceiling wood shelves with lighting; ornate carved wood trim and moldings; and sliding ladders that glide across the shelves.
He has seen homeowners with custom faux painting and murals painted on the walls in their libraries. One client in St. Charles had a mural of Old World Europe painted in the library with stars marking all the places the family had traveled.
Another client had a mural of the Hawaiian Islands painted on the library walls.
And in an elaborate, two-story library, Nutt recalls floor-to-ceiling shelving climbing up to a 22-foot ceiling with a staircase featuring a “Juliet” balcony halfway up overlooking the library.
When choosing a color scheme for a home library, Nutt recommends traditional and elegant dark woods matched with darker, warmer paint colors and faux finishes on the walls.
Fireplaces, antique tin ceilings — which can be replicated with wall paper — ambience lighting, lamps, sconces, overhead lighting for reading and vintage chandeliers all can work together to create a warm and cozy library.
The room also should have floor outlets for reading lamps. Fixtures would work well in warm, vintage-like finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze and crackled gold.
Nutt says he has seen homeowners spend between $10,000 and $40,000 on a library remodel project in which a homeowner takes an underutilized space in their home and makes it a home library.
But it can be done for less.
“You can spruce up any room pretty economically, turning a living room into a study,” he says. “It can just be putting hardwood down and adding some bookcases. It’s not a huge investment, but the return is very well appreciated by the families.”
Lynn Havlicek, owner of Geneva Cabinet Gallery and co-owner of Havlicek Builders in Geneva, says not to forget to make allowances for electronics when designing the home library.
“Electronics are a big thing these days,” she says. “There are less file drawers needed; everything is kept electronically.”
She says to make sure everything is set up in a “neat, concise” way by considering monitor, outlet and lighting placements when designing a home library.
“Take into account the homeowner’s style,” she says. kc