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From the September 2017 edition of Art & Home, Iyna Bort Caruso shows us that a library can be a true reflection of your best self.
Walk into a personal library and you enter a realm, not just a room. No other space offers as much insight into a homeowner’s preferences, style and intellectual curiosity. They can feel intimate and consequential.
In Newport, Rhode Island, the centerpiece of one sprawling condominium is a massive library with vaulted cedar-shingled ceilings, cherry and mahogany millwork and an imposing fireplace. Although it looks authentic to the home, the library was a meticulous 21st century reimagining by its current owners out of a space where coachmen once met. The condo, joined together from three units, is in a former carriage house built in 1852 that was once part of an estate owned by John Jacob Astor. Kate Kirby Greenman of Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty in Newport calls the library “remarkable.”
The 30 by 30-foot room, accessed by stairs or elevator, also has an adjoining butler’s pantry and wet bar which makes it ideal for entertaining as well as for quiet contemplation, notes Greenman. “People enter the library and are just awestruck,” she says. “It’s very peaceful, very beautiful and it just takes your breath away.”
In a digital world, the idea of a space given over to actual hard-covered books might seem anachronistic if it wasn’t still so alluring. Even die-hard texters, tweeters and e-reader enthusiasts easily get swept up in rooms dedicated to stories, history and ideas. But without question libraries have evolved. Today, they’re a backdrop for entertainment and a showcase for art and design.
“I love the way you can manipulate space with books,” says architect Susan Bower of Mitchell Wall Architect and Design in St. Louis, Missouri. Line a room with books and they can give the impression of wallpaper. Build freestanding bookcases and they become sculptural pieces. “They lend a presence and a depth to any room,” Bower says. “In a library, you have all these ideas captured between bindings. It’s just a wonderful repository of human thought.”