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Twenty photos of beautiful private and personal libraries.
February 26, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe


 
Envy is supposed to be a bad thing; in that sense, I'm a little ashamed at how strongly the waves of DO WANT radiated off me while I looked at those pictures.

Only a little, though.
posted by Mooski at 12:17 PM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


As much as I used to think that it would be cool to have a personal library, most of these strike me as excessive. Of course, I'm not a rich guy, so I am content to access my public library instead of having a giant personal/private library.
posted by asnider at 12:21 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uuuunnngggggggggghhhhhhhhhh
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:23 PM on February 26, 2012


man that Costa Rica house is just stunning
posted by nathancaswell at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hope I'm not the only one who goes through these and makes judgements about which people I suspect actually love reading all their books, and which use them primarily as an aesthetic/status symbol. (I'm looking at YOU, Karl Lagerfeld.)

The Costa Rica shelves - simple, lovely to look at but without compromising easy access to the actual volumes - are probably my personal ideal.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:26 PM on February 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'll be right back, I'm going to go change my pants...
posted by Blasdelb at 12:35 PM on February 26, 2012


Lifestyles of the Rich, Famous, & Literate.
posted by jonmc at 12:42 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Many (but not all) of these produced feelings of envy in me, because I would dearly love to have a room where I could put all my books on nicely designed bookshelves covering all the walls and have comfy furniture to sit on in total quiet while I read to my heart's content. I loved the ones that looked like people actually, you know, sat down and read their books in them, cocooned by their favourite volumes.

I smiled when I saw the armchair in Neil Gaiman's library that had books piled on top of it even though he has many lovely shelves to put his books on. That was about the only photo that reminded me of the book/shelf situation in my house.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:55 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


A couple of those totally take me back to the library in Beauty and the Beast. I'm getting nostalgic.
posted by sunnychef88 at 12:56 PM on February 26, 2012


My whole house is a library, thus I win.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:58 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


My mind is a library. I win.
posted by jonmc at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2012


Those are beautiful. I’ve done something similar, only with half the space and style, and more dust. It was also weird to see flat surfaces without books on them.
posted by bongo_x at 1:11 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lagerfeld's is just stupid. Utterly impractical, besides the poseur factor. Who does he think he's kidding?

Neil Gaiman's is closest to my own ideal. I wouldn't want a library arrangement that needed a ladder. Love the tilted floor level shelf. Also best not to have too much sun streaming in and aging the paper.

I have a cousin, who's a book artist among other things herself, who's married to a brilliant mathematician (worked for Bell Labs and its spinoff co.'s.) Their house, which had been his prior, and has been theirs for 30 years or so, is basically one big library. Every room, including the bathroom, has at least some bookshelves and there are shelves lining the stairs. (The kitchen has the least.) Lest one think they're mousy stay-at-home types, I should mention that their favourite vacation activity is freestyle rock climbing.
posted by Philofacts at 1:18 PM on February 26, 2012


I got to visit this one a few years back (the architect designed the library for his wife, a good friend and colleague of my father's).
posted by thomas j wise at 1:19 PM on February 26, 2012


One of my father's professors had a separate penthouse apartment for his library, where he kept books in the oven. (The collection eventually went to UCLA for an astronomical price.) I was only semi-joking when I told people that I bought House the Sequel for my books; he actually did it! One of the legends told about this library was that, of course, the man wrote off the second apartment as a business expense; when the IRS showed up (understandably), he took the auditor on a tour, including the books in the oven. Dumbfounded, the auditor finally said, "Professor, now I understand."
posted by thomas j wise at 1:23 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some of those are just stunning in their own right but Gaiman's is my favorite simply because it seems achievable and practical.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:23 PM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Jay Walker’s private library is in a class alone. There is also a famous private library in a castle in England that is out of this world, though no pics online.
posted by stbalbach at 1:27 PM on February 26, 2012


Some of those are just stunning in their own right but Gaiman's is my favorite simply because it seems achievable and practical.

Most of these are "Please, design me a really stunning Library, in which I shall store and display many fine volumes."

Gaiman's feels more like "Okay, so, I suppose I can probably fit all my books here, if I get creative with shelving. No space can be wasted, that space could be MORE BOOKS. And my comfy reading chair can totally go here! Done."
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:30 PM on February 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


These are luscious and so coincidental because I have been procrastinating a deadline today surfing office furniture and then being distracted by these reading corners and nooks. Here are more nooks and reading rooms. Maybe I can start out with a nook and work my way up.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neil Gaiman's is closest to my own ideal.

What's funny is that i have about as many books as he does (and many of the same ones), but mine are mostly scattered around my house. I have one main "room" that has Five billy ikea bookcases with extensions on the doors, and built shelves between them. Needed the doors because my house bunnies would pull the books off the lower shelves and start eating them. The rest of the books scattered around the house would easily fill five more of those, last count (five years ago, i think) i had around 2000 books, but have since gotten many, many more. :\ It's an addiction, i need help. ;)

I could live in some of these rooms alone, stick a bathroom on the side, i'd be set. What is sad though is all that i keep reading about public libraries closing, and i've lived in cities with smaller ones, that i hope some of these people who own these donate a lot to them. (i do, what i can.)
posted by usagizero at 1:34 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ok, I've had my Kindle for about two years now, and have used it almost everyday, and have pretty dramatically reduced the number of physical books I own.

Looking at these pictures makes me feel something coming very close to buyer's remorse.
posted by zardoz at 1:44 PM on February 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Lagerfeld's books arranged in stacks like that makes me twitchy.

But gimme me that Parisian dual story loft with the bed, the spiral staircase and that lovely quilt.
posted by medeine at 1:45 PM on February 26, 2012


Looking at these pictures makes me feel something coming very close to buyer's remorse.

I actually think having a Kindle is an opportunity to curate a physical library that really is like a congregation of your best friends. The very best (or at least best loved) books I read digitally go into my physical library and as a result, my library isn't a collection of books I've read but books I specifically choose to be surrounded by. I am very happy with this arrangement.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on February 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


At first I thought I liked the Costa Rica one best--I think I was swayed by the piano in there, too, and the amount of light for reading.

And then I saw the blasphemous diagonal lines across the shelves! WTF! Consumption of bookspace, and you'd have heaps of books that wouldn't fit in there, and then they'd get warped!

Okay, silly design. Gaiman's sort of library comes across as totally achievable, and I like it for its practicality--although, I must say, Manguel's has old books in it! Oooh! Me like.
posted by owlrigh at 1:59 PM on February 26, 2012


You'll have to excuse me, I've got a pony to photoshop into some pictures.
posted by mendel at 2:05 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to dream of building some sort of extravagant personal library, but as much as it surprises me to say, that dream has been deprecated. I prefer the immediacy of having my entire personal library on my iPad and iPhone. You can substitute any device you like in there mind you, the points being.. digital, portable, searchable.

To those who scoff at that... I used to be the same way. Get over it.
posted by datter at 2:19 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Naah, if I had my entire library on the pc, what would I stare at in lust and contention when looking around my room?

Sure, I guess there's always Librarything, but that's not quite the same.

I can totally understand people who like to have the books without the hassle of the physical volumes, because I'm totally like that with music which I'm happy to have only in digital form, but books to me are special and need to be physical.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2012


That's contentment, not contention. I blame my brain leaking out my node again wid dy cold.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:24 PM on February 26, 2012


Okay, silly design. Gaiman's sort of library comes across as totally achievable, and I like it for its practicality--although, I must say, Manguel's has old books in it! Oooh! Me like.

He also unashamedly has what looks like Harry Potter books on show right by them!
posted by Jehan at 2:24 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I prefer the immediacy of having my entire personal library on my iPad and iPhone. You can substitute any device you like in there mind you, the points being.. digital, portable, searchable.

...at some point in the future?

I do have a sort-of extravagant personal library, with library-style bookstacks and everything. (OK, it's reasonably extravagant.) Right now, it looks like we're years from any possible scenario in which I could swap out my collection for electronic books. Moreover, it frequently makes no economic sense to do so--university press books in my field, for example, are almost always pricier in Kindle format than they are secondhand.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:29 PM on February 26, 2012


so this is basically the most epic porn possible for me, thx.
posted by elizardbits at 2:44 PM on February 26, 2012


A couple of those totally take me back to the library in Beauty and the Beast. I'm getting nostalgic.

You can actually have this experience with much smaller numbers of books. My girlfriend has maybe six or seven bookcases full of books. I have one, because most of my books are in my parents' basement on the other side of the country. Sometimes when I go to her place I just want to read all the books.

(I usually get distracted though.)

Moreover, it frequently makes no economic sense to do so--university press books in my field, for example, are almost always pricier in Kindle format than they are secondhand.

I have this problem too. Most books I want seem to have Kindle prices which are somewhere between their used and new paper-book prices.
posted by madcaptenor at 2:47 PM on February 26, 2012


From the comments: "The librarie for José Saramago in your home “A casa” in Cannary Islands is beutiful!" WTF.
posted by unliteral at 3:23 PM on February 26, 2012


I loved the Gaiman one and the staircase library as being practical and achievable. It's just too bad that I can't think of Neil Gaiman without also thinking of that horrible leech he has stuck to his neck.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:42 PM on February 26, 2012


> But gimme me that Parisian dual story loft with the bed, the spiral staircase and that lovely quilt.

Juliette Binoche's character in Flight of the Red Balloon has one of those gorgeous Parisian apartments, complete with artfully disheveled bookshelves. I found this picture, but it doesn't really do it justice.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:59 PM on February 26, 2012


I grew up with my dad's library, 4 large bookshelves that spanned an entire wall of his den. It was filled entirely with his college books, work books and personal books. It was great as a kid to go in and be able to pick any book with no censorship. I always expected to have the same, and currently have 4 large and 2 short bookshelves containing my families books.

That said, I'm currently getting rid of almost all of the books except ones with sentimental value. I love the look of a book, but find it so much easier to read on an ebook reader. I've read more in the last 6 months, than the previous 6 years, all due to convenience and stolen time here and there.

Man, I want a personal library though!

Contrasting Donald Judd’s library to Gaiman’s is interesting, it's not the books themselves that warm a room.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:03 PM on February 26, 2012


Acquiring enough of the exact stair-sized books is important when you're learning to tread.
posted by hal9k at 4:05 PM on February 26, 2012


I had a Peter Venkman moment when I saw the Karl Lagerfeld one.

"You're right. No human being would stacks books like this."
posted by LN at 7:13 PM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


These are absolutely beautiful libraries. But they activate more my love of interior design morethan my love of books. I love the printed word and I haven't totally got the hang of an e-reader, but I feel differently about houses with rooms full of books arranged like they are some kind of smug wallpaper than I used to.

I'm with darlingbri on the idea of curating. Some of the most fascinating people I've ever met have about 20 books on one shelf. Or have no shelves, just a small pile of books next to their bed or reading lamp in the lounge room. These are often an eclectic assemblage that show a ranging, curious, questing mind. This makes me more curious than if they had a wall of bookshelves, especially shelves full of neat, unthumbed-through tomes.

About five years ago I sold or gave away most of my books, keeping the ones to which I was most sentimentally attached. I struggle to whittle right down, I doubt I will ever achieve it, but my relationship with my books has changed. I still enjoy the materiality of books as they do create a mood and space for discovery or seclusion in my home, but I'm more honest with myself about their decorating function they provide and the slight advertising tone they have of my personality. I think that is how I am tending to view this collection of photographs...
posted by honey-barbara at 8:44 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Myself, I don't think any of these are as cool as Westwind, Dean Kamen's house. That library has an actual secret passage.
posted by kaszeta at 9:25 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm envious, but even more happy. So many rich people have such appalling taste that it makes me glad to see them spending money on things that are so beautiful and utterly worthwhile.
posted by venividivici at 12:47 AM on February 27, 2012


Donald Judd’s minimalist library, Marfa, Texas.

Where, it seems,with the books kept well back and plenty of space around him, he beats horse chestnuts with a small, specially designed tool. Not too many horse chestnuts, mind you - just a couple at a time. He's not crazy.


(Yeah, I'm just jealous)
posted by Segundus at 1:31 AM on February 27, 2012


I actually like the Karl Lagerfield one. Fuck being practical, it looks great..
posted by ntrifle at 6:01 AM on February 27, 2012


The thing with Lagerfeld's is that most of those are large format art and fashion books. They're really heavy, and I know I tend to stack the (comparatively) few I own like that. I believe that's not his only library. I've seen pictures of his office where his entire desk is covered in piles of books like that, ten deep, except for a spot to write.
posted by maledictory at 8:06 AM on February 27, 2012


I used to dream of building some sort of extravagant personal library, but as much as it surprises me to say, that dream has been deprecated. I prefer the immediacy of having my entire personal library on my iPad and iPhone. You can substitute any device you like in there mind you, the points being.. digital, portable, searchable.

To those who scoff at that... I used to be the same way. Get over it.
posted by datter at 2:19 PM on February 26


Feeling a little insecure about your decision?
posted by amorphatist at 4:18 PM on February 27, 2012


I used to dream of building some sort of extravagant personal library, but as much as it surprises me to say, that dream has been deprecated. I prefer the immediacy of having my entire personal library on my iPad and iPhone. You can substitute any device you like in there mind you, the points being.. digital, portable, searchable.

To those who scoff at that... I used to be the same way. Get over it.


I do get a little tired of people saying "the things you love are being taken away, get over it" and implying that we should be happy to settle for things we think are inferior because they're trendy and/or they're more profitable for someone else.

I'm reminded of the old analog studio gear (that now sells for the price of a car) that was thrown out on curbs when the shiny digital stuff (that you barely give away) came out. Or watches, or...
posted by bongo_x at 4:38 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded of the old analog studio gear (that now sells for the price of a car) that was thrown out on curbs when the shiny digital stuff (that you barely give away) came out. Or watches, or...

Which is why I still have the Moog I bought >30 years ago (back in the 90s in SF a muso friend from Vancouver said to me, "Don't ever sell that thing!") and regret selling a few similar items (dire poverty), and have overflowing bookshelves despite also having iBooks and Kindle Reader ebooks on my iPad. (It's also nice to have a number of signed copies of books by authors I've admired, and some signed CDs by musicians I've admired, too.) I also have vinyl old and new. (My ideal library would include one long shelf just for those, especially the DnB library I bought from a DJ friend a few years ago.)

I remember some digerati commentator in Wired, or somewhere like that, noting back in the late 90's that a book was still more hi-res than any display... Maybe less true now, but should a massive EM pulse come our way...
posted by Philofacts at 5:48 PM on February 27, 2012


The thing with Lagerfeld's is that most of those are large format art and fashion books. They're really heavy, and I know I tend to stack the (comparatively) few I own like that. I believe that's not his only library. I've seen pictures of his office where his entire desk is covered in piles of books like that, ten deep, except for a spot to write.

A few books on a coffee table, sure; I do the same. But endless stacks of them six, seven, eight or more high on shelves? You said it yourself, they're really heavy. C'mon, it's a pain to get out the one at the bottom of the stack, or any of them more than one or two down from the top, should the ones above be particularly thick. (OK, maybe you could arrange stacks with thinnest books at the top of the stack. But what kind of organizational scheme is that? Don't you want to be able to find things by subject or some other useful criterion?) Build some shelves with enough headroom for even the largest tome, and arrange 'em vertically like any other books. It'll be a lot easier to access them, and, I'd bet, a more efficient use of space, too, even with the differing heights. Public libraries don't stack their tomes flat like that.

I'd also bet, as a relative of mine mused when she saw that pic, that he has a flunky or two to file (and I use that word loosely) and retrieve things for him. Not the kind of mind I'd want designing anything for me. It suggests wasteful/lazy habits, translating to an inflated price tag for the work.
posted by Philofacts at 6:17 PM on February 27, 2012


Maybe less true now, but should a massive EM pulse come our way...

I don’t know if you’re kidding, but that is a scenario so devastating that it seems someone is going to make it happen. My DVD and music collections will be useless, but not my books. I guess I better think about how to store a huge amount of candles.
posted by bongo_x at 7:09 PM on February 27, 2012


Half kidding. (I think of that event in Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World.)
posted by Philofacts at 8:49 PM on February 27, 2012


Philofacts: "A few books on a coffee table, sure; I do the same. But endless stacks of them six, seven, eight or more high on shelves? You said it yourself, they're really heavy."

Yeah, I believe that's actually really bad for the books to be stored like that.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:32 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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