Before & after: a dark, welcoming library

7/26/2016 09:00:00 am HELEN STILES 0 Comments

Time for the last before & after from my recent interior design project – the library. I should point out that the clients don't call it a library, more of a second sitting room or back sitting room, but in my head it's the library because of all the books they wanted to store (see, there is logic there).

I actually intended to post this on Monday, but childcare is pretty ad hoc at the moment and the summer holidays have added a new level of complication. (Still, our new au pair started yesterday so hopefully that will allow me to deliver my upcoming projects and achieve some work life balance for the next few weeks!) But back to the main point of this post, the before and afters!!


As with the other rooms in this house, there was a lovely fireplace, fabulous original cornicing and a swirly feature wall! It was definitely time to bring this room up to date and make it work for our book-loving clients. 


The aim was to provide some stylish but functional storage, whilst making this room work as a cosy den for reading, gaming and TV-watching.  I wanted to add some drama and a more masculine/gentleman's club feel (if you saw the before and after of the downstairs loo last week, then you'll know we'd definitely got some feminine into this house already). Besides, this room gets less light than the main living room and I often find it's best to embrace that when decorating. 


We gave the room quite a masculine vibe – with a predominantly black, white and red colour scheme. I just love the black over-the-door bookshelves and woodwork (that black door looks soooo much cooler than the stripped wood). The black is echoed in the cast iron fire surround and mirror, adding plenty of drama. Taking the bookshelves over the door not only minimises dead space (above and to the left of the door) but also looks far more impressive and intentional, while continuing the shelves around the corner into one alcove (defying the usual rule of using matching alcove units) creates a nice touch of asymmetry. The right hand alcove, which is out of shot, is much wider and contains a long, low black shelf for media and a wall mounted TV. The overall effect might be asymmetric, but is still nicely balanced (if you forgo symmetry, you still need to provide balance). 


The lovely black and natural baskets at the bottom of the bookshelves are perfect for hiding less attractive toys and clutter (from Habitat). 


The light is from John Lewis (the original plan was to have a Tom Dixon copper pendant – but whilst it looked beautiful, it didn't really light the room as much as was required). I love the simple shape of this ribbon pendant, which also casts lovely shadows on the walls and ceiling when lit. The wall lights fixed to the over-the-door bookshelves are by Original BTC and are simple, elegant and do their job.


With the drama of those shelves, we didn't need too much in the way of accessories. The red, black and white rug is a vintage Moroccan Azilal – it has an almost Aztec feel to it and brings some warmth into the room. The sofa was the clients' existing sofa – they considered replacing or reupholstering it, but I think actually it works rather well – it's a little battered in places, but that just adds to the overall comfortable, 'come in, grab a book and sit down' feel of this room. 

The clients added kilim cushions in black and natural tones that work really well with the scheme, and we threw in a vintage red Kantha cushion to tie in the reds. 

I can just imagine sitting here on a chilly evening with a crackling fire and a glass of red. I only hope the clients feel the same! If you liked this post, then why not check out the before & afters of the other rooms in this house: dining roomliving roompowder room.

(All 'after' photography thanks to Carole Poirot).