Reading Over Your Shoulder: Bookshelves Behind Sofas

We may be moving into the Age of the iPad and the Kindle, but real printed-on-paper books–with their irreplaceable mix of aesthetic, sensual, and intellectual delights–are not going to disappear any time soon. One of the great pleasures for an interior designer is accommodating  a client’s library, and one of the most satisfying solutions is to  put shelves behind a comfortable sofa, so that favorite books are always within arm’s reach. Here are some winning examples of this time-tested strategy by members of Designers Collaborative.

Books behind a sofa in an East Hampton library-dining room by Tim Button and Stedila Design

Tim Button: At Stedila Design we created a warm and welcoming reading nook in this small East Hampton dining room/library by dedicating an entire wall to shelving. In front we put an alcove-spanning settee, mounting sconces at each end for great reading light. It’s an open invitation to curl up with a good book.

Books behind a sofa in a library by Glenn Gissler

Glenn Gissler: This Manhattan apartment library uses many of the reading room’s classic elements–floor-to-ceiling shelves, leather-upholstered sofas, a patterned rug, table lamps–but thanks to the careful use of proportion, color, and scale, the feeling is lightly modern rather than heavily traditional.

Books behind a sofa in a library by Barry Goralnick

Barry Goralnick: I designed this understated study/guest room in a large Central Park West apartment for an author and professor. The wife of an acclaimed actor, she wanted a table, not a desk, so we purchased this one from Lee Calicchio Antiques. The sofa, a custom sleeper of my design, sits in a niche surrounded by handsome mahogany bookshelves and cabinets; the adjacent window provides excellent light for reading. The William Freed painting over the table is from Acme Fine Art in Boston.

Books behind a sofa in Michael Kors apartment designed by Glenn Gissler

  Glenn Gissler: Almost like an abstract work of art, book-lined shelves add a dash of color to the mostly black, brown, and white palette of this Greenwich Village penthouse apartment I designed for fashion maestro Michael Kors. The sofa and coffee table are modern classics by Florence Knoll.  

Books behind a sofa in a library by Bruce Bierman

Bruce Bierman: The all-red palette used in this small New York City library integrates the elements–the sofa almost seems a part of the shelving–but the subtle interplay of the different surface textures, from glossy enamel to the wool carpeting, creates welcome visual interest.  

Bookshelve beside a sofa in an apartment by Tim Button and Stedila Design

Tim Button: The bookshelves in the library of this Chestnut Hill, MA, house were originally light oak, but we stained them dark to add character to the room. The high-back sofa is slightly curved for a feeling of cozy enclosure.