Halstock, one of the country’s leading cabinet makers, has recently been busy making a lot of very beautiful shelving, because, rather improbably, private libraries are making a comeback.
Kindles may be convenient and ingenious but they don’t provide the nostalgic smell of an old first edition, have beautiful dust jackets that perfectly capture the period when a book was written, or provide the feel of hand-tooled leather.Nor will they appreciate in value or display a person’s knowledge and literary taste like a library. So perhaps it isn’t that surprising that Halstock’s team of craftsmen are getting so booked up.
Hugh Petter of Adam Architecture, one of the leading traditional architects in Europe, says, “Some people love books and others don’t, but libraries are definitely back in vogue. With the move towards large, open-plan living spaces, libraries are often combined with dining rooms or studies. Books have a decorative function and they can also be used to hide anything from a ‘secret’ door to all sorts of audio visual kit.”
“When shelving and any surrounding panelling is being built, it is important to work with craftsmen who understand the character of the building and who can therefore be relied on to create something which resonates with the rest of the room or house. A good cabinet maker will echo a room’s architecture down to the smallest details. There is nothing worse than long flat shapeless shelves, a vertical emphasis leads to a much more graceful result.”
“On a more practical level,” says Halstock’s MD, Richard Miller, “considerations include the overall weight of books, any very small or oversize volumes, and the way in which a client would like them to be arranged. One person may like to have them ordered thematically or by the author, while another may prefer to group them by size or even colour. We can use almost any wood and replicate or create any architectural details. Clients can choose from the wood, to the fluting of the columns and, if they want them, letters of the alphabet to help them find their Atwoods and Austins from their Brontes and Byatts.”
“There is a growing trend towards intelligent luxury,” adds Philip Blackwell of Ultimate Library, a company that sources books for individuals as well as hotels. “Whether in a library or just stacked on a coffee table, books add warmth, texture and soul, which is increasingly important as people’s taste changes from minimalism to more opulent and stylish surroundings.”
Collecting books on a subject you are passionate about, deciding which novels deserve to make the cut (or not) and choosing which books to select for a guest’s bedside table, are all part of the joys of having your own library. Having a room where most of a home’s books reside not only creates a focus, it provides a real insight into whoever has created it. A good library can be an extraordinarily personal space as well as a retreat into which others can happily escape.