Seating speaks volumes in library

September 19, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Q: We recently purchased a home that has a beautifully paneled library with plenty of shelves and storage areas. This large and elegant space could be made into a fabulous room if it were given an 18th-century period styling. However, the library will be used as a home office, so I plan to furnish it in a comfortable, contemporary manner. Do you have some suggestions for how to proceed?

A: You must certainly maximize the potential of such a room while ensuring it meets all your functional needs. Since the storage already seems adequate, I suggest you focus first on other necessities, such as lighting, and on basic design elements, such as flooring and window coverings.

Regardless of the style in which it is to be furnished, a home office requires the very latest in lighting technology.

Use indirect lighting to wash the bookshelves and walls. Recessed ceiling fixtures would probably be appropriate in the sort of setting you describe, as would free-standing floor lamps that could reflect light from a ceiling painted in a pale color. I also recommend adjustable reading lamps for desk tops and for tables next to armchairs.

Lighting fixtures need not make a major design statement. That's true even -- or perhaps especially -- in a beautifully detailed room. The primary purpose of lighting in most settings, including yours, is functional rather than decorative.

Be sparing in your use of prints, both for wall-coverings and for fabrics. Stripes and geometric patterns will look better in an Old World sort of library than will florals. The materials should have a pronounced texture, with leather being perhaps the most obvious choice.

As for the furnishings, this photo shows that a contemporary seating area can be seamlessly adapted to a library with a European-style interior that features exquisitely detailed cabinetry and marquetry flooring. The desk and other office furniture can follow in the same mode. In fact, the more highly styled and contemporary-looking the furnishings are, the more effectively will they work in this kind of mix.

The furniture does, however, need to be of the highest quality and the most tasteful design. Its lines and proportions must complement the room's architecture.

If you're not sure about those factors, I advise you stay with the so-called classics. That doesn't mean that the furniture has to be stodgily traditional. Certain contemporary styles can also qualify classical. Again, it's all a matter of choosing designs that have been created with as much loving attention and with the same aesthetic integrity as the room itself.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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