A few years ago I converted a guest bedroom into a small home office library and it’s still one of my favorite rooms in the house. So I’m sharing all my ideas for getting that cozy library feeling in a small space.
The third bedroom in my house is a tiny room that only has one saving grace…a nice big window that faces east.
That east-facing window makes this room very bright in the morning.
Which is nice if you’re sitting in the room drinking a coffee.
But not so good if you’re trying to sleep in.
Since I don’t need a third bedroom, but I’ve always wanted a home library with a desk, I decided to make the room into a small but cozy home office library.
The “Before” Bedroom
This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission if you buy the products from these links (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But we only recommend products we would use ourselves. For more information, click here to see our disclosures.
Here’s the room before (sorry for the really bad picture).
It was all beige with no architectural interest whatsoever, and a big fan in the middle of the ceiling. Definitely not the classic library ambiance.
And as you can see, it’s quite small, about 10′ x 10′.
1 | Choose a dark paint color
I have always liked the look of dark paneled libraries. To me, they feel very warm and cozy.
And I decided to go as dark as it gets. Black.
To be specific, Valspar’s Dark Kettle Black* in a semi-gloss finish.
Which is a rich color that has purple undertones but looks dark black on the wall. With a little bit of shine to help bounce some light around the room.
Now, I know you might be thinking…doesn’t painting a small room a dark color make it look even smaller?
Actually, no. Not if you paint the walls and ceiling the same color so you don’t really see the change from walls to ceiling. Combined with the dark color, that makes the walls look like they are receding.
Just make sure you have enough light in the room to keep it from feeling like a cave.
2 | Upgrade the ceiling
I love decorated ceilings. Especially in small rooms that don’t take long to do and make an impact without being too overwhelming.
Since this room has a popcorn ceiling, I decided that covering it with faux tin ceiling tiles would be the way to go.
That way I don’t have to see the popcorn and the faux tin adds some architectural interest to my otherwise boring room.
For more details, read how to install styrofoam ceiling tiles.
3 | Add floor to ceiling bookcases
The next thing I needed were some bookcases. It wouldn’t be a library without them.
And I wanted them to cover the whole wall.
To make the best use of space in the room, I decided to create a built-in floor to ceiling bookshelf around the closet.
It’s a wall that wouldn’t really be useful for any other purpose so it’s a great use of space in a small room.
That gives me 2 large bookcases on either side of the closet and one shelf across the top of the doors. Lots of room for books!
You could also use store-bought bookshelves. But it’s hard to find ones that are tall enough to go all the way to the ceiling. And I think the extra height really adds to the library vibe.
The final step was to move the closet doors out so that they lined up with the edge of the bookshelves.
Which ended up making the closet bigger. A win, win situation if you ask me!
4 | Install crown moldings and baseboards
To make the bookcases look like they have always been there, and give the room a more polished look, I installed crown molding around the top of the walls and bookshelves.
And did the same with the baseboards at the bottom of the walls and shelves.
If you are planning to install baseboards around the bottom of your bookcases, make sure the bottom shelf is at the same height as the top of the baseboards.
That way you have something to attach the baseboards to, and it will give the shelves a finished look.
5 | Add wall panels
When I think of warm and cozy library rooms, I always think of paneled walls.
But I didn’t want the expense of real wood panels.
So I installed small picture moldings to create the look of them.
There is one row of panels on the top of the wall and one row of panels on the bottom half of the wall.
In the top panels, I hung wallpaper that has a reflective gold pattern on it. This helps to bounce more light around the room.
The pattern is called Geo Teardrop from York Wallcovering’s Opulence pattern book. And I think Opulent is the right term for it!
6 | Find a desk
Of course, a home office library wouldn’t be complete without a desk to work at.
I fell in love with this one from ZGallerie.com, and decided I had to have it for my library.
It’s actually the only furniture purchase I made for this room, so I splurged!
And it’s still one of my favorite pieces of furniture.
7 | Install lighting
I think every room deserves a chandelier and my library / home office is no different!
Since the ceiling is only 8 feet high, I had to go with one that was close to the ceiling. This one fit the bill perfectly!
I added a DIY ceiling medallion around the chandelier that really makes it look dramatic.
Get the step-by-step instructions for making the DIY lace ceiling medallion.
Because the room is small, it doesn’t have a lot of room for table lamps.
So I decided to have a hardwired pendant light installed in the corner.
It has it’s own switch with a dimmer which gives me control over when it is turned on and how bright to make it.
8 | Create a reading nook
Every library needs a place to sit and read a book.
It should have a comfortable place to sit, a reading lamp and a table to put down a drink.
I wanted to bring the black velvet loveseat down from my bonus room. So my placement options were limited since it only fits on one wall.
However, it doesn’t take up too much floor space and is exactly the right length to allow 2 side tables and a reading lamp.
Normally, though, I would use a chair in a small room like this since it gives you more layout options.
If you need help with the furniture arrangement, take a look at the different home office library layouts I came up with for this room.
9 | Hang curtains
In small rooms, I like to hang the curtains right at the ceiling and all the way across the wall (not just covering the window).
That makes the walls look taller and the window look bigger.
It also means when the curtains are open, they are covering wall space rather than window. So you can let as much natural light into the room as possible.
These curtains are actually made from upholstery fabric (which is a little hard to work with when it comes to curtains!), but I loved the gold and black pattern.
My mother did the sewing (as usual) and created a valance which is layers of fabric going horizontally, as well as 2 wide vertical panels for the sides.
10 | Put down an area rug
Adding an area rug feels warm and cozy under foot.
And ties the whole room together.
11 | Add office storage
Since the room needed to double-duty as an office and a library, I needed space for storing office accessories.
The expanded closet really came in handy for the bigger things like the printer. Adding some puck lights above them makes everything easy to see.
I also made a DIY filing cabinet out of an old closet organizer to go with the desk.
It’s on wheels and fits under the desk (or anywhere else I want to roll it).
To find out more, read how to make an industrial DIY filing cabinet.
12 | Finish with Accessories
The final touch was to add some accessories.
In my library, I wanted to use things that have memories or meaning attached to them. It makes the space feel warmer.
On the pedestal is a decanter set my parents got for a wedding gift. The gold obviously fits in with the room decor and the wine colored glass picks up the background color of the wallpaper.
The globe reminds me of the traveling I have done (and all that I still want to do!)
Music has always been a big part of my life, so these music-related wall sculptures were the perfect addition to this room.
The Finished Room
Now that my home office is finished, I have a great desk to do some work.
And a very comfortable reading area. (This is what you see from the door)
The bookshelves give me lots of space to store my books on a wall that couldn’t really be used for anything else.
And the closet space gives me lots of room for storing office supplies that’s convenient but out of the way.
So the whole area works perfectly as my home office library.
Other home library ideas you might like
- Small home library design ideas
- Small living room library makeover
- DIY bookshelf makeovers
- How to style a bookshelf
Have comments or questions on how to create a small home office library? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on January 18, 2016 but was updated with new content on July 6, 2023.