Design Heaven // The Library.


Screw kindles, I still like my books where I can see them, color coded on my bookshelf! (Jk Jk, I haven’t color coded since 2008.) This new book, The Library: A World History, by Dr James Campbell, an expert in architecture at Cambridge University, who spent three years traveling the globe and shooting with photographer Will Pryce. HOT DAMN! We talk about design porn and book porn all the time over here in Blog Land and MY GOD if these aren’t some of the sexiest, most insane libraries I’ve every seen. They are straight up Beauty and the Beast, Belle in the yellow dress fantasy levels of amazing. (Mom, if you’re reading, this post is for you!!) 

Dr Campbell, 45, says that his favorite is the library at Admont Abbey in Austria, the largest monastery library in the world, pictured above.


Dr Campbell says that although public libraries are being closed in Europe but in other parts of the world they are being built, including the ultra-modern National Library of China in Beijing.


This, one, The Codrington Library at All Souls College in Oxford, is a little slice of heaven. Those floors! That gray. Wooden desks. It’s amazingly on trend. (I really hate myself for even saying that.) But this should be inspiration for someone’s house. Take it and run, people!


Biblioteca Joanina, in Coimbra, Portugal

The Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Yes, I could live here. This is what I would imagine a library designed by Tom Ford would look like.


Mafra Palace Library, in Mafra, Portugal


The Tripitaka Koreana at the Haeinsa Temple in South Korea
And that top photo: George Peabody Library, Baltimore! Who knew?!? I would have bet on Europe.

Which one is your favorite?! I’m torn between Baltimore and Paris.

Put this on your holiday gift/wish list.

The Library: A World History, photos via The Daily Mail. 

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  1. Morgan says:

    All of them beautiful and grand. But I have been using little nondescript neighborhood libraries for many years. I don’t really care about the architectural styles. I do care about how the library is run. Here is Houston I have complained about the noise level and was told by the head librarian that contemporary library management has a higher threshold for noise than in the past. So now I quit going. Off topic, I know. Libraries use to be a sanctuary for me but is no more.

  2. I love a well-designed library–it’s a special kind of design porn…

    Was the library at Trinity College (Dublin) featured? That’s my favorite of those I’ve seen in person. I visited years ago and I knew instantly that it was the kind of memory that would stick with me forever. Closer to home, I went to the Library of Congress not too long ago, and now I think it’s one of the most underrated places in DC. It’s gorgeous, and the tour was really interesting. But now I must make a trip up to Baltimore, because that looks absolutely breathtaking!

  3. Jeannetta says:

    Illumination! What a glorious abundance of sacred spaces! :) This is the first time I have seen my relationship to books and libraries as that of a lover…the heart skips a beat, the breath catches as a feeling of awe and ineffable appreciation links mind and heart spreading to encompass one’s being…book and design porn…I get it! I have tried to deny it with the sleek, efficient, technology offered by my nook, but there it is…a love synonymous with beauty, grace, and passion…not to be denied and definitely to be celebrated. Thank you :)

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      This might be the most awesome I’ve ever gotten on the blog. Brava!

  4. Simply gorgeous! I’ve always been a fan of libraries (my mother was a children’s librarian and I probably spent hours and hours on end hanging out in them as a child) My nickname as a child was bookworm too! :) That being said I don’t think I’ve been in a library as grand and gracious as the ones above. I would gladly move into the Austrian one!

  5. Zunni says:

    I’m buying this book! Looks wonderful. I rarely comment, which is a little rude, so I’ll take the time to say thanks for the brilliant content in this blog. You always make me look at the world anew, your content is often thought-provoking and your photos are marvellous. Keep up the splendid work. Thank you.

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      Thank you! What a lovely compliment. Really makes me happy to hear that!

  6. Jen V says:

    Nicole, a little late with my comment but when I saw this last week it made me so happy! One of my favorite posts ever. I have added a few of these to my travel wish list, specifically the Admont Abbey Library and Baltimore. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  7. The one you featured from Portugal is my favorite on your list. Here in Boston we are lucky to have two gorgeous libraries – the Boston Public Central Library and the members only Athenaeum. I would happily take up residence in either!