“A room without books is like a body without a soul,” said the philosopher Cicero, and some ravenous readers take this bit of wisdom to the extreme, collecting tome after tome until their homes look like the coziest of libraries. Books contain virtually endless fonts of knowledge, not to mention opportunities to escape into different worlds altogether, and their presence definitely adds a heft and soulfulness to any space. Many of us have organized entire rooms around our carefully curated book collections, but how about the entire house?
In this home just outside Paris, books literally form the foundation of the second floor, acting as load-bearing supports that help transition the space from one level to the next. With everything else in the home painted white, the built-in beechwood shelving units really shine, drawing the eye toward the spines of the books the owners have so lovingly acquired and displayed.
Italian architect Andrea Mosca first found the home in a sad state, as it was a dark, deteriorating space in dire need of a renovation. The buyers had just spent time staying at a friend’s house that was also under renovation, with a huge, wall-sized bookshelf in the process of construction. Inspired by what they saw, they asked Mosca to create something similar for their new residence.
The result is the three-story, aptly named Bookshelf House, designed for a family of five, with two oversized bookshelves as its centerpiece. The main bookshelf, located along the left wall, reaches from the floor all the way up through the ceiling of the double-height living room. Its stepped design follows the adjacent stairs leading to the second floor, acting as a banister as well as a beautiful showcase for the family’s numerous books.
On the opposite wall, an additional bookshelf acts as a support column, display and room divider in one, separating the living room from the dining room. A sliding mirrored door reflects the opposite bookcase, making the room appear even more full of books than it really is, not to mention larger and brighter.
The beechwood built-ins continue on the second level, with two similarly stepped dividers providing privacy for a small study and the entrance to the bedrooms. Each one features a three-shelf display on the end. The minimalist color palette and carefully chosen materials give the space a clean and organized yet warm and welcoming atmosphere.
“In this project, we tried to create a main thread which draws the principles of internal space of this villa to modulate it,” says Mosca. “This was the key element which now guides the circulations and movements between the various volumes. This carpentered set which acts as a mark in the house allows us to remodel the high volume of the living room, it leads a fluid movement which develops along both levels.”
“So a big bookcase takes shape in the main room to become a functional lifeline which sublimates the existing staircase and finally splits up in isolated elements which bound the office, allowing an open intimacy.”