Design Crush: Dine-In Libraries

By Kate Riley June 20, 2013

I have a crush on built-in bookcases in all rooms, home offices of course, living rooms, family rooms, and bedrooms too. Another place I love to see bookcases is situated in formal dining rooms (and decorated with actual books!) so that the space possesses a library-esque feel. 

The dine-in library holds practical appeal as well – it’s a place where books and collectibles are on display and where meals are also enjoyed. Feed the mind and the stomach at the same time! Mix in pottery, dishes, books, collectibles, and artwork and how cozy a dining room becomes when a wall (or two) is dedicated to display. The large table and chairs in the middle makes the space a place for a transitional home office as well.

My sister in law homeschools her younger kids and uses their formal dining room as the schoolroom during the day. The upper shelves on the hutch store dishes, art, and collectibles, and the hidden storage below houses the schooling materials. The room quickly transforms into an elegant space for formal meals, so it multitasks in the best way possible.

I can’t achieve the look in my own home with a dining room situated in an open space, but I’ve made a mental note of the look for any future homes or spaces. Today I thought I’d share a few favorite dine-in library looks, from fresh and bright to dark and dramatic and everything in between. Notice how the bookcases add an air of sophistication and the mix of all styles, contemporary and traditional.

dining room bookshelves

Diana Bergeron


library dining room klikk


   white bookshelves in dining room

via Casa Sugar


built in library

El Mueble


tulip chairs in library

source unknown, via


dine in library lonny



dining room library 2 house and home

House to Home


bookshelves in dining room apt therapy

Apartment Therapy


bookcases in dining room lonny



dine in library house beautiful

House Beautiful


dine in library

dark library shelves with dining table

sources unknown


green library bookcases

dark bookcases tufted bench

sources unknown


dine in library elle decor

Elle Decor 


I also love the idea of giving the corner of a living room or sitting room a dine-in library feel with a pedestal and two chairs. Use it to stage a vignette, as a spot for a casual lunch, or as a game table, or place to catch up on emails with your laptop.

lynn nesbit library elle decor

Elle Decor 

diana bergeron pedestal table in library

Diana Bergeron

If you’re looking for great examples of built in bookcase styling, check out my So Stylish board on Pinterest for 200+ more vignette and styling ideas.  

Would you ever convert your dining room into a shared library space?  .  .


** some sources unknown, if you know, please share :)


  1. I love this post because this is exactly what I did with my dining room! A lot of these photos were part of my inspiration. I didn’t need such a large dining space, but I did need room for all my books.

    It’s easily my favorite room in the house. :)

  2. You always know when people aren’t really readers -and book lovers- but fake it by staging/decorating with thrift store books in the right colors. A dead giveaway are Readers Digest Condensed Books with their distinctive spines. Why bother? They should decorate with something they REALLY DO love!

    I love the feel of the last room with two comfy chairs and the round table between. Not really a dining room–more of library. And I want to EAT that tall, bright space in the first photo!

  3. Same here! I just love built-in bookcases. My dining room is one room with the kitchen so i dont really have any wall space to put in one, but I definitely love the coziness that they add.

  4. Love this! We turned our formal living room into a library, but I would love to add bookcases to our dining room. One of my favorite restaurants growing up had a wall of books next to the dining tables.

  5. We also had a formal dining room that we turned into a library and love it. I love having all the books out in the open for everyone to see and choose from. We have a small area that has doors on it for the kids games and crafts. We are in the process of finding comfy chairs a small table and a reading lights. On a side note, I put up the beadboard wallpaper in my hallway (I was inspired from your bathroom makeover) and loved it, gave the hallway some character, but sadly our cat loved it to and has since been using it as her scratching post and it is now very shredded and looks like crap, sad face. I will be spending a weekend soon scrapping it off and applying real wood or painting it. A word of caution to cat people and this wall paper.

    • Oh no Sheri!!!! Our cat did the same to one panel of beadboard wallpaper when she was a kitty, the one under the toilet paper roll. She destroyed it with her TP attacks! Thankfully that phase is over, but I did have to replace it and had just enough left over to mend the wall. #peskycritter

  6. Well….we finally disagree Kate! ;) I turned my living room into a library/den. The idea was to sit by the fireplace and read….don’t shoot me now….but I find bookshelves (loaded with books) very cluttered! My taste has change so much! The mis matched look of the bindings, colors, sizes, well it just drives me crazy now! Don’t really care for an ebook either….Ah well. Life is full of compromise right? ;)

    • Ha Ms. Lizzy! At last! It’s not for everyone that’s for sure, if you like a more minimalist space or one without too many objects. :) But I think we agree on this: always make your home work for you! :)

  7. I was just showing my husband a pic of a dining library. He’s on board, now we just need a plan! I love the idea of feeding your mind as well as your stomach.

  8. I love the idea, love the books. Love the first photo. Sadly my dining room is too small.

  9. I love the look and idea of this! I always loved the idea of using my ~future~ dining room table for arts and crafts with kids, homework, a place to put the laptop, coloring and everything else when its not used for big meals. I think its a great idea to utilize the space more, and with books in the room it gives it more of a relaxed ‘den’ feel. I think people just need to not be afraid of messing up their furniture!

  10. We’re remodeling a recently purchased home and I explained this library-dining room concept to my husband today in fact! He likes the idea. Thanks for this very timely post.

  11. I LOVE books, and I LOVE eating! So I thought I would really get down with this. But I didn’t see a single example that appealed to me at all; they all felt incongruous—like the table was plopped down anywhere just for now, and the food was being carried into a sacred spot and was spoiling it. So I thank you for finding and posting all these images! It is almost as important in these inspiration blogs, like yours, to discover what we definitely don’t like, as what we definitely do!

  12. Ever since I saw a library dining room on one of Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows that were done in her home, I’ve always thought it was great use of a formal dining room!

    I can’t do it in my current home because of the high ceilings, but it’s on my future wants list!!!

    Great Post!!!

  13. Awesome idea. Dining room in library looks really cool. All designs are impressive and helpful to makeover dining room. Thanks for share.

  14. I have to agree with Ms. Lizzy. I’m an avid reader and my books don’t match in size or colour and it would look too much like clutter to me. My dining chairs aren’t what I’d like to curl up in and have a good read either. My library is where the computer is situated along with a comfy chair to curl up in.

  15. As I was looking at these photos I was thinking ‘well, it had to happen sooner or later. I finally disagree with Kate! ;)

    I feel exactly the same as Allyson and Miss Lizzy. Except for the Lonny pics, they all look like offices to me and the tables were an afterthought. And all that visual clutter would drive me nuts!

    I would love to have a library someday. Something small and cozy, with a big cushy chair and a fireplace…and no dining table!

  16. There’s something about looking at these beautiful pictures that reminds of being back east and a little reminiscent of the past. I hope this tradition will carry on in future generations but with everything available with a flick of click I’m not so sure. Let’s keep this going for our kids to remember the feeling we get cuddled up in a corner with a good book in hand. Thanks for sharing with us.

  17. I’m not a great decorator. I love so many different types of things that I’ve often made a mess in a room of incongruous stuff. So take what I say with a grain of salt. I adore books and have a lot of them. But to me the dining spaces with so many books is too visually stimulating. It would be hard for me to relax and enjoy a good meal. If it had to be that way for space issues, plenty of light and bright could make it work. We still haven’t unpacked our books (after 1 1/2 years at our new house) because I’m searching for a place for them that won’t look cluttered. And the, in comparison, nearly empty rooms and walls are a breath of fresh air compared to our prior home.

  18. I love a wall of bookshelves filled with books. It makes the space feel so cozy. We have an eat in kitchen (which I love) but it leaves no space for bookshelves in there. We’re planning a wall of built ins for all my books in the livingroom and I can’t wait.

  19. Ms. Lizzy-have you thought of covering the books with a kraft paper or burlap etc? Kind of labor intensive but then then you would have a nice cohesive look and avoid all the visual clutter.

  20. I really want to do this now. I’ve seen pictures like these and loved the look. My home is really short of storage space, too. My dining room is actually the biggest room in the house – totally wasted as a single purpose space.

  21. @ Sarah ~ I have seen that look, and I loved it. YES I actually did consider it! But again yes too labor intensive, since I have shelves and shelves of books my TBDHH (The Big Daddy Hunk Husband) will just not part with.

    @ Kate….and once again…you’re inside my head…..My exact thought was “but we agree that our homes are exactly that, OUR homes, and need to be used as what suits the fam!” :) ;)

  22. I’m right there with you! I absolutely love the look of built in libraries. I think I once fell in love with the idea when I met a woman who said “Books should be displayed and enjoyed, it’s the only real way to show off what we have learned”. Smart woman. I don’t have a place for built ins, but I do have bookshelves scattered all around the house.

  23. Well, there ya go again, Kate, putting up a post with uncanny timing! Just “hacked” my 20-year-old floor-to-ceiling, cornered-wall-to-cornered-wall Ikea bookcases into “built-ins” with crown molding, trim, shoe molding and three coats of fresh white gloss. And added Watercolor Blue to the backs. Took me weeks and weeks, but so worth it. In the dining room, no less. But I gave away hundreds of books to the local library and kept only my favorites to lighten things up a bit. Yeah — they’re arranged by color and height. Yeah — corny, I know. But a lovely place with the afternoon sun streaming in through a huge picture window and beat up old farmhouse table.

  24. Oh my! These beautiful spaces combine two of my favourite things – books and food. I’ve always struggled with dining room decor but this is marvelous, so elegant and cosy, and of course the double functionality is always a bonus.

  25. The previous owners of our house had bookshelves along a whole wall and unfortunately it made the room feel really dark and a lot smaller. If you can do it without compromising on light then great!

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.*