Traditional vs. Modern Home Libraries: 7 Key Differences

A home library makes a charming addition to any home, but how should you decorate it?  When examining traditional vs. modern home libraries, 7 key differences are noticeable. If you yearn for a home library but are as yet undecided about the style you want, these factors may help you decide.

Modern Home Libraries

These are the general features of successful modern home libraries.

Furniture and Decor

Any home library needs at least one wooden table. But you don’t have to have a classic or antique piece in there if you’d prefer a modern aesthetic. You also don’t have to sacrifice your principles, because there’s a sustainable, eco-friendly alternative that is also modern and practical. 

A modular, Transformer Table will turn any modern home library into a multi-functional space that still has a classic look. Contemporary, ergonomic furniture, metal and glass shelving units, and a few abstract artworks or a statement sculpture complete the look.

Colour Schemes

Modern home library colour schemes generally include neutrals like beige or taupe, or monochromatic shades – think white, black and varying shades of grey. While this can look very elegant and provide a calm ambience, a few pops of more vibrant colour will add a modern touch.


The modern home library is often a multi-functional space, used not only for reading but also as a home office and more. You may prefer to sit and enjoy reading on your digital e-reader more often than not. But there will be a need for multi-functional zones. 

A modern home library that also serves as a home office, needs sufficient wall sockets near the desk for computers or other tech equipment. To avoid a cluttered look, a cable tidying system is a necessity. The steel and glass look is ideal for a home office/library combo.


Because of the multipurpose nature of many modern home offices, adequate lighting is essential. LED and recessed lighting provide ample light without encroaching on the space. Smart lighting controls that can be automated to dim after work hours turn the space from a brightly lit office to a cosy home library.

Personalisation and Flexibility

The modern home library style is highly customizable, adapting to changing life circumstances. Renovations are made simpler, as the basic furnishings can successfully pair with most decor trends. This makes the modern approach the most versatile of all.


If you’re planning to sell your investment property, a certain amount of refurbishment and redecorating may be in order. Unique features, like a home library, add a touch of charm that could influence prospective buyers. A sleek, modern theme may be a more affordable option than a traditional one. 

Summary of Design Elements

Clean lines and minimalist aesthetics are the hallmarks of a modern home library. This is ideal for modern properties with smaller rooms.

Sleek, modular shelving units and the use of glass and metal create a look that is contemporary yet stylish. Cool neutrals or monochromatic shades make the area look spacious and serene. A pop of bold colour here and there will prevent the room from looking too austere.

Traditional Home Libraries

These are the general features of stylish and traditional home libraries.

Furniture and Decor

Antique chairs and desks are the obvious choice for a traditional home library. If you’re unable, due to budget constraints or time, to find all the items you’re after, consider reproduction pieces. They can look quite authentic, at a fraction of the price. 

Leather upholstery, chandeliers, and wall sconces are the finishing touches that enhance the look. The floor should preferably be wood, polished to a rich sheen, and adorned with an area rug or two. Alternatively, luxe deep-pile wall-to-wall carpeting in a deep red, brown or rust shade adds high style.

Colour Schemes

We’re not always consciously aware of it, but we’re affected by the colours around us. Colours affect the way you think, and different colours evoke different emotions. In a traditional home library, rich, warm colours and earthy tones complement the classic furnishings. These also have a soothing effect.


 If you have curated an impressive collection of the classics, the traditional theme will do them justice. The emphasis here is on your books themselves. Everything else is there to showcase them. However, that does not mean that furnishings are not comfortable – quite the contrary.

Besides a beautiful desk and ceiling-to-floor bookshelves, a cosy reading nook with a comfortable armchair is usually the only other furnishings. However, a little side table is a handy addition for a cup of tea while enjoying a good book. Antique furnishings are often bulkier and thus work best in larger spaces.


Traditional themes require soft, ambient lighting to fit with the furnishings and colour scheme. A chandelier overhead reading lamps on the desk and perhaps a side table will suit this style, well. A higher ceiling is needed for a chandelier, so bear this in mind if you’re creating a traditional home library.

Personalisation and Flexibility

While the traditional look is beautifully enhanced with classic collectables, family heirlooms and framed portraits, opportunities for customization are extremely limited. Revamping a traditional home library, because of the distinctive and high-value pieces, is always a costly affair.


Genuine antique furnishings and decor items are, despite their age, usually very expensive, although they can be considered investment pieces. How much are you prepared to spend on your home library depends largely on whether it’s a rented or bought property

Summary of Design Elements

A traditional approach is best suited to stately homes and older properties, because of their architectural details and spacious interiors. Larger rooms are best for this style.

A traditional home library is best achieved with classic, possibly antique furniture and bookshelves, or reproductions of these. Dark wood finishes, and warm earthy tones or rich, warm hues, create a calm and peaceful atmosphere while making the space look cosy. Ornate details and moulding complete the look.


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