Incredible Reading Rooms Around the World


We love libraries, have a soft spot for bookmobiles, can’t get enough of bookstores, and we really enjoy bars we can read in. We’re always in search of cozy, beautiful places to curl up with a good book, so when we saw that New York’s modern furniture company Vitsoe was opening a pop-up reading room in their downtown store, we went searching for other unique reading rooms around the world. Comfort, intimacy, atmosphere, and a great view play a big part in the design of these bookish spaces. See more in our gallery, and tell us about your favorites.

For three days Vitsoe created a pop-up reading room where visitors settled in with books, coffee, and beautifully designed chairs. Dashwood Books handpicked several titles for people to enjoy, including work by Robert Mapplethorpe, Ari Marcopoulous, and Walter Pfeiffer. The company is currently celebrating the re-engineering of their 620 Chair Program — originally designed by Dieter Rams in 1962. We love that street view.

Transparent red accents, dramatic angles, and elegant wood design make this Texas home reading room a knockout.

The British Museum’s reading room is the heart of the 1753 London institution. There were a million books in the room’s original incarnation — three miles of bookcases and 25 miles of shelves. It was a world-renowned learning center, hosted major exhibits, displayed gorgeous works of art, and became a showcase of mid-nineteenth-century technology with the latest and greatest design. The room was later restored, including the beautiful papier mâché interior of the dome, and the original color scheme was reinstated.

Photo credit: Philip Greenspun

The Deborah, Jonathan F. P., Samuel Priest, and Adam R. Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library is a stunner. Since 1911, a number of literary figures have sat at the long oak tables: Norman Mailer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elizabeth Bishop, E. L. Doctorow, and Alfred Kazin among them. The majestic space is about the size of two city blocks and has 52-foot ceilings decorated with murals. Bronze lamps add a soft, intimate glow to the grand room.

The Diana Center, designed by New York–based Weiss/Manfredi for Barnard College, is a third-floor oasis — created with “urbanism, architecture, landscape, and social life” in mind. We love the beautifully lit wave of crimson tables

Architecture and design bookstore Van Alen contains a public reading room, which is a burst of sunshine yellow. The industrial-style seating is reminiscent of stacks of books and provides a fun and casual hangout to check out the store’s offerings.

This alfresco reading room in a Washington home has a stunning view. Bjarko and Serra Architects wanted to create a modern, lighthearted space with rustic accents.

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s bookshop and reading room contains a wine bar — the perfect pairing with over 1,000 titles, including vintage, out of print, and rare books. The high ceilings, cornices, and bay windows create an intimate atmosphere that feels just like home.

Canada’s Whistler Public Library reading room feels warm and inviting thanks to high ceilings, golden wood beams, a stone fireplace, and the open floor plan.

We already consider the UCLA Library one of the most beautiful college libraries in the word, and their reading room is no exception. The glass-enclosed space is inviting and fragments of the main library’s gorgeous architecture add to the ambience.

Photo credit: Bob Freel

Also at UCLA is the Biomedical Library’s East Reading Room. The quiet oasis provides seating for 100 people. The gardens beyond the windows offer a meditative view.

The main reading room in the Library of Congress is breathtaking. A 160-foot dome ceiling, eight marble columns, 10-foot-tall statues, and beautiful light may have something to do with it. Explore it online over here.

Why yes, Library of Parliament in Canada, we do want to take up permanent residence in your stunning reading room. It looks as though it hasn’t been touched since 1876.

Yorgo Lykouria designed the Grand Reading Room at the University of Chicago Library. It seats 180 visitors in its European white oak chairs with stainless steel trim — mirroring the domed, steel frame that surrounds them.

The floor to ceiling windows in the Douglas Strain Reading Room in Special Collections at Oregon State University offers an incredible view of the library quadrangle and campus. The blonde wood glows.

Photo credit: Stuck in Customs

William Randolph Hearst’s reading room/study in all its gothic splendor.

The Science & Engineering Library at the University of California Santa Cruz contains a reading room that offers a spectacular view of the surrounding redwood forests and meadows. The two-story wall of windows provides the perfect light.

The Lange Special Collection Reading Room at University of California, San Francisco features cozy chairs and a killer view of the horizon.

The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris is a temple for over 2 million books and documents. The glass and iron arched reading room on the upper level is the pièce de résistance. The design is revered by architects the world over.

Clean lines, Edo-period materials, authentic Japanese incense, and a soundscape piped through the floors (from Nick Ryan) are just a few of the highlights of this reading room. It was constructed to help promote David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (set in 18th-century Japan). The serenity of the pop-up teahouse meets library meets lounge relaxes us just looking at it.