One for the Books; Avid Readers Make Space for Home libraries.(LIFE - HOME)

Article excerpt


Former congresswoman Patricia Schroeder lives in a library.

Mrs. Schroeder, who resides in Alexandria with her husband, James, says they have books in every single room of the house. She is a believer in Thomas Jefferson's motto: "I cannot live without books."

Since becoming the president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers in Northwest in 1997, her collection has increased by leaps and bounds. In order to better organize the volumes, she decided to renovate the carport of their house into a home library, which was completed by Sun Design Remodeling Specialists in Burke.

"The main reason we built it is that we ran out of space for bookshelves in the house," she says. "We're out of them again. I'm not sure what we will do at this point."

Home libraries not only provide a place to store books, but also a quiet retreat in a busy house. In a fast-paced society, the rooms are becoming a popular place for reflection.

Kristin Pfeiffer of Alexandria says her husband, Steven, uses their hidden library as a place of refuge in the home they share with five children. Because the Pfeiffers lived in Wimbledon, England, for about 10 years, Mr. Pfeiffer, who collects first editions, was inspired to model his library after British houses, which often have hidden rooms. One enters Mr. Pfeiffer's library through a secret door in the dining room wall. The door even has pictures hanging on it, which makes it blend in with the rest of the wall. A panel of the wall comes forward when one pulls on a chair rail and opens to the library.

Before the space was a library, it served as a porch, says Mrs. Pfeiffer. It was renovated by Wentworth-Levine Architect-Builder Inc. in Silver Spring. The builders created the room with a vaulted ceiling, which forms an arch. It has a Palladian window, one divided into three parts and named for Andrea Palladio, a Renaissance architect. The room also has a fireplace and hardwood floors.

"My husband loves to sit in there, whether to listen to music or do his work," Mrs. Pfeiffer says. "He has an old English desk that the room was built around, which has secret compartments too."


Having a home library has always been a dream for Bill Thomas of McLean. Even though the previous owners of his house had added several bookcases in the master bedroom and family room before Mr. Thomas acquired it in 1997, he needed more space for his collection of books.

With the help of Merrill Contracting and Remodeling Inc. in Arlington, he tore down the wall between the sitting room and the family room on the first floor and used the space to create a home library. The room is in the same neoclassical style of the overall interior of the house, with taupe walls, white trim and cabinets, and dark mahogany bookshelves.

Taking his cue from the 16th century French essayist Michel de Montaigne, Mr. Thomas asked Eben Conner of the Master's Woodshop in Hagerstown, Md., to etch quotations from some of Mr. Thomas' favorite authors on the front edge of each bookshelf. Montaigne, who had a fondness for inscriptions, covered the beams of his library in Perigord, France, with about 60 inscriptions in Greek and Latin. Most of Montaigne's original chateau burnt in 1865, but the tower that housed his library survives today.

Mr. Thomas included inscribed quotations in English in his home library from writers such as Ovid, Virgil, Plutarch, Sophocles, Goethe and Shakespeare. "History is ... the messenger of antiquity," reads one inscription, from Cicero's "De oratore." Another, "Be not long away from home," is drawn from Book III of Homer's "Odyssey."

Although Mr. Thomas decided to build a library rather than a home office, he did include space for a pair of computers and other electronic equipment in the design of the cabinetry and shelves. …