Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lit Chic: Library-Themed Hotels, Bars & Other Bits

Have you noticed how the onslaught of iPhones, iPads, Kindles and other electronic readers is causing a huge wave of sentimentality for old-fashioned books? It started with the trend of 'library hotels', whereby high-end boutique hotels began refashioning themselves as 'literary retreats'. Some of the most successful, including The Library in New York, The Pavillion de la Reine in Paris, and The Library in Thailand, became so popular, people booked them especially for their literary loveliness. Others, such as The Nomad in New York introduced grand bars based on dignified gentlemen's libraries, which were just as well received. And yet other bookish entrepreneurs, such as boutique and bar owners, began redesigning their spaces around the themes of reading. Even fashion designers are now starting to produce collections based on wordplay whimsy.

Here are a few of my favourite literary spaces. Oh – I'd love one of the Kate Spade Dictionary clutches, too (below). But I'd probably have to write another book to be able to afford it! {Top image from The Library Bar in Alberquerque}

Have you ever dealt with Carolyn Quartermaine's office in France. Her staff are some of the loveliest people I've ever dealt with. I'd buy fabric from them simply because their manners are so beautiful. Carolyn has been creating sublime, script-enhanced fabrics for years, however she's now returning to her roots as an artist, so perhaps snap up some bolts while you can. These beautiful prints may not be around for many more years. {}

The Writing on the Wall (Or The Mirror)
I've always loved this image of a period Parisian apartment dressed in B&B Italia Lazy Chairs and a Lens Table, all reflected in a gilt mirror embellished with lines of typewriter-font. A curious juxtaposition of the classic, the modern, the witty and the whimsical. So beautiful. Via the book Design in Black and White. {Image via B&B Italia}

All Booked Up
Tucked away behind a hidden garden off the Place des Vosges, the Pavillion de la Reine hotel is one of the true secrets of Paris. Beloved by VIPs, it's a grand hotel with an intimate feel, but its most endearing trait is its literary-themed rooms. The suites feature quotes from famous authors while the library is full of great titles to take to bed with you. Should you not have anyone else in Paris to share the romance with. {Images via}

The Reine's sister hotel, The Pavillion des Lettres, is also themed around books, and features rooms that have iPads stocked with international bestsellers and daily newspapers and music. Futhermore, each guest room is devoted to a letter of the alphabet and  writer who corresponds to that letter. Among the authors featured are Baudelaire and Rousseau, whose quotes are handwritten on the walls en Fran├žais.

LA Confidential
The Library Bar in LA is fast becoming a haunt for screenwriters I know. It's not surprising, really. It's a surprising – and rather inspiring – space to chill out from the craziness of LA. They've even got the colour of the website exactly right. It's the same shade as the borrowing cards and pockets in front of old library books. Too witty for words. {}

How Do You Spell That Again?
Kate Spade's creative team has gone all out on the literary theme this year. I love this 'Dictionary' clutch, and the Cha Cha stockings are cute too. {}

Stirred, Shaken, And Then Read From Front To Back
The Library Bar at The Lanesborough in London is a true gentleman's retreat, which also happily accepts ladies. Designed in the style of a Regency library with bookcases lined with leather-bound titles and deep leather wing chairs to read them in, the bar's most eye-catching features are the handsome display cabinets full of elegant alcohol bottles. There's a fire in winter, and plenty of ice in summer. The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London. Hours 11am - 1am.

The Romance Suite, Please
New York’s Library Hotel is a truly decadent hideaway for Dewey lovers. (Pun intended.) The intellectual inspiration for this innovative place comes from the nearby New York Public Library and the architecture is just as stunning. Each room has its own themed libraries (I love the Architecture Suite, okay, and the Romance One too), so you can choose your reading pleasures. And when you’re done seducing your other half with volumes of modern design (as I did – although he fell asleep before we reached the Contents Page), then you can retreat upstairs to the bookshelf-lined lounge and rooftop terrace for a late-night coffee and a chance to write your own bestseller. {}

Raising A Toast To Hemingway 
(And All The Other Literary Nomads)
The Nomad Hotel in New York is one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. It could even be my favourite. For my previous post on this glamour puss, click here.  {}

Retreating Into Books
Many of you will have already heard of The White House, Lyn Gardner's gorgeous weekender in Daylesford. We were lucky enough stay there for a night two years ago, in order to shoot it for the book Design In Black and White. It was so lovely, we could have stayed all week. The most beautiful room was the tiny library, which comes with a wall full of Penguin classics, a fireplace full of wood and two comfy leather club chairs to sink into. Literary bliss. Even her branding and website are beautiful. {}

A Page Turner
Former Ralph Lauren executive Ellen O'Neill's Gramercy Park studio apartment in New York. Decorated in graphic shades of ink black and white, its highlight is Ingo Maurer's Zettelz 5 chandelier, a light-as-paper artwork that Ellen has decorated with her own favourite pages and personal pieces. I was going to stay in this apartment for a week earlier this year, but the logistics proved too difficult. Pity. Isn't it pretty? {Image via House Beautiful}

Wall Flower
I've seen Ms Deborah Bowman's wallpaper in many homes now, but it never gets tiring. Well I mean, who could tire of books? Even the name – 'Genuine Fake Books' – is memorable. The latest space to feature it is Stephen Schubel's fisherman's cottage in Sausalito, which was in the July/August issue of House Beautiful. Have you seen this magazine yet? It's a beautiful issue.

Literary Chic
My favourite ad of all time. Can't imagine how the J Crew gang styled this up? But isn't it fabulous?


  1. Beautifully edited! I have been designing a lot of library type studies recently...definitely a trend going on...

    As much as electronic reading is fabulous, and it truly is, there is just nothing as atmospheric as a room stuffed to the brim with real books. x

  2. These Hotels and Bars look and sound like heaven. I would be right at home in them. A fantastic post. Thanks so much for putting together and sharing. Jx

  3. Very interesting boutique hotels, or should I say book-tique :) A favorite literary space of mine is the Authors' Lounge at The Manadarin Oriental in Bangkok. You can sit for high tea while daydreaming about the many renowned literary figures who have visited...Conrad, Michener and Maugham, to name a few.

  4. Great selection of places to stay or drink in but I have to admit my favourite is still the White House - we stayed there for my birthday 18 months ago - loved every second especially that little library - divine. And I must try and get hold of that House Beautiful you mentioned too. Thanks for letting us know. X

  5. Dear Janelle

    Love all the libraries. But would never feel relaxed if I stayed in the Gramercy Park Studio apartment. It's beautiful and quite intriguing but would be too terrified to put a newspaper or a cup of coffee down anywhere. Has been put together by a perfectionist and it feels like it - it doesn't feel like a lived-in home. Which I guess it's not as they lease it out. I prefer places where I can feel relaxed, where children and dogs might be welcome. Of course, hotels are a little different and even the better ones I've stayed in (eg St Petersburg Astoria, Hotel Sukhothai Bangkok etc) don't feel scary as this does to me. Best wishes, Pamela

  6. I wish I could hand out an award for best literary blog - I'd give it to you!


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