Great Escape

The client wanted a quiet room at the end of the house for reading and solitude, or to drink port and smoke cigars with guests, says architect Stephen Vanze. “We wanted to create a space that would be comfortable for a small group of people, but wouldn't be overwhelming for one.” The library he designed suits both social and solitary pursuits.

Vanze enjoyed the chance to “wallpaper a room with books,” creating interest with varying shelf heights and depths. But he allowed the books to dominate by keeping trim details simple. White plaster veneer walls lighten the Brazilian cherry shelving and trim. A mezzanine doubles the amount of bookshelves while human-sizing the scale of the 25-foot cathedral ceiling. A curved stair that leads to the mezzanine level also descends to a basement home theater. Window seats abound thanks to the depth created by the shelves.

The large fireplace can cheer the entire room or heat up an inglenook built for two. A discreet built-in bar and a drop-down TV offer more social opportunities. Since no library would be complete without a secret doorway, one of the upper sets of bookshelves swings open to reveal a bedroom closet passage.

When the natural light from the tall windows and French doors fades, sconces and ceiling spots illuminate the tomes. A false book jacket disguises the lighting control panel.

Builder: Horizon Builders, Crofton, Md.; Architect: Dan Porter, project architect, Stephen Vanze, principal in charge, Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington, D.C.; Photographer: Hoachlander Davis Photography.