Earlier this year, we rounded up some of the world’s most beautiful bookstores—the palatial, the tree-filled, the chandelier-lit. There’s something to be said for some of the more understated shops, though, the effortlessly lovely hidden gems and community hubs that are so welcoming, you can sink into a brocade armchair with a read and lose track of a few hours. These are the stores with the kind of style we'd want to bring to our own homes.
For starters, most of us don’t live in 1920s-era theaters or medieval cathedrals like some of the most awe-inspiring bookstores are housed in. More importantly, though, isn’t that smaller boutique feeling exactly what you want to capture in your living room? Chic, but no fuss. Elegant, but timeless and trend-transcending. Above all: comfortable. Your living room is the number one place on earth where you should be able to happily pass an afternoon with your best-loved book. That’s why we’ve gathered our favorite spots across the country and around the globe to see what we can translate in our own apartments or houses, whether we’re working with vintage or modern sensibilities.
Whimsical: Books Actually, Singapore
Singapore’s Books Actually captures the transportive magic of books with its whimsical decor. Its interior boasts the good kind of clutter with its shelves of artfully arranged, colorful items, and its eclectic little wall hangings. Its fresh and bright walls and floors balance the busy tableaus with a modern coziness, which is the perfect place to start when recreating the look. Harness Books Actually’s magic for your living room or your little one’s bedroom by starting with off-white shades and light wood shelves and adding books grouped by color, playful wall decor, and thoughtfully chosen tchotchkes.
Baroque: Livraria Lello, Porto
Okay, so Porto’s Livraria Lello is a bit more on the dramatic side, to put it mildly. There’s still a lot of inspiration to be found in its stunning interior, though, even if your home doesn’t happen to feature double staircases or intricately carved ceilings. Copy its rich, dark woods for bookshelves, your desk, and accent furniture in your study, and offset that with cushions, throw pillows, and rugs in jewel tones. Add pops of gold where you can, hang your favorite paintings on the wall, and you’ll have a bit of European opulence for your home office.
Minimalist: Librairie La Fontaine, Lausanne
The inside of Lausanne’s Librairie La Fontaine is modern-minimalist perfection. It’s like being in a chic art gallery, except all the artwork is actually books you can pluck off the shelves and spend an hour or four with in the pristine paradise around you. Best of all, the look is easy to make your own. Stick to a palette of white and grey in your living room or bedroom. Choose furniture that’s sleek and simple in light wood tones, and keep your decor to a single statement piece.
Modern-Cozy: Daikanyama T-Site, Tokyo
With a curated selection of book, music, movie, camera, and even bicycle shops, a bar and lounge, and concierge service, Tokyo’s Daikanyama T-Site masters the art of being inviting. Its luxurious stay-all-day vibe is reflected in its decor, a look you’ll want to immediately apply to your entire home. Daikanyama proves that bookstores don’t have to be creaky to be cozy. Plush leather couches are pared-back, oversized armchairs are mid-century, accent furniture is sleek, and the palette is warm and woody. Mirror these qualities with a few inventive twists (like the shop’s use of stacked coffee table books as end tables), and your room will be a chic oasis.
Globetrotter: Maison Assouline London, London
It’s only fitting that Assouline’s flagship store would be a beacon of luxurious style. The iconic publishing house is behind some of the world’s most beautiful fashion and lifestyle books, and that flair is on full display at Maison Assouline London. Take your pick of rooms to love, from safari-chic libraries to mid-century reading nooks. We’re partial to a rosy-lit corner that looks like a jetsetter filled it with treasures from their world travels. It’s a look achieved with antique-inspired chairs, a (faux) animal-skin rug, and a curated mix of golden candlesticks, statuettes, art books, and globes.
Old World: Faulkner House Books, New Orleans
Faulkner House Books in New Orleans exudes this easy elegance that would be a dream in any home’s living room, office, or bedroom. Without a trace of theme-y-ness, the shop captures its namesake’s Southern Gothic tone with golden scrolled chandeliers, arched windows, and rich wood shelves, balanced by light-hued walls and natural light. That kind of old-world glamour works best at home when balanced with modern elements, so go ahead and punctuate your all-neutral room with an over-the-top lighting fixture, metallic-threaded jacquard chair, or tasseled rug.
Urban-Rustic: 1200 Bookshop, Guangzhou
Guangzhou’s 1200 Bookshop is beloved by locals and travelers alike, thanks to its welcoming nature and 24-hour operation—backpackers can even apply to stay in the store’s private room, free of charge! The shop’s design represents that haven characteristic. It’s open and airy, with polished wood floors stretching from neat shelves to floor-to-ceiling windows. Its chic and simple furniture reflects a city-meets-country quality, all wood with pops of greenery. Turn your own room into a reading-fueled escape by lining shelves with books and interrupting their stacks with succulents, and choose strong, understated furniture in different wood tones.
Classic: The Book Lounge, Cape Town
The Book Lounge in Cape Town is everything you think of when you think of a charming, classic book store, without feeling a touch out of date. A mix of vintage chairs in brown leather and red velvet complement woven rugs, while carved end tables provide the perfect spot for tea. It’s an aesthetic for a living room that could never go out of style. Pick a throw rug or coffee table, and tie an assortment of chairs and accent pieces into that color palette without perfectly matching any of them, sticking to warmer tones and making sure to spotlight any special antiques.
Mediterranean: Atlantis Books, Santorini
A sort of nautical-gone-European look is not one you’d expect for a bookstore, and it’s one that would be irresistibly chic in your home. While parts of Santorini’s Atlantis Books are classically cluttered and creaky, its exterior features shelves along its stone walls in fresh white and bright, oceanic hues, and a stunning sea view. The result is glamorous in the most laid-back, carefree way, and copying that would make any room like a permanent vacation. Pop an all-white palette with bold colors, keep furniture pared-back yet comfy and textures light, and accessorize with decor that’s elevated-beachy, not boardwalk-beachy.
Mod Bohemian: Papercup, Beirut
Book, magazine, and coffee shop Papercup in Beirut packs a lot of style into a small area, making it serious vision board fodder for those of us in compact apartments. The design is a fresh way to approach that wanderlust vibe without overwhelming a space. Make one key element in the room your bohemian factor: For Papercup, it’s the intricately patterned tile floor. Temper that with clean, mod lighting and furniture, like the store's wood-slat lights, retro couch, and coffee table.
Kick Back with a Book and One of These
Which bookstore's decor looks most livable to you? Let us know below!