Red and green are probably the most traditional colors for walls in home libraries, other than neutral white or cream shades. However, there is no reason why other colors cannot be used to interesting effect. Below are some examples of other colors:
I have seen blue walls in libraries, and there is nothing wrong with using the color, except that it is a colder color, and most people seek warmth in their home libraries. And care should be taken that dark navy blue walls and/or bookshelves do not make a room too dark. The use of light-colored funishings will ameliorate this problem.
Yellow is a color that is not very often used in libraries, being a more common color in kitchens, but there is no reason why it could not be used to create a cheery library. In its brighter hues, it might be more suited to modern-style libraries with white or black cube-shaped bookcases, such as in the second photo above of the library at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, California. But if it is a darker gold or mustard-like shade of yellow, it could have a English Country look to it, as achieved in the final photo.
Purple is a very original choice for a library – I recalled offhand only two libraries that had purplish walls, but upon doing a search, I have found a few more that make me revise my opinion about the color’s use in a home library. It is not a traditional color, to be certain, although there is a library in Mount Stuart, an English country house, called “The Purple Library,” with purplish wallpaper (the middle photo, above). Most of the furnishings and the carpet are red, however, so the room does not look very purple.
The last photo, however, is the "purplist" library I have ever seen, one in a Saco, Maine Colonial-era house. The walls and bookshelves actually look quite nice, in my opinion, although the floor and furnishings, while perhaps somewhat period-correct, are not what I would choose. A very large area rug (perhaps a luxurious shag?) over a dark (maybe black) painted floor might seem less severe and cold, more comfortable.
Orange is quite a rare color for a home library, although it is often used to brighten up a modern public library space, particularly a children’s library room. American fashion designer Tory Burch has an orange library in her New York City apartment. And Summer Loftin and designer Marcia Sherrill created an orange library, seen in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine (from blog.michellesinteriors.com). The orange actually serves to set off the beautiful antique furniture in the room.
Finally, the choice of wall color could be a neutral color, such as tan, beige, cream or white, as long as furnishings add brighter colors. Despite my fondness for red walls, a neutral color is what I used in my latest library – only a small amount of wall is left exposed, and I painted it a light tan color, the same color as the other rooms adjacent to it, for continuity with the rest of the house. I then used bright red furnishings to achieve warm color. (And I still have my red-painted study, which was my library before I built the library addition.)
Again, I want to emphasize that these are my own opinions, and that there are many other styles of home libraries besides the traditional style, in which other choices of materials, colors and objects are wholly appropriate. Many modern libraries are quite handsome rooms, and I have included quite a few of them here on this site. But I would wager that the majority of people looking for beautiful library photos have in mind a traditional style of library, a style which is close to my own heart, and for which I have tried to list the common elements in order to aid those who wish to replicate it for themselves.
beautiful-libraries.com 2011 (You may enjoy and use freely anything you see on this site, as information should travel freely.)