A British Bibliophile Paradise: Designer Emma Burns’ Library Barn & Guest House

First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to Jenna Sue Design, Joyful Derivatives, and The White Cabana for all featuring Home Glow’s “Ultimate She-Shed” as one of your favorites of the Spring 2018 One Room Challenge! Very honored.


Now, onward!


In my never ending search for client project inspiration, I lit upon this barn-turned-reading-room-and-guest quarters from the archives of House & Garden UK, and I just had to share with you!


library barn guest cottage


It is a British bibliophile’s perfect dream! A place to “worm” away the hours (e.g. “bookworm” away) … and hours … and hours ….


Ok, I know I called Home Glow’s new office space “The Ultimate She-Shed,” but given my complete and utter ‘druthers, no business or clients to be considered, I would call the above “The Ultimate ME Shed.”


I think I even look a little like Belle!


The cottage is the work of Emma Burns, senior decorator at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. You can’t get a better design pedigree than that. This is a lady who knows how to create those artlessly assembled, pattern-on-pattern, lived-in spaces at which the Brits so excel.


Designer Emma Burns, photo source unknown


After downsizing, Emma and her late partner found that most of their extensive book collection had to be put in storage. They took what was, in her own words, “a glorified garden shed” and created a sanctuary.


library barn guest cottage


Hmmmm… would that we all had such a garden shed.


In her brilliance, Emma created a main sitting area, flanked on either side by second story galleries providing a study and sleeping quarters.


library barn guest cottage
The Main Sitting Room


library barn guest cottage
Ladder to the Gallery


library barn guest cottage
Guest Quarters


library barn guest cottage
The Study


library barn guest cottage


If you love a custom gathered lampshade like you see above, you should check out my post on Etsy sources for bespoke lampshades.

In my favorite move, Emma created hidden rooms beneath those galleries to house the “unmentionables.”


library barn guest cottage
Open sesame!


library barn guest cottage
The Scullery


So charming. When we redo our laundry into a pantry/laundry (part of next year’s kitchen remodel), I’m definitely planning some skirt action.


library barn guest cottage
The Loo


Emma says about the space: “I didn’t want it to feel new, but as if it had always been here…. Everything you see is recycled. The sofa was a wedding present to my grandparents, which I recovered in corduroy; the bed is one I bought for £50 in a junk shop years ago; the desk, which I’ve repainted to match the door frames, was thrown out by someone at Colefax; the carpet came out of a skip.”


Sure, sounds easy … but can you make junk shop furniture and dumpster finds look this good? More to the point, can you make it look and feel this comfortable? She’s an artist.


You can see the full story with more pictures here.


Like old houses? You might like this post on fresh, historically-inspired interiors.

Try this post if you’d like to add items with a rich patina  to your home but don’t want to break the bank buying antiques.

For one of the best craftsmen of American historically-inspired fine furniture, try this post.


I recently attended a seminar on the ins and outs of different kinds of wood flooring. I’m also working on a post on some exciting artists, and I’m still stewing a broader carpeting story. If there’s something else you want to hear about, let me know!

See you next week!



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4 thoughts on “A British Bibliophile Paradise: Designer Emma Burns’ Library Barn & Guest House”

  1. Hi Amy,
    I so look forward to your posts on Saturday morning, and this one was a real treat! What a fantastic space–as a fellow bookworm (I think being nearsighted as a child fostered that), this would be a dream space for me. She is indeed an artiste!
    On a side note, I recognized the Ikea black and white toile duvet and pillow sham on the bed, as I bought them for a guest room last year. So pretty and reasonably priced!
    Thanks again!

    1. Haha. I was wearing glasses by age 8. Is it a case of chicken or egg — did the bear sightedness foster bookworming or was it caused by it??? 😉 Thanks for joining me this morning! I love receiving your comments.

  2. Amy, you do resemble Belle! The bibliophile’s creative space appeals to me on so many levels. I have collected books, most art tomes, but also a few from my grandmother who encouraged my love of art and art history. Thanks for a Saturday decorating inspiration.

    1. How lovely! We love being surrounded by our favorite books in our own home library. To make the shelves, the books had to have been formative and merit rereading and perusing over and over. We have some collections from my HH’s grandmother, which have sentimental value and have beautiful bindings. They live right alongside some of our paperbacks.

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