Robert Mills’ library in his Tempe home is as much about a 1959 Steinway as it is about the first edition opera scores lining the alder wood shelves.
In this cozy space, originally a dining room, the assistant professor of music at Arizona State University can be found late afternoons.
That’s when the light slides through an eastern window to provide mood for his music. Dog Puck, a shiba, is never far away.
“I had a vision for what I wanted,” says Mills about a room that was to be a private space. Just two things are missing from his dream environment — a wood floor and more opera scores. The former will be in place before the latter, as Mills says the bookcases will take five to six years to fill.
“People like a comfortable, quiet place to sit and relax away from the hustle and bustle of daily life,” says Valerie Borden, a designer with Chimera Interiors of Phoenix.
Home libraries have never really gone out of style, just taken on different names, like den and home office. Regardless of the moniker, home libraries are often a place of repose. They don’t have to be a room, per se, but a designated space built during home construction or converted from another room later.
In Steve Strunk’s Gilbert home, the library was originally intended to be a fourth bedroom. Strunk worked with the builder, and the closet was removed and custom shelves were installed. Nearly 2,000 books can be found in the Strunk library, on subjects including history, theology and politics. But this room is more than books.
“This is the first place I come in the morning with my coffee or tea,” says Strunk, who works for Scott Communities. “It’s a place where I get centered.” He and his family meet in the room to talk, play games or do computer research.
Genie Pritchard of Mesa, a retired Mesa Public Library catalog specialist, longed for a home library because “I love the tactile sense of holding a book and turning the pages.” Her desire became reality three years ago when she and husband Marty moved into their custom dream home. Before that, 15 bookcases could be found “scattered throughout the house.”
“I didn’t know where the library was going,” she says, “but I knew it wasn’t going to be part of his office.”
And it isn’t. The library is her space with leather chairs, a 100-year-old oak table and plush area rug. Natural light from an oversized picture window floods the five 9-foot-high bookcases holding nearly 5,000 titles, paperbacks behind hardcovers. Books are arranged not in public library conformity but rather “how they make sense to me,” she says. “That’s how you organize anything.”
Reference material and fiction works can be found in the library of Mesa residents Dale and Bob Charners. This is the third home library for the couple, former booksellers who now dedicate much of their energy to the Arizona Gunfighters, the historic reenactment group.
“The problem with the public library is you have to give books back,” says Bob Charners. But because he is known as both a Western and World War II historian, he never knows when a call will come asking, “How many B-17s were made?” (He doesn’t have to look this one up. There were 12,731 built between 1935 and 1945.)
“We are never without a book,” says his wife. And if it’s in their library, which several thousand books are, it’s a safe bet the couple has read it at least twice.
Or more if it’s Dean Koontz’s “Watchers.”