Library at a Glance
Who lives here: A retired couple
Location: Boise, Idaho
Size: About 200 square feet (about 18.6 square meters)
Designer: Suzie Hall of Cornerstone Design
When a scholarly couple — he’s a retired mining professional and she’s a published Hemingway scholar — decided to update their library, they presented designer Suzie Hall with a clear plan. They wanted her to transform the space using Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles of material selection, layout and integration of art. Starting from Wright’s premise that “the hearth is the center of the home,” Hall designed a custom double-sided fireplace that separates the library from the living room.
The hearth features layers of burnished steel with a custom patina, striated quartzite slabs and a poured concrete band. The design was inspired by the husband’s career in mining. As the fireplace was developing, he expressed a desire for something that felt “cave-like.”
Hall started by hand-selecting the stone slabs and laying them out piece by piece to study the veining pattern. She then worked up a drawing of the stone layout with an overlay of steel and created a full-size template on butcher paper tacked to the wall. Her trusted steel fabricator used that template to cut out the jagged edges that would give the firebox opening its cave-like feel. He also bent the steel inward to create the illusion of depth and thickness.
The homeowners have young grandchildren and worried about what might happen if their 3-year-old grandson decided to shoot the stained-glass wall with his dart gun. The artists adeptly modified the wall to a panel design so that individual pieces could be replaced if needed. Once it was complete, the team cleaned the glass with cotton swabs and worked closely with a steel fabricator to ensure a perfectly square and level frame for the panels.
Hall also designed a custom steel ladder to help reach books on the upper shelves. As with the fireplace, she did a full-scale mock-up of the ladder to ensure it would look proportionate to the bookcase. The ladder is on casters so it can slide easily.