How To Build A Home Library
BLEACH HOUSE LIBRARY was built from scratch by MARGARET MADDEN in her Co. Louth home
Photograph by Eoin Rafferty
Margaret Madden, blogger and reviewer, quite literally lives in her books. The extraordinary Bleach House Library was built from scratch by the flamed-haired mother of five in her listed 18th-century, seven-bedroom pile in Collon, Co Louth.
Madden immediately zoned in on the sprawling ground floor space, before moving in eleven years ago. “I ear-marked it as my library because it has double doors into the garden, it has a fireplace and it’s a big room,” she explains. “It’s away from the hubbub of the house, slightly isolated in its own wing. When you have as many kids as I have, it’s nice to escape without being too far away.” Looking around the light-filled haven, punctuated with pastels, I can’t imagine feeling anything but peaceful in here.
That’s only the beginning, for I quickly discover that Madden’s collection of roughly 5,000 books occupies nearly every single room in the house, bar the bathroom. While very neatly curated, her treasured literary cargo travels from the flagship library, up the staircase and into the master bedroom.
How does one manage this many books and stay sane? Madden admits that while she regularly donates to charity shops and libraries, more volumes typically find their way back in exchange. Books are alphabetised so she can locate desired titles quickly.
In her experience, what key elements make a decent library, should one embark on such a mission?
“There has to be a mix of old and new with a great non-fiction section,” she says. “Definitely have all different genres in a library. Add a good mixture of novels written by people of colour, from different perspectives and religions, translated fiction. I would be surprised if there was no Jane Austen or Dickens. Although they’re curriculum reads now, there are people who still want to read them for pleasure – not just for exams.”
Despite the seemingly complete appearance of Bleach House Library, this labour of love will continue.“Some people are passionate about their cars and some go horseracing,” she says, smiling. “This is my addiction and it just happens to be literary, so having a room of one’s own that is basically a giant book is just heaven! It is literally a dream since I was a child – and it’s come true.”