Home & Garden

Room to Read

Writer Julia Reed’s library is proof that good things come to those who wait

Photo: Kerri McCaffety

The relaxed interior design of Reed's library gives a nod to the comfortable Delta houses of her Greenville, Mississippi, childhood.

For a woman like Julia Reed, who has spent most of her adult life as a vagabond of sorts, traveling and writing for magazines such as Vogue and Newsweek, and carting her favorite things from apartment to apartment, having her own home—much less the space for a library—is a newfound luxury. “All that time I was on the road, I wanted to be in a house, a real house—with room for a dog and all my books,” she says.

In 2004, Reed got her wish, but the library sits in a Greek Revival residence in New Orleans that’s been through a hell of a lot: first an all-out renovation, then Hurricane Katrina (both the subject of Reed’s latest book, The House on First Street), then more renovations, then Hurricane Gustav.

Unlike other rooms that were ripped to the studs when she bought the home, however, all she had to do in the library was lighten it up. So she played up the floor-to-ceiling windows and brightened the walls with a decorative faux bois paint treatment that resembles light wood. A compelling layer of personal accoutrements soon followed, including a limited-edition Oppenheimer print of Audubon’s Brown Pelican, Young, and a glossy tortoise shell she wore, in her words, “like a breastplate through customs” after a trip to pre-war Grenada.

There are plenty of conversation pieces, but the library is just a place where Reed and her beloved beagle, Henry, can finally go to kick back. “I do love coming in here and dipping into all this weird stuff,” she says, laughing.