The Built-in Library Shelves, with Books

The library isn’t really finished, but the shelves have books, the house is neat, and I took photos. So? Photos!

Home Library #makingitlovely

Definitely loving that ladder. I’m also loving the play of color from room to room, but I plan to paint the library walls and both ceilings at some point. They don’t look terrible here, but depending on the lighting and time of day, the color can go pretty yellow. I do like the contrast, and I’m thinking I might choose white, or very pale peachy/coral/pink.

Double Parlors #makingitlovely

We’re only borrowing the gate leg table from a family member. I wanted to see if it would be a pain to sit around, and the answer is yes. I love the look (like so), but it isn’t very practical for us, and I want to be able to play games there with the kids.

Home Library #makingitlovely

What is practical though, is the shelving. A few people have been eager to see how the built-ins look “once they’re styled,” so I hope I’m not disappointing you here. The shelves are adjustable and we moved a couple to fit large art and photography books, but that’s the extent of the styling. Brandon and I have a lot of books, and these shelves were intended to be used fully for book storage from the start. We actually still have more, but I think we can whittle down what’s on the shelves a bit to make room, and only keep what we really love. We had so much book storage in the last house that we didn’t need to pare down much (though we did some before we moved).

Home Library #makingitlovely

The layout is not final. I think the rocker looks a bit out of place, but I would like to make it work somewhere downstairs. We’ll have our cushy upholstered glider for the nursery, but I’d like to have the Eames rocker out where I’ll be able to rock the baby while sitting with friends and family.

Home Library #makingitlovely

Having a dedicated space for all of our books feels really good. It isn’t done (or “Pinterest Perfect”) yet, but I like where it’s at right now. There are a million little things to change and tweak, but that’s part of the fun of decorating, isn’t it? My last house came together over seven years, always changing a little at a time. I’m eager to see how this space grows and changes too.

Home Library #makingitlovely

102 Responses to “The Built-in Library Shelves, with Books”

  1. Chedva May 12, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    That library ladder is killing me. Total Beauty and the Beast moment (remember when she slides on that ladder?). And I love the sight of full bookshelves.

    • Harmony May 12, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

      That was my first exact thought too!!

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      I always think of that scene too!

  2. Sasha May 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    That ladder is amazing.

  3. Amanda May 12, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I, for one, am loving seeing a bookshelf actually full of books.

    • Amanda May 12, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      I agree. I think this is the best way to “style” a bookcase. I know you’re not done yet, Nicole, but this room is already stunning.

  4. Mary May 12, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    Love it! Can I come sleep in your library? I’ll bring my sleeping bag :)

  5. Lori May 12, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Wow! What a difference books make. I think chopping (ha!) up the oak expanse with other colors and textures (as well as the tweaks you made) makes this spot feel more modern/less ‘80s. If I can make a suggestion, I think it’d look even better to have the space between the window frame and bookshelf match whatever color you choose to paint the walls (Light peach pink sounds divine!) instead of oak. It’s probably silly to take down what was just put up (for a pretty penny), but maybe a faux insert? I just think it could really break up the oakiness and also tone down the pattern of the oak a little bit. Just a thought from an admirer. It’s beautiful, and I am pretty sure you could charge for ladder rides!

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      I’m not a fan of all the wood grain, but I do like that the wall reads as all wood. I think skinny strips of a contrasting color might look out of place and call attention to the fact that the shelves were added much later than everything else.

  6. sandi May 12, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    Stunning – The carpentry looks amazing as if it is original to the house. And the ladder – to die for.
    Just a thought – the sofa on a slant vs perpendicular to the shelves may give a whole new feel to the room. Just not sure what the wall looks like to the left of the sofa.

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      To the left is a radiator, and then the large opening to the entry.

  7. Sarah May 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    I love it! You are so talented and I appreciate your willingness to share your style!

  8. Marcee ... ILLINOIS May 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Ohmygosh! So gorgeous. How absolutely perfect for everyone to enjoy. This is gonna be a great summer for …… reading!

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      On Mother’s Day, I got to spend the day relaxing and reading. It was fantastic, and I read a novel from start to finish. I can’t remember the last time that happened!

  9. Feisty Harriet May 12, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    I love, love, love bookshelves that are full of books. I mean, the styled ones look lovely, but to me they also look kind of sad. Few things make me happier than a wall full of books. Or a room full of books. Or a house full of books. You can have your spare, styled shelves with little vases and pieces of art and such, give me wall-to-wall spines any day.

    xox

    • Angie May 12, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

      YES! Drives me nuts to see “styled bookshelves” on Pinterest that have all of like three books and then “stuff.” Call those stuffshelves, please. Bookcases … full of books carefully chosen and arranged for practical use? And actually read? (Or to be fair … at least with plans for being read. I like to buy books all the time but then sometimes I read library books first and don’t get to the purchased ones for a bit.) That’s beautiful! And these are lovely. The ladder is EPIC.

    • Janine May 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Agreed! There is something so cozy about a room full of books :)

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

      I love shelves filled with books, too! So glad I’m not alone in that.

  10. Katharine May 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    I think it turned out great, but I notice that you never really mention if you’re happy with the shelves. You talk about the room as a whole (and maybe that’s the point — if you “like where it’s at right now” then they’re having the right effect), but never the shelves specifically except to mention their practicality and functionality.

    I really do think they turned out great, especially once you see them in context, which is full of books.

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      I am happy with the shelves! There are small changes I would make, and I do wish I had been much more detail-oriented in the beginning, but the shelves are great and I’m glad we have them.

      • Katharine May 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

        Yay! I’m so glad you’re happy with them!

  11. Kathryn S. May 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    It looks amazing! I wish I had that much room for my books.

  12. Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse May 12, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    I love a room that isn’t “Pinterest Perfect”. Your space is chic but obviously loved (and lived-in!). The bookshelves are so practical and even after all of the strife, they look like they’ve always been there. Homes should evolve and I’m excited to see yours take shape. Having recently moved myself, I understand the “settling in” process – you want to figure out how you’ll use spaces, what furniture from the old place works and what doesn’t. So far, your house looks amazing – I can’t get over how gorgeous the black walls and other accents look.

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      I’m really enjoying the settling in process. I had the broad strokes of how I wanted things to look (high contrast with a black room somewhere downstairs, things like that), but now I get to take my time filling in the details.

  13. Traci May 12, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    I love it so, SO MUCH. It would be a dream come true to have that in my house! Lucky you! Enjoy the ladder! Sorry the table is a bit awkward–that too looks nice!

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      The table looks nice! We’ll borrow it for a bit, to fill the room and give us a surface to use, but I’ll be on the lookout for a replacement.

  14. kate May 12, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    I like this very much. It looks simple, uncluttered and happy. I like the pale walls and the bare floor too. Also like the rocker in the room. 2 thumbs up from me.

  15. Kathy May 12, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Really loved how it turned out and like the contrast of the two rooms.

  16. Christina May 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    Love the book shelves! Would love to have something like that in my own home!!

  17. Kristen May 12, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    Looks awesome now, would love to see the room stay a bit spare as you finish it!

  18. Ashley Brooks May 12, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    Be still my heart! Those bookshelves are swoon worthy. And I’m glad you’re not “styling” them. As a writer/editor/former English major, my own built-in bookshelves are packed to the brim with nothing but books. A few design-minded friends wanted me to add pictures or decor, but I couldn’t bear to send the books that wouldn’t fit down to the basement. Enjoy your lovely new library!

  19. Amanda B May 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    I love, love, love that you are using bookshelves for BOOKS! I think bookshelves without them look a little sad. They look great and that ladder is amazing. I’m very jealous.

  20. Janis May 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    It’s just gorgeous! Please, please paint the walls pink… I think it will look stunning!! And I love the fact that your house isn’t “pinterest perfect”… you have so much more style and substance than all of them combined!

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

      Pink is a strong contender (my number one choice right now, actually)!

  21. Jenna May 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Loving the book shelves all decked out in books. Looks amazing! Amazing enough in fact for my hubby to walk up and say “gonna get me that library?” Yeah…wish we had a space for an awesome library complete with rolling ladder!

  22. Elizabeth May 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

    “Books Do Furnish a Room”, according to Anthony Powell, and yours looks great with its shelves full. Count me among those who think full bookshelves are beautiful while artfully styled ones, with only about 1/4 books, look a little sad and purposeless.

  23. Ali May 12, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    I am also loving the ladder and the books. We have over 10 feet of floor to ceiling book shelves full of books and could use more, since it is so hard to get rid of favorites.

    I agree with others, the overly “styled” book shelves look fake, like a furniture show room. The books are much better.

  24. Amela K May 13, 2014 at 1:11 am #

    Looks picture perfect. The colour schemes suit perfectly!

  25. Antonella May 13, 2014 at 3:40 am #

    Beautiful and soo useful!
    As a fellow bookworm, please don’t whittle down the books! how about a smaller library upstairs? :-)

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

      We have shelves upstairs already, too! Some IKEA bookcases.

  26. Rosie P May 13, 2014 at 5:37 am #

    Hi Nicole it looks wonderful. Would you consider wallpapering the library room? A beautiful floral with pale coral pink background would look amazing with the striped settee and also when you look through to the dark walls of the other room. At first I thought it may look too busy with the books but the right one would balance them out. The room has great proportions so it could take it. Otherwise I definitely think you should paint it pink. Would look lovely with the wood trim. Love from Australia xx

    • Making it Lovely May 13, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      I have a sample of this pale pink and white wallpaper on the way. I’d love to use it somewhere in the house, but I feel like the dining room might be a better candidate. I definitely do want to paper one of the rooms downstairs… The front entry doesn’t have a clear stopping point along the stair wall and the ceiling dips down in funny ways that would only be further highlighted by wallpaper. The kitchen has a blue and white floral right now that may or may not stay long term, and the dining room is pretty bland and basic.

  27. Stephanie May 13, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    I love it! It looks great. And the striped sofa and botanical print are perfect in there. So glad it turned out so well after all the angst you had over the shelves.

  28. Vanessa May 13, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    Those look SO great! I actually fully love that these are “real” bookshelves with actual books haha. They look well-loved and frequently used – exactly the kind of cosy feeling that makes a family home.

    • Vanessa May 13, 2014 at 7:06 am #

      Oh! And my vote (not that it matters, of course) is for a pale peachy pink! I think it would look awesome juxtaposed against the other parlour!

  29. Heather May 13, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    I think a pale, pale pink would be beautiful Nicole! Have you thought about an oversized ottoman or coffee table instead of a table and chairs? I think that would look nice with the striped sofa and provide a place to play games, for the kids to color, and some storage for kids’ things.

    • Making it Lovely May 13, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      I don’t know about coloring on top of an ottoman! They try to stay on the paper, but they don’t always succeed. I agree that it would look nice though.

      • Heather May 13, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

        Oops, guess I was thinking of our ottoman that we have in our basement family room. My girls just turn over the top and the underside sits nicely on the base and has a nice firm surface to color, draw, do puzzles on…

      • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

        Ah, that would work. I was just thinking of the combination of fabric ottoman + crayons/markers…

  30. Maureen May 13, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    Echoing all the sentiments here: they look beautiful and very “real” in the best sense. These shelves are beautiful workhorses!

    Nicole, do you plan to do anything with the window seat? A cushion? Throw pillows?

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

      Yes, there will be a cushion there. I’m waiting until I figure out what I’m doing with the rest of the space before I decide on fabric for it though.

  31. Tena May 13, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    Nothing wrong with having tons of books and actually filling up your bookshelves. That’s how we roll at our house too. It looks great!

  32. Alex - Hydrangea Girl May 13, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Ugh, the shelves look absolutely incredible! I was thinking it might be a bit overwhelming with that many books all together, but as you say, the play between the library and the black room next door is just epic. They both work so well and compliment each other beautifully. And a dainty pink on the library walls down the road? Shut. Up.

    Completely and utterly living vicariously through your design these days.

    p.s. In love with your front porch stylage.

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

      It is overwhelming, but I think it’s in a good way! We don’t have the tasteful matching leather volumes that tone things down. We have paperbacks and hardcovers in a rainbow of colors that look a bit crazy, but read OK as one big wall. :)

  33. Janine May 13, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Love it love it love it WANT ONE MYSELF.

    A friend of mine has repeatedly criticized interior design magazines, websites, etcetera for constantly showing homes without giant colourful book collections. I’m super glad all your books are on display, because that’s real life. Also, because I can shove the webpage in his face and be like “ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?” but of course he won’t be because he’s a troll. Point is: books are awesome.

    I love the books, love the ladder, love the idea of painting the room pink, love it. Love all of it.

    Also: I like seeing the room beyond in black. It actually looks totally great, and from a distance (seen beyond doors) it looks marvellous.

  34. Eva Lee Young May 13, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Hi Nicole! OMG, I love how it turns out, those bookshelves are amazing and I love the colors choice. Beautiful and peaceful! congratulations!
    Are you going to ICFF, the furniture fair at NY? I’m lookinh forward to see Tom Dixon, Vitra, Boca do Lobo, Kartell and Brabbu collections!
    Hope to see you there :)

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      No, I haven’t been to ICFF in years. I wish I were going though! I keep getting pitches and invitations in my inbox, and it looks like it’s going to be amazing this year. Enjoy!

  35. Brooke May 13, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Nothing like shelves full of books to make me swoon. I felt as though I were stressing with you when they were first going up and didn’t look as you had envisioned. They are gorgeous now!

  36. Kelsey May 13, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Oh, I love it. I’ve always dreamed of having a library in my house (rather than books stashed throughout on cheap MDF shelves). This is basically my dream, rolling ladder and all! I would invite myself to move in, except there wouldn’t be enough room for my books too. ;)

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      Yep, sorry. Only room for one catalog of books here. ;)

  37. Nicole May 13, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    I LOVE it! You must be so thrilled! So I’m curious… What are your favorite books?

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      My favorite book of all time is Charlotte’s Web. It was the first book I remember really falling in love with, and I just finished reading it with Eleanor last night. (I bawled my way through the ending.) And I like Eugenides, Chandler Burr, Russian lit, and novels with a bit of humor to them (thinking of Shteyngart and Foer here).

  38. Constance May 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    SO feeling the sofa with its back to the window now. LOVELY!

  39. Laura May 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Those shelves turned out so great. Yeah books! A round tulip-esque table with older wooden chairs and a giant oriental carpet would make a great place for games/puzzles/school projects/homework. While you lay on the sofa with one of those books! Any chance of a complete cost/time breakdown?

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

      The shelves cost about $8000, and took about three weeks of installation time.

  40. Jocelyn May 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Pale peach for the walls! Yes!

  41. gillian @ Row House Reno May 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Absolutely love the library. It makes me want to climb the ladder, grab a book and curl up on the couch to read!

    I think a pale peach/coral/pink would be a great choice to paint in there.

  42. Michelle May 13, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    I was right there with you on the hesitation as the shelving progressed – but now all filled with books they look great. I love that the shelves are _filled_ with books.

  43. Joanna @ TheNestbook May 13, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    I love seeing your bookshelves styled with books!! It looks so good. I love seeing the two rooms side by side. Great work so far. :)

  44. cvjn May 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    I’m another fan of bookshelves full of books. And not color coded either! Love what you’ve done here. I understand why you were concerned about the grain in the beginning, but the shelves look stunning now.

  45. Anna B May 13, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Warm and cool all at once. Bravo! And I love that sofa from Chairish! XO

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

      It makes the room! Well, that and the rolling ladder. ;)

  46. Molly May 13, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    I love your house and your furnishings!

  47. Maureen May 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    Yay! A bookshelf with books! What a concept. I love that you’ve filled it with books, and that your books are color-coded (gack!). We’re designing a house right now, and it has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with a ladder. It’s the one thing Husband & I agreed on from the start! :)

    • Maureen May 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

      Oops…typing too fast. I meant to say love that your books are NOT color-coded. How can you find anything that way, if you have any more than a dozen books?

      • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

        I actually don’t think it would be that difficult to find them, as I tend to remember that a certain book had a blue spine (or red, or brown, etc.). It’s not for me, but I wouldn’t knock it!

  48. judy May 13, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    What a stunning home you are creating for your kids to call home. I can just see them dashing in from school and heading to that library for snacks and homework. I think the cases look great and I like the wood surround on the window-keeps the eye moving across the whole expanse. I know all of the readers are going to groan at this suggestion but I have 10 6 ft. tall 3 ft. wide bookcases in my front hall and living room and something bugged me about them, they always looked messy to me so I tried a suggestion I saw somewhere of sorting according to color-ugh I know, sorting is supposed to be Author or subject or something logical but I have done this on a few shelves,sans book jacket and it did make them seem more-cohesive? I should delete this but I really would like to know if this is sacrilegious.

    • Heidi S. May 14, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      Judy,

      I don’t think it is wrong to do this (even if it is overly popular)! I did something similar with a lot of our old (inherited) books. I think it helps tie the shelves together. Although my most used newer books are still grouped by category rather than color (and are located where I don’t need ladder to get to them). Of course I have kid stuff on the lower shelves as well (although the kids toys are slowly moving out and being replaced by their books).

  49. judy May 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Yikes! how did I not see the comment about color coding, now I really am embarrassed. I knew it was wrong when I was doing it but I have a lot of really old books, married 54 years, and somehow they look nice grouped in colors. I left the newer books as is.

    • Making it Lovely May 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

      No, don’t feel embarrassed! Color coding does get a lot of flack, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Books can look jumbled and messy, but so many of us love having them around and on display. If color coding makes you happy and you can still find what you’re looking for, there’s no reason not to do it!

  50. cvjn May 13, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

    Judy, color coding isn’t “wrong” if you like it!

    It’s not my taste and I made a comment saying it was nice to see that they weren’t color coded because that has been a popular trend. Now I feel bad for making you feel bad! If what you’ve done works for you, and pleases your eye, that’s all that matters. I see pix of color coded books quite often, and so there are quite a few people who agree with your taste.

    Many congratulations on your long marriage and your love of books. Cheers.

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