Double Parlor The Victorian House

The First Parlor

Yesterday, I showed you the second parlor, and today I’m sharing the first. It’s sparsely furnished right now, but if you were wondering where all of the toys were yesterday, ta da! The kids play in there a lot.

The First Parlor #makingitlovely

There’s a dedicated play room on the third floor, and the kids each have toys in their rooms, too, but they always get scattered around the house, don’t they? I want to be sure to keep a place for them downstairs, but we also have plans for the front parlor. It’s soon to be a library! Floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves will flank the window, with closed storage at the bottom (for toys), and a window seat between. We’re excited!

Here is the world’s most beautiful sketch.

Built-in Bookshelves Sketch

I know; it’s a lot of wood. I’m not painting the trim oak trim throughout the first floor though, and I want these bookshelves to look like they belong with the house. There are a lot of details in the home that aren’t original, but the previous owners put a lot of care into making the new work blend with the old. We want to continue that.

On a budget? Less ornate trim and finishes in the house? I would wholeheartedly recommend IKEA shelving! Brandon and I lined the landing in our last home with Billy bookshelves, and we loved the look.

Library, Making it Lovely

In a room like this one though, Billy bookcases (or any other IKEA shelves or hacks) would look cheap and out of place. I’d considered painting the bookshelves to blend in with the wall color, but everything else on the first floor is oak, and I think it would be best if the built-ins were too. The entryway has a sweeping wooden stairway and wood-paneled wall, the dining room has a large, wooden breakfront at one end, and the second parlor has a lot of wood in the windows, shutters, and fireplace. The built-ins will fit in and anchor the front parlor nicely.

We are going to hire out for this. I think that we could try to DIY it, but I worry that it would look like a DIY job. I have some construction skills, but I’m far from a master carpenter, and this is something I’d rather trust to a professional. I’m trying to do right by this painted lady.

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  • Laura @ Rather Square
    February 6, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Even though you’re hiring this out to be built, will you be designing the bookcases yourself? Will you be using a local carpenter?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Yes, we’ll be using a local carpenter. I see it as a collaborative process. I have a good idea of how I want them to look, but I’m open to the input and experience of the carpenter!

      • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
        February 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        Totally love the white Billy bookcases. I am always partial to white. Great eye-candy …. kinda compels you to read books!! Most of all …. they look practical. It will be interesting to see what the carpenter builds for your library. We are all excited! Haa.

  • alisa
    February 6, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I absolutely love the idea of the book cases, and I think that the whole first parlor is my favorite (no offense to the beautiful blue sofa).

    I wish you could carry the color scheme from the first library into the new “library” using that gorgeous sofa as a beginning piece. I could see yellow and brown accents, and those curtains (which I believe you left at the other house?) would be gorgeous as well. Or maybe make a window seat cushion out of the same fabric?

    Anyways, I know you want to change it up at this house, but I so love the other library scheme too :)

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I loved that library, but I’m eager to do something new. I’m holding off on painting until after we have the bookshelves built, but the room gets a lot of natural light and it could take some drama or bold color. And yes, the curtains were left behind with the old house, along with the rest of the library furniture.

      • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
        February 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm

        Best idea Nicole.

        Gentle hint … the less (dark) brown, the better. Folks do not realize this non-color is too dull, very boring, and makes everything else look drab. People who wear brown on TV neverlook good. I do love brown eyes, brown hair and yeah, some brown (wood!) furniture though! Not a total brown snob.

  • alisa
    February 6, 2014 at 11:49 am

    PS: Have you thought about covering the windows with window treatments instead of the shutters to make the wood less dominant? I don’t know much about historic homes and shutters, so maybe that is the appeal, but it might be an easy way to down play it.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      Aw, I like the wooden shutters! I don’t have any plans for curtains right now, though we have them upstairs in each of the bedrooms and they look great with the shutters peeking out from behind.

      • Lindsay
        February 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

        Me too! And as someone who just paid to have shutters added to our historic home – you are so lucky they were already there/paid for. Ouch!

        I was wondering about the sofa placement. Why did you decide to put it in the doorway rather than under the windows? Do you think it blocks the flow into that room?

      • Making it Lovely
        February 7, 2014 at 9:06 am

        The wide angle lens makes it look a little off. It’s easy to get around — there’s plenty of clearance behind the sofa. The furniture placement isn’t set at all though. I’m not doing much in the room until after the bookshelves are in.

  • Rebecca
    February 6, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I love the look of a wall of bookcases! I have BILLY bookcases along the wall in my office and I love them. Our house was built in 1980 so they fit in just fine. I love how they look and I love how many books and decorative objects they hold. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      They can look awesome, and it sounds like yours do! I really loved them in the old house, but unfortunately they’re not going to work well here.

  • Kristy Daum
    February 6, 2014 at 11:59 am

    I just added a library space to my living room not too long ago. The previous owners used painted plywood, so that was the first thing to go. My Dad and I built a built-in and while we still have trim work and painting to go, I’m waiting for when I renovate the rest of the space.

    I really appreciate your need to keep your “Painted Lady” in mind throughout your progress.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Yeah, painted plywood can be fine for a lot of things, but I feel like this isn’t one of them.

  • amy
    February 6, 2014 at 11:59 am

    If you’re looking to sell the old bookcases, I have a library looking for a permanent home ;)

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Oh, they stayed behind with the old house!

  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project
    February 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    You will be so glad you had them custom built! It really is worth the money. We had custom built ins made for our downstairs guest bathroom, and our vanity is being custom made as well.

  • Nicole M.
    February 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    I love floor to ceiling bookcases! You will have to get a library ladder…love those :) I also live in Chicago, so I am looking forward to finding out what local carpenter you use! And, on a side note, do you have any good recommendations for a Chicago upholsterer who does good work at a good price point?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      We’re between two carpenters, so I’ll share the information of who we go with once we’ve made a final decision. No good recommendations for upholstery though, sorry. And a library ladder is something I’ve been wanting for a long time! It might need to happen here.

      • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
        February 9, 2014 at 4:29 pm

        My dream is to have a library ladder. So unique and fun. Just love those.

    • Andrew
      February 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      My favorite Chicago upholsterer is Comfort Upholstery in Pilsen. They did my 1950s Baker sofa in mohair and did a perfect job. I’ve also used Elite Upholstery in Oak Park and Bush Upholstery. They’re all about the same price.

      Nicole, I love your bookcase idea! It’s going to be gorgeous. If you need any carpenter recommendations, I know some great woodworkers and stain people in Oak Park. Though it sounds like you have some in mind!

      • Making it Lovely
        February 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

        Thank you, and thanks for the upholstery recommendations!

  • Laura
    February 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Lovely idea, especially if they compliment/mirror the dining room built-in.

  • Jessica S.
    February 6, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I’m a sucker for book-nooks and lots of natural light. And, if you were to add wainscoting, it might add another layer of romanticism to the space.

    Have you thought about using this as the area for storing/archiving your film and music library, in addition to displaying your book collection?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      The movies and music are fine up on the third floor, I think. They’re not as nice to look at, and we need more space for our books anyway.

      • Jessica S.
        February 6, 2014 at 4:16 pm

        To each their own! :) I’m a total movie-person (and find Brandon relatable, when you mention his fetish for DVDs), so I’d be more compelled to have those things on display.

        Anyways. I thought of your home, when I stumbled across this interesting solution: Perhaps this concept wouldn’t work with your intentions (or even the architecture of your sweet abode) – but, I thought it’s worth sharing!

        Your place has seems to have so much potential for added “secret hiding places”; it’d be so cool to see that become a reality.

      • Making it Lovely
        February 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

        That is amazing.

  • erin
    February 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I can’t wait to see the finished product! My husband and I did this in our living room (also with the closed storage bottoms) and it has been such a huge asset and beautiful addition to our home. I balked at the amount of wood at the beginning, but it lends such a wonderfully cozy feel to the room. I can’t imagine the space without it.

    Kudos to you for hiring out, though. We did ours ourselves because of budget restraints and while I don’t have any complaint about the finished product, it did take a very. long. time. to finish. ;)

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Yes! Even if we did a fantastic job, I know how much time it would take a couple of amateur carpenters.

      • erin
        February 6, 2014 at 2:23 pm

        Three years, girl! Three. Years.

  • MaryR
    February 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Floor to ceiling oak bookcases will look beautiful in this room and they won’t look like that much wood when they are filled with books. You could also consider having them open at the back so the wall (painted to match the other walls in the room or in a beautiful contrast color) shows through the oak shelves. We have this in our craftsman-style house and it looks great.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      I like that look, but I think we’ll stick with a wood back here.

  • Nataliya
    February 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    love the library idea and your dedication to this home. I agree that a professional job that would do justice to the original oak trim is a great idea. This is such a special house! And it is so lucky to have such owners :) Can’t wait to see it.

  • Carlotta
    February 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I live in the Beverly area of Chicago, as you probably know is filled with beautiful old homes. If you want to throw another carpenter into the mix. I have a fantastic person. We bought a foreclosure and he has done a stunning job of replacing and reinventing all of the architectural details that the previous homeowners removed before they unfortunately lost their home.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Thanks — I’m happy with the carpenters we’ve talked to, but if I find myself in need of another recommendation, I’ll be in touch.

  • Sarah
    February 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Are you nervous about having a couch with white stripes or light colored rugs with all your pets and kids? I only have two dogs and I’m always afraid of anything light colored for my home.

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      I don’t let Murray sit on our furniture, but the cats (and the kids, obviously!) do. I don’t like them to eat food outside of the kitchen or dining room, but Brandon doesn’t enforce that, and I’m forever finding goldfish cracker crumbs on the sofas. Drives me nuts! That said, carpet stain remover can work wonders when needed. ;)

  • Susie
    February 6, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Where is the TV? It used to be in this room, right?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 6, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      It was at first, but we moved it up to the second floor a couple of months ago. There’s another TV in the second parlor (you can see it in yesterday’s post, behind the floral chair), but it’s not even plugged in and I don’t know if it’s staying.

  • Stephanie
    February 6, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Both days these pictures of your palours have sent me running straight to my neighbourhood real estate listings, daydreaming about a house that’s ‘more grand’ … must stop looking!

  • Lesley | Artsy Forager
    February 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Just have to tell you that every time you mention The First Parlor or The Second Parlor, this line from Jane Austen’s Emma goes through my head– “..and they have two parlors. Two very fine parlors!” Ha!

  • Lesley
    February 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    I’m so glad you’re going down the path of hiring a carpenter to do the job….and that you want the finished bookcase to look like it’s always been there.

    I tried to do the same thing with my old place (not as old as your lovely lady) and wanted the new extension to blend with the old so it looked like that’s how the house had always looked.

    Like you, I’m pretty handy in some areas, but wouldn’t attempt to do a job this big…it wouldn’t do “the lady” justice.


  • Jo
    February 7, 2014 at 8:33 am


    Did you draw those bookshelves in Photoshop? Do you use a Wacom tablet?

    • Making it Lovely
      February 7, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Yes, and yes. I used to use my Wacom pen only for drawing and photo editing, but now I go with the pen instead of a mouse for everything. I had some trouble with carpal tunnel, and some pain from my radial nerve (shooting pain from my elbow to the wrist), and using a pen instead of a mouse feels much better.

  • Heidi S.
    February 7, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Good luck! I’m sure they will be beautiful. Years ago (pre-children) I designed and we built custom oak bookcases for our Living Room. The bottom portion has been filled with kids toys and books for years. I am just in the process of purging most of their toys out and just leaving the books. The nice thing about custom is that you can choose the depth and spacing for the shelves. Ours shelves step back, so we have some shelves for deeper books and bins and some for smaller items.

    Not beautifully styled but very functional:

    • Making it Lovely
      February 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      So nice. I can’t wait to get ours up!

  • Karla Matthews
    February 7, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Regular reader here with a bit of an off topic but quick question. I was retouring your pics from when you first bought the house and was reminded of your stove. How’s that working for you? Have you got the hang of it yet? Loving your new/old home posts!!

    • Making it Lovely
      February 7, 2014 at 9:59 am

      I don’t think it’s going to stay long-term. I’ll do an update soon on the kitchen with more detail, but basically it takes forever to cook anything on it, the oven space is kind of a joke, and you can only use 1-2 burners at a time. It’s quirky and interesting to look at, but it’s not super-functional. (It took me a long time to come to terms with replacing it eventually though. I wanted to make it work!)

  • erin @ House Envy
    February 7, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Beautiful room. Can’t wait to see the finished shelves.

  • Sarah
    February 8, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I wondering if your house has outlets on the floors throughout? Or just in the entry way? I love this house and I love what you’re doing with it!

  • Ali Burtt
    February 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I love that you feel responsibility to the house. Gives me warm fuzzies.

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