Double Parlor Home Library The Victorian House

The Bookshelves Have Arrived

In pieces, anyway! Our carpenter will be back next week to start installing everything.

Oak for Built-in Bookshelves

The vast sea of wood grain will be minimized once the shelves are filled with books, but oh, man. That’s a lot of new oak. I still think it’s the right thing to do here (as opposed to painted woodwork), but new oak is never as pretty as the old-growth stuff that’s in these old houses.

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

You Might Also Like...

  • Kristina
    April 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    As a fellow interior designer and artist I can see the finished result from a few swatches or a few key words. I think you made a fabulous choice going with oak, by paying homage to the architecture of your home it was easy for you to transition from MCM to a more Hadleyism style of design.

  • Ann
    April 2, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Rift-sawn oak would have looked good on your doors. The grain is much smaller and more uniform so the busyness is diminished. It does cost more though…

    • Making it Lovely
      April 3, 2014 at 9:43 am

      I probably made a big mistake by not specifying rift or quarter-sawn.

      • Ann
        April 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm

        Don’t beat yourself up about it. We all make mistakes! If the doors are going to be low, furniture can hide them. Painting the backs of the shelves (if you are filling them with more than books) can help, too. But wait to see how it all looks when it’s finished. I can obsess about details that disappear (or at least become acceptable) once a room is finished.

        • Making it Lovely
          April 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm

          I’ve thought about backing the shelves with wallpaper or a solid color, so that’s an option. I would use removable panels so that the effect could be changed out or removed entirely in the future.

  • Kati
    April 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Been a silent follower since before E was born- have owned (and updated) two Chicago residences since and now have a six month old. Funny thing- your current house was one of my favorites (I’m a broker), so I was SO excited to see that you bought it. I think what you are doing here is absolutely right on. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 3, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Thanks! This is a pretty special house — we feel really lucky to be the owners.

  • Amy
    April 3, 2014 at 7:30 am

    I’m also surprised you didn’t use rift-sawn oak. I like Ann’s suggestion of using on the doors. It may be more expensive but since this is already a pricey project it may be worth it in the long run.

  • Erin
    April 3, 2014 at 7:38 am

    How exciting! It’ll look great!

  • Andrew
    April 3, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I’m still with you on the oak! Yes, quarter-sawn or rift sawn would probably have had a tighter, more authentic looking grain.

    Also, an inset door on the cabinetry would be beautiful… do you know if those are inset or partial overlay? If it’s not too late it will make a huge difference and look more original/upscale and match the other cabinetry in your house. Oak partial overlay doors read kind of 80’s kitchen. For the money you are paying you really should do it. Maybe it’s already an inset door in which case I will shut up.

    Here’s a link to my old kitchen from when I lived in OP. The wood portion is inset quarter sawn doors. You may want to consider having the doors done in rift oak since those are the part that will really show.

    Sorry, I know this comes across as pushy but I’m so passionate about this kind of thing!!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 3, 2014 at 9:45 am

      The panels match the style of the wall in the entryway, which is original to the house. I am a little afraid that this is going to look 80’s kitchen though — so you are confirming my worst fears.

      • Andrew
        April 3, 2014 at 11:25 am

        I think a panel that matches the stairway is great! I just think the inset door should be mounted so it is flush with the cabinet box, not partially overlayed on top. That will prevent it from looking eighties. It’s going to be great regardless, and FYI my new condo has partial overlay in our contemporary living room built in bookcases and though it’s not ideal, it looks great once it has books, etc. If I had the choice, I’d do an inset door.

  • Johanna
    April 3, 2014 at 10:48 am

    If you are really unhappy with seeing so much wood grain (though I do think you are right about it not being such a factor when the shelves are assembled) you could try finishing the wood differently. There are several different processes you could try, such as a gel stain between coats of shellac. Woodworking forums have a lot of information about minimizing the grain patterns in oak and replicating finishes that match historic woodwork.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 3, 2014 at 10:50 am

      I’m not too worried about the backing, which is the part that looks the worst, because that will be covered by books. I’m most concerned about the doors and the sides that will face the window. I’ll talk to the carpenter when he’s back on Monday about it.

      • Jace
        April 3, 2014 at 5:56 pm

        I’m more than a little surprised your carpenter help you order the right stuff :/

      • Making it Lovely
        April 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

        Me too.

  • Elaine
    April 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    While I am seriously into older homes and the character they have, I think at this point I would consider painting–at least some of the wood. It just seems like an overwhelming amount of stained wood in one place and really needs to have a better balance. Even with books in the bookcase, it still seems like some of the new wood will be seen and the grain is just incredibly distracting and does not blend with the home’s original elements.

  • kate
    April 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    My advice- if you use doors by all means make them flush. And wait til the shelves are installed and filled and you’ve lived with the room for awhile before going into panic mode. The idea of 80s kitchen look is scarey indeed, don’t even go there in your thinking. Sometimes things we think we’ll hate we grow to love!

    PS check out the pink library ladder on E Henderson’s blog.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 6, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      I looked, but couldn’t find the ladder! And yes, trying to put panic mode on pause over here.

  • Jessica
    April 3, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Oh, dear. Is it too late to have the carpenter make new doors? Like you said, the shelves and backing aren’t a huge deal since they’ll be mostly hiding, but the frame and the doors really need quarter-sawn oak. What a bummer.

  • judy
    April 3, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    UM-let me see, darling husband, beautiful charming children, fantastic career which is only going to get better-and oh yeah…. just bought a mansion in an exclusive area of Chicago no less, You are walking in tall cotton dear lady-and your bookcases will be beautiful. Plus I have always suspected that you are probably a genius.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Things are not all rosy and perfect over here, but thanks for the boost of confidence!

  • Lianne Raymond
    April 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Like others have said – wait and see. And get that 80s kitchen idea out of your head – you’ll see what you are looking for.

    I think they will look great when put together and loaded with books. And I’m so glad you didn’t go with rift sawn or quarter swan. There is so much waste in those cuts and plain sawn is much more respectful of our planet and the trees. The oaks thank you. And so do I.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      They’ll look great with books, I’m sure. I just hope it turns out as well as I’d imagined — I’m not feeling so confident.

  • About All That Oak | Making it Lovely
    April 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

    […] talked to the carpenter yesterday, and I’m feeling much better about the bookshelves. The worst of the bad grain is in the oak plywood, which I knew we were using for the backs and some […]

  • Brenda
    April 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I think they will look absolutely wonderful, you will never have the same oak as old growth that has aged but it is surprising how well things can be finished these days to match up with old trim. As a woodworker changes cost a whole bunch of dollars, I am sure your doors will be lovely when everything is finished up. It is hard to look at that much wood grain at this stage and not be overwhelmed, I would go with your contractor/carpenter’s advice, he does this for a living, that is why you hired him.))