Double Parlor Home Library The Victorian House

Moving Forward with the Built-in Bookshelves

After a minor freakout and a little time to regroup, the bookshelves are moving along. We don’t have the budget or inclination to scrap the whole thing and start over, so minor tweaks are going to have to go a long way toward fixing the areas I didn’t like.

Built-in Bookshelves in Progress

The outer beveled edges of the doors have been cut down and the doors will be inset. The recessed toe kick is gone. The plywood grain still bugs me, but hopefully less so when there are books on the shelves. And if not? There’s always Plan B of making painted or wallpapered removable inserts to cover some of the wood. A few people have recommended painting out the whole thing, which honestly would probably look pretty amazing, but I’m giving the oak a shot first.

I think (I hope!) it will all come together as the project progresses further. There’s going to be a window seat in the center, and we’re installing a rolling library ladder that I’m really looking forward to seeing in the space. I’m excited about turning my attention toward putting the room back together and finally unpacking our dozens of boxes of books. They’ve been scattered throughout the second floor for months, lining the hallway and greeting us at the top of the stairs, so it’s going to be a big relief to have them out of there.

Boxes of Books, and the Kids


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  • Constance
    April 16, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    It’s already looking better! At tihs point, if it wasn’t for the grain (which I agree, I would give a change, too), you wouldn’t know it wasn’t the plan from the start. Onward, indeed.

  • Melissa
    April 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I think it’s looking better already! Once you get paint on the walls and books filling the shelves it could totally change the look.

    I’m excited to see your finished room.!

  • Ayanna
    April 16, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    It looks better already – fixing the recessed toe kick made a HUGE difference for the better! But, looking at the pictures, I really think you should consider painting the interiors – that may help you with the grain problem.

  • Andrew
    April 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Looking good. You are right that books, etc. will tame down the grain. OR lacquering the whole thing in peacock blue or coral pink would be smashing!

  • Katharine
    April 16, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    The Middle of any project is always the worst, ya know? I think once you get to the end and can start dressing the room, you’ll see your vision come together.

  • Jade
    April 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Honestly – I can’t believe what a difference building out that toe kick made. I like it 100% better now. Get some books on there to hide the inside and it’ll look actually really good.

  • stephanie
    April 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Will you be adding crown molding to the tops of the shelves so they further look like they’ve always been there?

    • Making it Lovely
      April 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Yes, there will be molding added along the top.

  • Carrie
    April 16, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I’ve never commented before but just wanted to say that I am glad you are making a few tweaks but still giving most of the original plan a shot. I am surprised at how pushy some of the comments have been, arguing against your approach. Your house, your money, your vision. I think it’s going to look lovely.

    • Anne
      April 16, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      Nicole was the one lamenting the look and regretting her decisions (including the toe-kick, which can clearly be seen in the original sketch she shared with us), so I don’t think the comments were pushy and I don’t think Nicole needs to be defended. She made mistakes, she admitted to them and expressed doubts, readers responded. It wasn’t like she OMG LOVED them and everyone told her they look like shit.

      Which, by the way, they do, toe-kick or no. That is some ugly-ass wood grain.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 16, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Most of the comments have been constructive, and well-said, even when not positive. Carrie, thanks for leaving your first comment. And Anne, thanks for your third comment of the day.

      • Annie
        April 17, 2014 at 3:50 pm

        ^Hahahaha! Love ya, Nicole!

  • AnnW
    April 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I have a wall full of light wood bookshelves. I put light blue poster board behind the shelves to get rid of some of the wood look. The paper matches the paint in the room. Once you load these up and the new baby comes, you won’t give this project another thought. If you then plan on painting the whole thing, you might be surprised that another five years passes before you do it. Ann

    • Making it Lovely
      April 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      You’re probably right. I do like the idea of lining the shelves with another color, but I’m going to wait a little and see how the shelves look with some books on them first.

  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project
    April 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    SOOOOO jealous that you’re getting a rolling library ladder! I’ve wanted one of those ever since Beauty and the Beast!

    • erin
      April 17, 2014 at 6:59 am

      Yes. This!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      I kind of want to get a Belle dress for E and stage a picture.

  • Margie
    April 16, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Looking at unfinished wooden bookshelves, it is almost impossible to imagine the finished project before they are styled. Go look at any high end “homes for sale” website where the houses are empty and regardless of how beautifully done the books shelves are, they just look like a wooden wall.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 16, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      And that’s actually what I’m kind of going for here — a complete wall of wood. I know not everyone is on board, and hopefully it isn’t a huge mistake, but I still think it will look good once the shelves have been filled.

      • Margie
        April 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

        Perhaps I didn’t word that as well as I should. I meant it in terms that what looks like “OMG, solid sheet of oak plywood” now, will look like “lovely, period appropriate beautifully styled bookshelves” once you get a long weekend of playing with books and things and pictures… I love your inspiration photo in today’s post and would be thrilled to have something similar in my house.

  • Tina Slocum
    April 16, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Looks fab! It’s going to be stunning with all your books in place,

  • Nicole
    April 16, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I wanted to,thank you for posting the high and lows of doing this project. I am currently midway through building a new house and am doing it long-distance which means that I only see things once in person (if that!) and otherwise manage with emailed Iphone snaps from my builder. We had chosen red oak for some cabinets because the color was so good with the floors. After seeing ypur problems with the oak grain, I immediately got in touch and asked about upgrading to quartersawn. For a 10% increase in price, it is done. I hadn’t thought about the grain and am so grateful to have had this chance. Thank You!!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      I’m so glad you were able to avoid the same mistake I made! It was too late for us to change our plans because the wood had already been cut and paid for, but a 10% price difference to upgrade would have been a no-brainer.

  • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
    April 16, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    End results will be smashing! A bit difficult to see now, when everything is in place, for sure the overall look will be gorgeous. Especially with a rolling ladder. This room will have the greatest personality! Best is yet to come Nicole! P.S. My baby blues saw that pink ladder last week. Forgot the blog. Wow. Nice with mostly all white decor. Different, and very tempting!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Wasn’t that pink ladder fun? The all-white decor was definitely the right setting to make it stand out.

  • Sandy B
    April 16, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    One of the hardest and most stressful parts of being an interior designer for me is communicating well with the trades and managing their work. Things go wrong all the time even with the best plans, drawings, meetings, etc. Coming up with plan b is often what saves you. I think that your option of painting it could be beautiful and would only serve to highlight the beautiful existing wood vs. detracting from it with something that doesn’t blend well with it.

    You have amazing taste and I am sure what you come up with everyone will be dying to copy you!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      I’m glad to hear that it happens to experienced designers as well. Such a frustrating experience (and not the most fun thing to document publicly). I think it would be beautiful painted, but I’m going to give the original plan a shot first and see how everything looks once there are some books on the shelves.

  • julie.
    April 16, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    SO MUCH BETTER. Can’t wait to see them loaded with books and styled with your touches!

  • Seng
    April 16, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    These bookshelves look great!! How are you doing all these renovations with kids around?! I guess yours are old enough to stay out of the way or help. :)


    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Oh yeah, they’re staying out of the way! They thought the power tools were really interesting at first, but they’re steering clear now.

  • Amanda B
    April 16, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Those shelves look great, Nicole! Fixing the toe kick issue worked wonders! I’m excited to see the final result. Glad you’re feeling better about the project as well.

  • Ashley @ SpiteOrFlight
    April 16, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Man, what a difference filling in that toe-kick makes! It sounds like the new plan will be beautiful. So jealous of that ladder already!

  • Natalie
    April 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I think the library is going to be an amazing space and I look forward to seeing it come together. I love reading your blog.

  • Dulcie
    April 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Between the wood of the door and the trim, which look different, there are just so many grains going on… I don’t normally fall into the “paint” camp, but I think it would look good to paint over these built-ins. That oak grain is too much.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      It is a lot. I’m giving it a go though. I can always paint later, but I want to see how it looks all styled up and maybe the grain won’t be so noticeable?

  • Katia
    April 16, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    It is starting to look good. I really like it. I am sure you will make it work. E. is so pretty,



  • Elaine
    April 16, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I seem to be completely in the minority here, but I just cannot. The wood grain is blinding. I have to disagree with those who are saying it is better. I just am not seeing it and the wood grain is actually much more than I could have ever imagined.

  • Tara R
    April 16, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    I always freak out a little at the beginning of a new project because I am constantly second guessing myself. Last year when we painted the exterior of our home I was convinced I made the wrong choice until the project was complete. I am loving your built ins more and more each time you post. By the end of the project I am sure you will be happy. When lots of money goes into something it is natural to be a bit nervous at first.

  • Nicola
    April 16, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Love how it is coming together and can’t wait to see the window seat! Do you have a cushion idea or colour-scheme in mind for the seat?
    I don’t see what all the fuss is about the wood grain, it looks good to me :)

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      I posted today about the possible color scheme. I haven’t focused too much on a fabric yet, but now that the construction is almost done on the shelves, I’m turning my attention back toward the decorating details!

  • Marissa
    April 16, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Wow! I can’t believe what a difference seeing them in place makes! I wasn’t a fan when you posted the previous picture of the semi-built lower half, but I think they look great now (and I’m not just saying that). The very grainy parts will not be visible when filled with books, and revising the toe kick made a huge difference. I’ve been there with disappointing projects, so I was pleasantly relieved to see how nice these bookshelves are coming along. Hang in there– they’re going to look amazing!

    Completely unrelated and random, but have you ever seen Tori Spelling’s oldest daughter? For some reason, she looks so much like your Eleanor to me. They’re both adorable little girls :).

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      Stella! I used to watched their reality show. I like Tori Spelling. :)

  • Katrin
    April 17, 2014 at 2:49 am

    Your blog is the only one where I read the comment section – just because I really admire how gracefully you handle snarky comments. ;) I think the shelves will look great once finished and styled. And if not, you are right, there´s always paint…

  • Antonella
    April 17, 2014 at 6:09 am

    It’s going to be super lovely, have faith.
    And yay for books! It’s amazing all the space you’ll have for them (I know what’s like to have loads of books and needing to find a place for them…)
    Can’t wait to see the styled shelves. How about some horse head bookends?

  • Abby
    April 17, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Minus the toe kick they look a hundred times better! I actually like the oak grain–it is after all oak! So it stands to reason it’s going to look like it lol.
    I think the backs will fade away once the books are on the shelves. Though I do like the idea of a removable panel to add some interest.
    I would live with them for a while before making any decisions. I think they’ll turn out!

  • Jennifer
    April 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I like it more with the toe kick for sure. If you’re not a fan of the door faces once all is said and done, what if you routed out the middle section entirely, and placed some sort of cool metal grid stuff (like used in funky radiator covers) in the routed space – still doors, but less of that 80’s cabinet feel while still working (possibly) with the period elements….(link chosen as it ws the first thing i found on google images….

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      I’m going to see how the doors turn out now that we’ve made some modifications, but that is a nice look.

  • Jo
    April 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Seeing them built up the wall a little – they look so much better now. Fingers crossed, but I think the final project will be fab.

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  • Jayme
    April 17, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    It doesn’t look as bad as you think and I’m picky as heck. The reason the guy couldn’t match your wood is because it doesn’t exist anymore. I live in an old house in Boston, MA. And the tiger oak is all over in this house when they wanted to cut costs, and is something he should have discussed with you. (explained the grain look) The prettier parts of the woodwork are other hard woods that are layered together to give them that gorgeous finish. Imagine, back in the day walnut on top of oak, on top of some other gorgeous rare wood. Wood workers today do not have the expertise nor the access to such woods. Is he a master carpenter or just a contractor? I know you can style it and it will look amazing, but I wouldn’t paint it. I think you will be happy with it.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      I think I’m going to be happy with it too. At least, I’m hoping so! It’s looking better and better over here as more progress is made.

  • Laurie
    April 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Oh excellent! I think these changes will make it look more how you want and it will be awesome. Ultimately, it will be beautiful because of the books. They always make a room look great.

    You’re doing a great job and this house and it is turning out so pretty!

  • JUDY
    April 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I think just the backs of the cases painted in the black might give a good result. I have 8 Walmart bookcases in black full of books and they look surprising good for $29.99 per case. Husband said no more than that because I don’t read them since I now use a nook and he can’t see the logic in money spent for something obsolete. But I did read all of them and enjoyed them immensely so they are like friends that I am loathe to discard. Another thought re: the complaints about the wood grain- I wonder if the readers have a true impression of your rooms which seem very large and with high ceilings. That must minimize the effect of any single decorative element of the room. And how much does anyone micro examine the separate elements of a room, it is the over all ambiance that makes an impression and while your rooms all seemed elegant and well thought out I liked a kind of cozy welcoming affect they all had. I love your new home and can’t wait to see the ongoing pictures of the new baby’s progress-those of August and Eleanor were so sweet.

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  • Marissa
    April 18, 2018 at 12:22 am

    I’m just curious… after four years, are you completely happy with the bookshelves now? Does the grain still bug you or has it grown on you? Any plans in the back of your head to alter them (I think they look fabulous!)?