Double Parlor Home Library The Victorian House

The Built-in Bookshelves and Rolling Ladder in the Library

The library project is done! The shelves are in! The ladder is up!

Built-in Library Bookshelves and Rolling Library Ladder #makingitlovely

Well, it’s 95% done. Those three panels beneath the window seat are placeholders until the ones that match the rest are ready, and we need a cushion for the bench top. I haven’t decided whether I’ll add hardware to the doors yet (they have magnetic push latches inside), and I’ll probably switch out the outlet covers for wooden ones. The important thing though is that the shelves are in! The ladder is up!

Built-in Library Bookshelves and Rolling Library Ladder #makingitlovely

Our carpenter did great work and has solid craftsmanship, but I made some stupid mistakes by not being as hands-on during the design process as I should have. It was not a fun learning experience. I can get nitpicky and tell you what I don’t like — mainly proportion/scale issues that I should have been more mindful of — but overall I’m happy.

The rolling library ladder was provided by Custom Service Hardware, and it definitely makes the shelves. Brandon and I love it! Even our carpenter was impressed by its quality. The wheels brake automatically, and each kids’ weight is enough to engage the mechanism. August likes rolling the ladder, but he won’t climb. Eleanor would go to the top if we let her.

It arrived in pieces and unfinished (in our choice of wood, oak), but smooth and ready to finish. Those pieces, along with the rest of the wood for the library, were stained with Minwax Wood Finish in Early American to match the home’s existing trim.

Unfinished Wooden Ladder

I chose vertical roller brackets so that the ladder’s hardware could be supported by the vertical supports of the bookshelf, since the shelves are all adjustable. For finishes, I was between the hammered antique brass and oil rubbed bronze options. Brass would have been a better match to the existing metal finishes in the house, but I’m not a big fan of the hammered look so I went with bronze. Mixing metals doesn’t bother me when they’re complementary, and I think the almost-black color looks nice and is more understated than brass may have been.

Rolling Library Ladder Hardware

Our ladder is nine feet tall. It doesn’t stick out too far into the room and I like the look of the ladder in the climbing position, but its rolling hardware gives us the option of storing it upright when not in use.

Rolling Library Ladder Hardware

Rolling Library Ladder from Custom Service Hardware

The shelves were finished on Friday and on Saturday morning, we quickly unloaded about 40 boxes of books onto the shelves. We had two parties this weekend so I haven’t had time to take more photos yet, but just like that, this house felt much more like our home. I’m so glad we put these shelves in, mistakes along the way and all.

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  • Jess E
    May 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I think they look fantastic! Definitely like they belong in the house. Excited to see the filled-with-books pictures! :D

  • mjb
    May 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    It fits the space so well!

  • Clare
    May 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I think they look gorgeous. How exciting to have such a lovely place to store all those books!

  • Kat
    May 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    This turned out gorgeous. It looks like it came with the house. Well done!

  • sue
    May 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    i think these look fabulous… well done for persevering! i’m learning all about the perils of rookie commissions myself… it can be exhausting & beyond stressful (especially if it’s for a client) and i’m constantly amazed at different people’s interpretations of a brief! but it looks like your hard work has paid off… looking forward to seeing it loaded up!

  • sarah
    May 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    They are beautiful and look like they’ve been there for many many years. Well done!!

  • Danielle
    May 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    They look awesome!! Really dresses up the room and gives it a purpose! And we always learn from mistakes, right? Can’t wait to see what else you do with the space.

  • Monica
    May 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I agree – they’re lovely, and you shouldn’t even mention that you made mistakes because none of the rest of us can tell!!! That ladder is probably as close as any of us are going to come to the “Beauty and the Beast” inspired library of our dreams . . . and I think it’s perfect :)

  • Danielle
    May 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    They look beautiful! Can’t wait to see the finished room! No pressure, no rush, but you just have such a great eye for design. :)

  • Peaches
    May 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Gorgeous! I was sorta worried for you along the way, but holy dang, they really make the room. Great work!

  • Claire
    May 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Really beautiful! Had I not read about the frustration and trauma that went into their construction, I never would have guessed there was anything but a straight route from vision to execution. That video of the kids with the ladder is adorable too.

  • Bonnie Morscher
    May 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous! Looks like it was always there. I’ve always wanted a rolling ladder, but my house doesn’t lend itself to that. So, I will live vicariously through you!

  • Ariane
    May 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    This library looks really nice ! It looks as if it had been constructed with the house. Happy book unloading !

  • Marcia
    May 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Dear MIL, Beautiful! They turned out like they have always been there! If you do not put cabinet handles on, it would look better, I think. More like just custom wood panels, and the storage is your bonus secret.

  • Julie
    May 5, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Yowza!!! Looks amazing, can’t wait to see the shelves loaded and (eventually) that round library table in there!!

  • John
    May 5, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    I’d love to see a pic of the shelves with all the books on them.

  • Heidi
    May 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Those shelves look like they belong in the house and they weren’t added in the ’80s. Can’t wait to see the completely finished look.

  • Nikki
    May 5, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    The shelves turned out to be so beautiful. I am obsessed with the ladder. This library is like my dream. Can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve!

    May 5, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    After all the stress it came out beautifully. I know you blame yourself somewhat, but I think you mentioned it was the same carpenter who did the rest of the work on the house before you bought it – truly he should have known better… Someone posted a link on one of your previous posts to a pink library ladder, and while I’m normally firmly in the don’t paint the wood camp, I’m sort of in love with the idea!

    • SFDC
      May 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      I’m totally in the paint-the-ladder camp.

  • Natalie @ Paper & Birch
    May 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Wow, they came out beautifully! The ladder is awesome. This would be my dream library! :D

  • Celeste
    May 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    These look really great! I wouldn’t know they weren’t perfect if I hadn’t been following along.

    And that little August is the cutest. His hair and smile make my heart really glad!

  • Abby @ Happy Food Happy Home
    May 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I’m so glad they turned out so well! And that you like them–I can’t even imagine the stress you felt.
    However now you need to put on a yellow ball gown and do a Beauty and the Beast reenactment. I want to see that video :)

  • Ali Burtt
    May 5, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    It looks super! I know you were worried, but you totally fixed it. LOVE!

  • Amy j.
    May 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I LOVE them!! I didn’t comment before when you were so upset, because I thought you should just wait until the end to really judge the final product. Though…at first…I did react the same as you did and would have no doubt with my own project with oak, not a favorite.

    However, these are beautiful! And filled with books I imagine you don’t see the plywood much at all. LOVE the library ladder!! We have a library in our house. I’d be interested to know where you got it, when we convert the room that is now my very junky office/craft room to a formal space in the future, I’d LOVE to have a ladder to reach our high shelf!

  • Sarah
    May 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    These are so beautiful! They make my librarian heart sing! I can’t wait to see them with your books!

  • Ruth
    May 5, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    It really looks so perfect for the space. I agree that the ladder really makes the space. Looks great!

  • Kelsey
    May 5, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Wow what a dream space! Can’t wait to see it when it’s full of books!

    • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
      May 6, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Absolutely. The most super-cozy space for daydreaming …. even at night! I am definitely curious how you will arrange books. Some folks are very fussy, wanting them all to be color-coded. Not sure if I could ever do that. Ha! Keep us current Nicole.

  • Nikki
    May 5, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    I (along with a lot of your readers I am guessing) truly felt your pain when you wrote about the doors. So, I am so happy that you are happy with the end result!

  • Christina Lynn
    May 5, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    And they don’t look too 80s at all! I love them and can’t wait to see them filled up properly : )

  • Tina Slocum
    May 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Oh my goodness, tit turned of so incredibly well that it looks as if it came with the home! Absolutely stunning library shelves and the ladder is the icing on the cake! This is stunning and such a graceful and elegant upgrade to your Victorian.
    So happy for you, Nicole!

  • elle
    May 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Beautiful! They look like they are original to the house. Well done. I vote for black, wrought iron, old timey hardware for the doors. Can’t wait to see it with books. LOVE the ladder!

  • Laurie
    May 5, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I really looks great! I’ll bet the books just look amazing! What a great addition to the room.

  • Nitya
    May 5, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Looks perfect! Your initial design instinct was correct the whole time :)! So excited for you. Waiting to see you decorate the space and make it lovely. Cheers! Nitya

  • judy
    May 5, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    help-not getting emails anymore? re-subscribe?

  • Jessica
    May 6, 2014 at 12:22 am

    These look really great and I don’t think you have ANYTHING to worry about. Can’t wait to see them filled.

  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project
    May 6, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Wow–it really looks like those have been there all along! Great job on making them fit right in. They look fantastic!! :)

  • Kristin
    May 6, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Wow! I agree with everyone else–they look great and truly look like they belong in the home. It seems like so many design bloggers are only into bright white walls and mid century modern furniture–I love that you are keeping it traditional with this house (with your own twist). I think it makes you a maverick!

  • stephanie
    May 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

    I have library envy! This turned out amazing. The ladder is the perfect touch.

  • Jenny
    May 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

    It turned out so beautifully, congratulations!! I know it was tough going there for a bit, but it looks amazing.

  • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
    May 6, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Ohhhmygosh …. fantastic! When I saw your photo it was such a surprise library was completed. Truly amazing, and very, very lovely. THAT ladder is sensational! Wow. Everyone is going to have the best time in this space. Congratulations Nicole …. project = well done!

  • Margie
    May 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    It looks fabulous!

  • erin
    May 7, 2014 at 7:14 am


  • Antonella
    May 8, 2014 at 3:58 am

    Swoon! Can’t wait to see it full of books.

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  • julie
    May 12, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    SO nice to see books on BOOK shelves!! I dislike an overly styled home. Yours is wonderful!!!

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  • Ellen
    August 22, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Hi! Can you tell me which company you used to get the bookshelves? I like in the Chicago area as well and would like to consider having my library bookshelves pre-made for installation.


  • Michelle
    March 21, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    FYI, your images are being used on this website, without accreditation:

    I’m moving to OP and want to add a built in library wall like this, and have really enjoyed your blog. I think I be coming back to it for modern / traditional inspiration.

    Thanks and best,

  • Jo
    January 23, 2021 at 12:19 am

    Where did you get the hardware and the ladder? I am looking for the sliding part that enables you to store it straight upright.
    Thank you