The One Room Challenge continues. I am decorating my living room, along with a number of other bloggers completing one room in six weeks. See Week 1 (moodboard), Week 2 (curtains), Week Three Part 1 (art options), and Week 3, Part 2 (splatter painting).
This post is ridiculously long, but this bookshelf is one of my favorite projects in the house. Although it is probably the least “designed” project in the house, it is a project that brings my values in line with how we live.
I grew up in a house full of books. We would frequently go to used bookstores as a family and spend entire afternoons there. Asking for toys was usually met with “No”, but asking for a book was usually met with “yes.” I tend to follow the same trend as a parent. I have zero problem saying “nope!” to whiny requests for the four thousandth Ninjago toy, but I am helpless against a “please buy me this book Mommy please please please?” (Even if said book is Ninjago: Legend of the Golden Warrior.)
I have always wanted a Library Room, with wall to wall bookshelves. No knickknacks, just books and a comfy sofa. My parents have had wall to wall bookshelves in every house we have lived in for as long as I can remember. Currently, my father’s office is lined with six bookshelves, and every single one is full.
For twenty years I have carted around banker boxes of books from apartment to apartment and house to house. Although my book collection has grown, my bookshelf collection has not. We have lived in a succession of not-very-large houses, and somehow there never seemed to be the right spot for rows of bookshelves.
In our condo I lined the loft with low sideboards and crammed all the books in two and three deep, and I did the same in the attic of our sidehall colonial in South Jersey. I didn’t have enough room for all our books, so many remained in banker boxes in the basement, and then we lost about eight boxes of books in a flood in our basement. In our apartment in Fort Lee I bought a large bookshelf and stacked all the books three deep, but then figured out that I could put bookshelves in the bumpout in the living room.
Two months after I bought those bookshelves we moved to Westfield, and again, the books outnumbered the bookshelf real estate available. I also wanted a place to display knickknacks in our tiny living room, so the books went up to the attic.
Now we are here in California, and yet again, not enough room for bookshelves, beyond the bottom of the two we had in our last house, with the remainder stuffed in a cabinet in the garage.
Recently, however, I began to think about how our house reflects our values. I've been inspired by Pancakes and French Fries's William Morris Project, where Jules posts every week about a project designed to make her house a more intentional and meaningful. In a similar vein, I am trying to make our house a simpler, more meaningful place for us. And one of the things that is important to us is books.
I have made books a priority for my kids. Their rooms all have multiple bookshelves. The playroom also sports a large selection of books. And yet, when it comes to books for me and Mister, I have them crammed in boxes and stored in the garage, where they are difficult to access. This is hardly paying proper respect to household items that are important to me. It is not paying respect to myself—why am I not worthy of having my important items in my living space?
I decided yes, I AM worthy. I will pay respect to my important items. Now I just have to figure out how to work my books into the space. And then: a brilliant idea. I will cover up the pass through from the living room to the dining room with bookshelves.
I hate the pass-through; it is wasted wall space. If I owned this house, I would hire an architect to deal with the load-bearing wall issues, close up the pass-through, move the doorway about two feet to the right, and put in built-in shelving on the left wall where the mirror is. But I don’t own this house and don’t even plan to stay that long, so….cheap fixes it is.
We bought two Ikea Billy bookshelves and put them in front of the pass through. I lined the back of the bookshelves with foam board covered in navy fabric.
Behind the bookshelf I hung a curtain so that from the dining room we are not staring at the back of crappy Ikea furniture.
All the books that were out in the garage have taken their rightful place in the living room. So have our photo albums, and our cookbooks.
I recognize that this bookshelf is hardly "styled". I debated arranging the books by color (like these), because I think it is so visually appealing. However, the whole point of this exercise is to access and enjoy my books, and thus my inner librarian insists that the books be grouped by author and subject. I can't have Sookie Stackhouse was mixed in with Harry Potter or the cookbooks. Its not what a designer would do, but its what works best for me.
The other "this was obviously not done by a designer" problem is the furniture layout. As you can see in the pictures, the bookshelf is partially behind the sofa, and not in a "I will walk behind my sofa and peruse the titles" sort of way. No, the sofa is pushed right up against the bookshelf, and the lower two shelves on the right are blocked.
At the time of writing this (Tuesday afternoon), I rearranged the furniture a few different ways. I'll save that post for another day.
In the end, although this bookshelf does not look like something out of Secrets From a Stylist, it is my favorite piece of furniture in the house. It puts the things I love front and center in our main living room. It really makes me happy.
See what the other bloggers have done this week:
Beth - Chinoiserie ChicLauren - The Cottage MixSherry - Design IndulgenceLindsay - Everything LEBBarbara - Hodge:PodgeLisA - Lisa Mende DesignTiffany - Living SavvyJessie - Mix & ChicLinda - My Crafty Home LifeAlison - My Little Happy PlaceDanylle - Nana MoonNicole - Nicole Scott DesignsJulia - Pawleys Island PoshJennifer - The Pink PagodaNancy - Powell Brower HomeLindsay - The Pursuit of StyleEmily - Rue de EmilyLindsay - Sadie + Stella
Edited to add: I am linking up to Pancakes and French Fries's William Morris Project.