The Home Library

In January I detailed the projects I wanted to tackle with The William Morris Project. I had this to say about the family room:

Family Room: A cozy, embracing room where bodies sink into stuffed sofas and chairs to read books and watch movies. The lighting is plentiful, flattering, and comfort reigns over form. 

I had a laundry list of requirements, but the most pressing to me was changing the color of the walls and finding storage for our books. I couldn’t tolerate that sickly green-yellow one more minute and I had books stored in every room and on every surface. Two weeks ago our fish tank developed a slow leak. We  bought a new tank but decided to paint the wall behind it before putting it in place to avoid painting around it when we eventually repainted the family room. (Moving a full tank can damage the structural integrity and create slow leaks. Learned that the hard way.) Painting that wall the same calm, soothing gray of the living and dining was all the inspiration we needed to finish the room…sort of.

Finishing the room…sort of…is what we did at IKEA on Sunday, and why I have been so quiet (frazzled! short tempered!) this week. I was trying to have everything spick and span and pretty for today, but there was just too much to do. I still think it looks fantastic, though, which is why ugly rooms are so convenient. They make half-done rooms shine.

A few before pictures for those longing to feel the impact of cat urine walls and sharpie-colored sofas.

These aren’t entirely current–we move furniture around often–but close enough. Also, those pictures don’t really communicate the air of “social security office” we had going on. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

Here is how it looks now.

We bought a white ektorp sectional. I did many months of research on it, read numerous glowing reviews, and liked the idea of rotating slipcovers in more luxurious fabrics from companies like Comfort Works. We planned on a sofa and love seat, maybe in mixed styles, but there wasn’t enough room once we finally bit the bullet and fixed that book storage problem.

What’s that? Did someone say home library?

I came {this} close to making our dining room a library in our first home, but I chickened out. I was too worried about what the neighbors would think, which twelve years later sounds extraordinarily stupid.

We pushed the sectional about 3.5 feet from the wall, took three Billy bookcases we had in our office in the backyard, brought them inside, and added two more. In January we decided to save up for built-in bookcases on that wall. This is our test run to see if we would like it. We like it.

We like it from every angle.

We have been saving up for a china/curio cabinet for some time now, but I can now display many of my most treasured possessions, some holding nothing more than sentimental value, on shelves with my other most treasured possessions. We save money and I get to be surrounded by everything I love like a little pack-rat. Win-win.

Here is a shot of our little hallway. It’s about 2 feet. The dogs like to hang out back there.

There is room for one more bookcase. We held off to cushion our budget and because my desk will make the bottom shelves somewhat inaccessible. If we don’t buy another bookcase, I will hang photographs or art in its place. We are also saving up for the glass doors to help with dust control.

The area above my desk remains a clean slate. I’m debating how to decorate the wall, though even if I had a concrete plan it would have remained unrealized this week. Purging and organizing the books (all in alphabetical order, by subject) took me close to 9 hours. All told, I touched over 500 books on Tuesday. There are more in the office, but those I’m selling or donating.

A few months ago on Twitter someone mentioned they bought a Kindle because they had way too many books. “Like, 50, guys. Not even kidding!” I laughed.

There is still plenty left to do, despite the tens of hours I put into the family room this week. We need window treatments, toss cushions, overhead lighting, a little of everything on the fish tank wall (Exhibit A), and we haven’t even painted the TV wall (Exhibit B). Let’s not talk about how the rest of the house looks (Exhibit C).

Still, having said that, this room already feels like us. The boys are over the moon in love with “the library.” I’m so pleased with how everything is coming together. And let me tell you, it’s not often this perfectionist is gentle enough with herself to acknowledge her efforts didn’t turn out half bad.

This post was part of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that details the steps I am taking to create an intentional home. You can see more of my goals and completed projects here. To learn more about this project, start here.

Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Tell us about it with a link or comment. A few guidelines:

                1. Please link to a specific post, not a general blog address.
                2. Your post must relate to your efforts to create an intentional home. I have a delete button, and I’m not afraid to use it.
                3. No links to giveaways, please.
                4. Let’s use this weekly link up as an opportunity to gather inspiration and motivation. Click links. Discover new people. Say hi and good job. I know I will.

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  1. wow – what a change! It looks so inviting and serene. I think books are wonderful, as well as incredibly beautiful to have around. I can’t relate to the kindle thing at all.
    And again, it is thursday, and my kitchen cabinets remain in a state of chaos. The shame!

  2. So, you got play IKEA box tetris in your car, touch all of your books and the room is looking fab. Win. Win. Win.
    Like the new coffee table too. What finish are you thinking for the built-in bookcases?

    • That’s actually an old IKEA coffee table I unburied from the garage furniture cemetery. I spray-painted the legs gold leaf. As for the finish, that is currently under debate. I want finished wood, medium tone (like these, but not so red) and my husband wants white.

      • You went all big time blogger DIY on it and didn’t even mention it. πŸ™‚ Anyway it looks really nice. I am kind partial to white bookcases. Might have something to do with the fact that I have white Billys behind my couch. πŸ˜‰

  3. It looks great! You reminded me how I found your blog–it was a repost of your miraculous cleaning of the upholstery after a sharpie incident. I hear that the Ektorp covers wash well.

  4. Love the bookshelves, we always had built-ins in our family and I just love the look and also practical. So nice to have everything in one place πŸ™‚

    • That was the goal! We still have some book that need a home, but not many. If I had that final bookcase, and if the bookcases went up to the ceiling, we would FINALLY have centralized storing for all our books.

  5. I don’t have a link up today, but I must comment: I have a serious (serious!) case of family room envy. It looks fantastic!! You should be proud – absolutely. For the 1 millionth time, I wish we had an IKEA here. The shipping costs makes ordering this couch ludicrous for me, but wow – it looks great at your house! Thanks for letting us see it πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! It’s pretty comfortable, too, but I’m 5’4. My husband thinks it’s a bit short, but he doesn’t mind because the only time he sits on a sofa is to tie his shoes. The rest of the time he is lounging or sleeping.

  6. Okay, first of all, I nearly spewed coffee all over my keyboard with “social security office” . . . didn’t even recognize it in the next photo. Love the new sectional and bookcases . . . you just can’t go wrong to floor to ceiling bookshelves. Sigh.

    *also, 50 books? Are you kidding me? I currently have 50 books hanging out on my bedroom floor because I ran out of shelf space. πŸ™‚ . . . {look at that–sigh and smiley, in one post; there’s a little bit of love, too. It’s been awhile}

  7. I love your transformation! It looks great. We have made our dining room into a “library” but now I’m wondering about our family room (which holds the spillover books I couldn’t fit into the library). And I’ve seen several tutorials for making Billy bookcases look like built-ins; wondering if you’ve thought of doing that. Anyway, it’s awesome! I’d love to curl up on that couch and read a book in all that natural light.

    • I have and I think they look great. Kate from Centsational Girl just recently did faux built-ins with her Billys. My husband isn’t convinced and wants something truly built-in. We’ll see what he thinks once we get the doors. Oh, that reminds me! We were going to save up for glass doors…I need to go update the post!

  8. WOW!!! LOVE the white sofa and the bookshelves. Looks entirely different in there! Great work. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

  9. Your home library looks fabulous! That is a dream of mine too – I would love to be surrounded by books. Your new couch looks so cozy for lounging, reading and napping.

    • You know, I haven’t even read a page on it yet! I’ve been so busy trying to finish it up (both for today and because I was excited). Mikey did curl up last night to start Harry Potter, so that made me very, very happy.

  10. We have a room very similar to yours with paneling called the family room – even though its just myself, my hubby and pooch! – a then we have a living room that is more of a screening room with a big sectional. The family room has our older furniture which has gold and burnt orange undertones and I’d like to create a warmer feel because our grey walls do not mesh with the warm furniture. Was it difficult to paint the panelling or did you have a professional come in? We are DIYers but the paneling makes nervous because of the cracks!

    • Not difficult at all! You have to make sure the cracks get filled with paint, but it wasn’t nearly as arduous as we were anticipating. In fact, we didn’t even give it much thought!

    • Oh, good! I was worried about that, as you know. Although I don’t know why. It’s hard to be pretentious when you have rocks next to bullhorns next to romance novels next to…Russian literature.

  11. This is amazing! So jealous of your lovely home. Once I get a full-time job, I think bookshelves might be my first splurge… bookshelves that did not come from the curb/craigslist, to be more specific

    • Hah! I’ll bet if anyone needs bookshelves more than me, it’s you. There is nothing wrong with CL or curbside shopping if it’s good stuff. πŸ™‚ Most of my living room came from Craigslist, and if CL had some Billys available I probably would have bought them!

  12. I love it! What could be cozier than a library? Last year we consolidated our Ikea bookshelves, put them in the living room (whose layout had frustrated me at every turn), and loaded them up with the books that were scattered around the house (even on shelves in the basement–not a cozy finished basement, either). We scooted the piano back in to the living room, and now we use that room all the time. It took books to make that room ours.

    • Yes! That’s exactly how I feel. And my husband (who is not a reader) and Mikey (who is) are reading more because they will walk by and see something interesting. I love that.

  13. WOW! It looks so good that at first, I thought your living room pictures were the inspiration pictures!!! Great job.

  14. You always surprise. I’m interested in the story of the horns–and whether they are “beautiful” or “useful.” You never struck me as a horn kinda gal.
    They look great in the room and add a sort of “texture.”

    Also very brave to use the white… Even with our teen and adult children, white never crosses our threshold–although in the new Forever House, we’re doing some white in the Master.

    I will miss the Sharpie Sofa–it’s the reason I found your blog! But, room looks FAN-tastic and cozy. Good for you.

    • When my parents moved to the US, they landed in NY for my dad’s residency. They moved from NY to CA for his fellowship in the mid 70s. My mom flew with my brother and I, while my dad drove across the country with my grandfather (his FIL). In New Mexico he saw the bullhorns and bought them because they reminded him of Argentina. I snagged them from the garage a few years ago.

      • LOVE the bull horns. I thought they would be related to an Argentinian memory.
        They remind me of Texas… πŸ˜‰
        And who doesn’t love rocks?!

    • Thanks, Allison! I thought I might actually get to sit on it today, but I just remembered Buddy has a vet appointment! One day. πŸ˜‰

  15. Jules! What a great transformation! The bookshelves are fantastic (seriously, who owns just 50 books? I cannot even imagine), and the couch looks super comfy. I’ve always wondered if Ikea furniture holds up quality-wise, or if it looks as good in homes as it does in pictures, and I think you may have convinced me. That couch — the entire room, actually — looks so inviting! I love that this William Morris project can bring about changes both big and small, and that both kinds of changes can make a huge overall impact on the home and the people that live there. Beautiful!

    • The Ektorp comes with a 10 year warranty, so we’ll see. My husband finds it a bit too short (he’s 5’10), but it’s comfy for him to lay down and lounge, which is all he cares about.

      I agree with what you said about the project! Whether I am organizing my plates like I did last week, or reinventing our family room, considered, intentional changes–both large and small–have a huge impact.

  16. Jules, it looks beautiful! I think you totally achieved what you were aiming for in terms of comfort and coziness. I would love to hang out there!

    • My style can lean towards Margaret Thatcher stuffy with a strong dose of quirky. It’s nice to hear that it looks comfy and cozy, which is what I wanted.

  17. Jules,
    Truly have library envy, sure I’m sitting in my office surrounded by books, journals and periodicals…which I love – BUT at home I have to keep my books at bay, never bringing more than fifty into the house at a time because of allergies (I used to have many, many books at home, then a limit of 10, then 20, now 50…I just couldn’t keep the numbers down). Seeing the comfort of the sectional against the beauty of the book backdrop, ahh – I think I’m in love. Beautiful work.

  18. Looks GREAT. Love what you did. We had a similar experience transporting the Ektorp (saw you on IG) and we had the kids with us. We made it home somehow, Jeff was not making two trips!

  19. It looks AMAZING, Jules! Nice work!

    You can further mimic the built in bookcase feel if you get the Billy height extenders. They take the bookshelves all the way to most ceilings and the most you’d need to do is add a little piece of wood molding at the top to make it look totally built in. D uses that trick for clients who want built ins but can’t afford them.

    • I do want the height extenders, but need to make sure they will fit around our crown molding. My husband didn’t want them because he wanted to avoid investing more money into a temporary solution,but he is pleasantly surprised with how nice the set up looks. I wonder if he is still opposed to the extenders.

  20. Love it. Love. It. The sectional just looks so…comfy & sink–into-able.
    I also have our couch in front of a wall of book shelves…the little “hallway” is where all the random clutter I’m dealing with next week is stashed for the moment. And, even though part of me is dreading dealing with my books and shelves next week, the secret nerdy part is kinda giddy about getting to take out all my books and visit with them, too.

  21. WOW! Your re-do definitely fulfilled your mission for this room — it’s great. Of course, I think any room filled with books and a comfy couch is great, but yours is pretty, too. Well done!

  22. We’ve had the Ektorp sectional since 2008, I think. I use the red cover in the fall and winter and change to the white for the spring and summer. In the warmer months, I put boldly patterned sheets ( usually Pottery Barn Kids) over the seat cushions. It’s much easier to wash the sheets once a week than the covers (we have three kids and three black furred animals living with us). And it’s so bold and cheery!

  23. GAH! So cozy and beautiful! What an inspiration. You will be trending on Pinterest πŸ™‚ I have piles of books in every room. Trying to figure out how to corral them all. Very nice. Thanks for the link to the Custom covers website. I have a few IKEA pieces that could use some umpf!

  24. Jules, I love- no, make that LOVE- your bookcases! I am beyond jealous that you’re planning on getting built-in bookcases. I rent right now so it’s not a possibility but that is my true house dream. Incidentally, I realized a couple of months ago it was time to get another bookcase but I haven’t found anything I liked enough to buy yet. I’m hopeful I’ll find something with garage sale season starting.

  25. Love love love it all! White slipcovered comfy couches are the best (what we have) and even more when backed up by books. It looks fabulous!

    My 14yo asked last night if I’d ever counted our books. I have not, but I’m feeling the yen to do so. My family thinks that rearranging books is my favorite Saturday night activity. I scoff, but in my heart I know they are right. πŸ™‚

    Enjoy your room!

  26. It looks fantastic! Love your new library. We were thinking about building a library in our landing upstairs, but now that we’ve purged a ton of books (and the fact that we’re moving), we’ll be needing some new inspiration for displaying those that are left. I’m definitely not going to forget this post πŸ™‚

  27. That looks fabulous! I am so teeth-gnashingly jealous of the bookshelves. We have nowhere in our house to put a full wall of bookshelves. (How is that possible? I have an entire house, and the only walls that would hold a full library have either a tv or a bed on them.) I grew up in a house that had wall-to-wall bookshelves and books overflowing everywhere, and my own house is full of the overflowing books (every vampire romance novel known to man), but nowhere to put them. I currently have the overflow on bookshelves in the garage, and in banker boxes.

    Also, I haven’t read all the comments, and I apologize if someone already gave this link, but Centsational Girl took a bunch of Billy bookshelves and trimmed them with molding, turning them into built-ins. More budget-friendly than getting new bookshelves.

    you can see it here:

    The room is looking wonderful! I love seeing other people’s home makeovers.

    • ah, I have read through the comments and I see that you are already aware of the Billy makeover solution. Nevermind then!

        • hahaha….lots of favorites…I like happy endings. In the vampire genre the Sookie Stackhouse series is pretty good, although I am unsure where she is going with the last few books. Sookie of the series is much more intelligent than the Sookie of True Blood, in my personal opinion. Otherwise the Kresley Cole series Immortals After Dark is great.

          I have a ton of books (more than fifty!) and I’ve stopped buying books in hard or paperback unless they are fabulous (I have switched to buying on my kindle–instant gratification!). But for authors I love I will buy the hardcover, and those two series I own in hardback (Sookie) and paperback (the Kresley Cole, although now that series has become popular they are starting to publish her in hardback too.)

          • The last Sookie I read was Dead in the Family…at least I think that’s the one where she is married to Eric? It was after Bill and Eric rescued her from the crazy fairies. For some reason, I haven’t read or bought any after that. Oh, wait. I think I started my unread library around that time. Then, of course, I got sucked into the Dark Fever series.

  28. So inspiring! I love that you went for the wood instead of the white–it makes everything substantial–white–with a white slipcover starts getting ethereal and, possibly, too cold for comfort.

    It looks fantastic–so great, in fact, i was about to allow myself to indulge in some depression when I clicked over to your instagram pics–and now i really do feel inspired. i even filled the sink with water and started a chicken soup. i don’t know why–but the fish tank wall and the tv wall are a nice reminder that you can create beauty from chaos….it just takes time and lots of effort. it isn’t magic, it’s doable.

    anyway, sorry for the long winded way of saying Thank You–the family room/library is awesome! You have fabulous taste and a really good eye.

    • It was important for me to include the instagram pics. I’m glad they served a good purpose. πŸ™‚ I love what you said about beauty taking time and lots of effort. You’re right–it’s not magic, and it’s doable. Some days are easier than others.

  29. It looks really really great. I have a pair of horns like yours, and have been wondering what to do with them, I love how they are set on a shelf, rather than {how I have only been able to see them in my head} hanging on the wall.
    I love it all.

  30. Looks great! Definitely worth all the fancy packing at IKEA. Now make sure you take an hour or two for some reading and relaxing before doing anything else! You deserve it!!

  31. Awesome job! Love the transformation.
    Cozy couch, great light and a warm glow from books=fantastic library!
    Ooooo- the inspiration to retrieve my (more than 50!) books from boxes.
    Sigh. Love libraries.

  32. I’ve been busy so I didn’t make it to your blog until today. OH.MY.GOSH. Jules – I LOVE IT!!! It looks like something out of a magazine and I’m SO pinning it to Pinterest!! So cozy and inviting and everything you were aiming for.

    And as for books – don’t even get me started. 50?! HA! Poor girl (whoever she was). I’m currently in the process of reading 1/5th of her entire book collection (yes, I DO have 10 books going at once – and yes, I do keep them all straight, though it drives my husband nuts!). I LOVE books and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your bookshelves behind the couch. My little brain is now spinning out all kinds of ideas for our home… πŸ˜‰

  33. Jules… I. Love! It. Fan-flipping-pancakes-tastic. Ok, our house is a 50’s ranch fixer upper and in the next few years we will be taking out a 17 foot wall to create a much more useable (and open) open living-dining-kitchen area. I already have plans to get a sectional similar to if not the very same Ectorp sectional and line the back wall with wooden built-ins. We have the same dream πŸ™‚ I am so in love with your family room. Isn’t it just exactly how a family room should feel?

  34. Looks wonderful! I wish I could have a home library like this. I’m sure your family is enjoying it πŸ™‚

  35. This is wonderful! I love it! I ‘ve been thinking about a setup similar to this for awhile, and I think your post has finally convinced me. My problem is, is that I have an embarrassingly large collection of historical romance novels boxed up in my garage. I’ve purged all but my favorite books by my favorite authors in this particular genre. If you were me, would you display these books along with the rest or keep them put away? There’s still a part of me who is a little embarrassed for my penchant for them, wondering what my friends would think if they saw what types of books I normally read, thinking that all I read is ‘smut’ but then there’s a part of me who feels like should just own it. And honestly they aren’t all that bad! I’ve been reading them since I was 12 and there are some really well written ones out there! And if you’re wondering — all of them have perfectly normal covers, with perfectly fine titles – no steamy half naked man and/or woman in sight! So, what do you think? Should they be kept in the garage (or hidden in my bedroom closet) or should I go ahead and display them with the rest?

    • Well, since I have my historical romance novels on my shelves, I say go for it. I also have my Sookie Stackhouse books there, too. Books are meant to be read and loved, not looked at. I’m not a fan of books on display just for the sake of looking pretty. Wave the romance flag with pride, Rose. πŸ™‚

      p.s. Rose is one of my favorite names ever…if you couldn’t tell from all the roses on my blog!

  36. Thank you so much for your response! I don’t know why I’m self conscience about it, but I’ve got to get past it and just be who I am. You’re totally right. Own what you love!

    P.S. Thank you! I haven’t always liked my name but I think I’ve grown into it!

    • P.P.S. We almost have the same navy chesterfield couch! I missed out on a green one in the same style so when I saw a navy one with a matching wingback chair I jumped right on it! We’ve had it for 2 years and it’s been awesome with two boys! All the spills wipe right up.

  37. 50 books, lol! I am thinking about getting a Kindle and while it might cut down on future books, I would hate to get of all the ones I have now! I love your book cases- they look so pretty and functional too. Your book series look so happy all together (especially the rainbow’d Outlanders, can the new one come out already?) Thanks for sharing- I’m mostly a blog lurker but love love love stopping by here.

  38. I have an IKTORP sleeper and I love it. Did the research and am happy! I have the black cotton cover, and it washes like a dream. My landlord painted all the walls some kind of brown-sage color (he’s a laid back guy). The black pops. I also have six different bookshalves in white.

  39. I would love to hang out in this room! It looks so homey and inviting. And when I saw your desk and computer I thought, “ah, that’s where she blogs! That’s where the magic happens!” πŸ™‚

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