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marshawilson

Too many book shelves to fill

8 years ago

My old 1930s house came with a library room that we now use as a living room, and there are too many shelves to deal with. The room is very challenging to furnish as the bay of windows does not line up with the fireplace wall opposite (see floor plan), and there is zero wall space to put anything against. The brown areas indicate bookshelves.

I decided to group furniture in the middle of the room; the rug is centred with the fireplace as the focal point. No real budget to solve this dilemma, so relying on DIY skills here.

Challenges:

1. Can't rip any shelves out, as hardwood floor was installed later. Floor would be difficult/ impossible to repair.

2. Shelves are no longer in square. I asked two carpenters about building doors to create hidden storage, but they both said it would be cheaper/ easier to rip out existing shelves and build new with doors. Not in my budget.

3. These original shelves are all fixed height, not adjustable. I love the bookshelves on the fireplace wall. But I don't own enough books/ decorative items to fill the rest and it would be way too clutter-y.

I am considering filling in the half-height shelves on the door wall with drywall and creating more wall space. There would still be an odd niche above but I could maybe live with that?


I cut out one shelf and added a TV on a swing out bracket. We don't use the TV much so this works well.

On the half-height shelves behind the sofa that wrap, if I fill them in with drywall...where to stop? And what do I do with the ledge that is left over?

And this is the window side of the room.

Ideas/ suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you.


Comments (22)

  • PRO
    8 years ago

    You can start by simply arranging your books differently. I know you said you didn't have a lot of other decorative items to add, but even framed photos or small art could add a lot of personality. Place books, by size and color, some horizontal, some vertical. Place other items like a photo on horizontal books, etc. etc. It's a place to start. Here's what I did with my living room shelves. Second photo is just one of millions you can find on the web. Lovely room. Have fun.

    Marsha Elizabeth thanked Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc.
  • 8 years ago

    Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, that is a lovely room. I think I could dress up the fireplace wall shelves if I tried. For now, the books are divided into fiction on one side and non-fiction on the other. Not aesthetically pleasing, but practical. But I'd really like to minimize/ reduce the number of shelves around the room. They are so distracting!

  • 8 years ago

    Hi, drywall would work, you could also consider t&g plank boards that you could paint white or grey like your walls and they would look like wainscoting.

    You might also consider taking out the shelves (leave the fireplace ones though) and then placing hardwood in at right angle to the current floor and create kind of a pattern/ border around the room with a different colour stain, too difficult to match the stain. This pic shows the general idea.


    Hampden Dining Room · More Info
    You could do a diagonal pattern around the edge as well to add more pattern to that area
    Hall Pass · More Info
    Consider the larger sofa in the bay area of the room and the small sofa on the wall to the left in your plans . If you make the bay more dramatic with curtains and the larger sofa it might not seem as noticeable that the fireplace is not centered on the window. Place narrower items along the wall opposite the small sofa.
    House 16 · More Info
    This pic shows an entirely different wood and/or stencil to create a border and hide the different woods.


    If you take out the shelves then place furniture within the alcoves and that should show them off a bit more too. Looks as if the small sofa will fit quite nicely into the niche where the larger sofa is now. Also most of these border areas will be covered by furniture, so they will not be as noticeable either.

    Marsha Elizabeth thanked elainesteinke
  • PRO
    8 years ago

    I had another thought. Did you consider covering one/some of the bookshelves? I recently had a dilemma with a space behind a bed in our guest room and I found this burlap curtain (had to cut and hem shorter) at, of all places Bed Bath & Beyond (very reasonable). Different application than yours but just a thought. A neutral, textured drape (rod mounted or even hung on hooks) would soften the space, cover the bookshelves (while leaving them accessible) and perhaps even give the appearance of windows behind it? Here's the one I found for my problem.

    Marsha Elizabeth thanked Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc.
  • 8 years ago

    So many people who love books are very jealous of you. I agree some of the bookshelves need some tweeking, perhaps by adding a fluted molding to the outer edge of the shelves. This is a challenge which can evolve into the most beautiful & cozy room. One which all of your guests will love to walk into.

    I love what you have done with the boat niche and your triptych painting. I just think you will need a lot of effort to arrange the books you have into a cohesive mix of books, collectibles & empty space.

    I would start with the TV section as it needs the most forethought. Can you add a shelf that will just fit your box under the TV? It should have holes in for the wiring so it will not be seen. Then add two simple slab doors under that which will conceal the lower area, perhaps moving the outlet to inside the doors so no wiring is seen. Since you do not use the TV that often, you could add two doors that will open & slide back into the area on each side of the TV while watching & can be closed at other times.

    A knowlegeable workworker will know what I mean. Don't hire anyone until you have all of your plans figured out so it can all be done at one time.

    Marsha Elizabeth thanked sandradclark
  • 8 years ago

    I would never remove bookshelves. The arrangement you have of the furniture creates a great balance with the off-balance FP. Furniture can go in front of some bookshelves, but please do not try to hide them. You need to accent them. The furniture does not nned to be against the walls either.

    Also I didn't quite finish with the TV wall. I would hang two fairly large paintings to fill the blank space above the TV shelves.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    One thing I discovered is the "1/3" tip Sandra mentioned is important, especially the 1/3 empty space. Really makes a difference...had no idea until I started changing my own shelves.

    Marsha Elizabeth thanked chloebud
  • 8 years ago

    Thanks everyone! This is such a supportive community.

    elainesteinke, I will seriously consider the bead board idea. It features in many other rooms in my house, and I like the continuity of incorporating it in here.

    sandradclarke, You are so right about that tv set up, I never did finish the cord management part of the job and it needs some tweaking. And thanks for the reminder on the "rules"...not my strongest skill set, but I will try my best.

    chloebud, with so many shelves to fill, the "empty space" part of the equation should be easy for me :-)

    Still working on the wall art. I promised myself I would only hang meaningful pieces in this house, so I am re-building our collection. Drives my husband nuts, as blank walls seem to make him uncomfortable!

  • 8 years ago

    Also Sandra, I had not considered dressing the shelves up with millwork. This house has very simple trim throughout, but I had kicked around the idea of a crown holding at one time. Maybe punching the bookshelves up a notch is the way to go? I was so stuck on minimizing them. Time to reconsider...

  • 8 years ago

    whoops, crown *molding

  • 8 years ago

    Elizabeth, this is a section I started working on for a collection of special books we have from the Franklin Mint. It still needs work, such as the bottom shelf and maybe a bit more open space. However, it looks better than before thanks to Houzz.

  • 8 years ago

    chloebud, that is an impressive collection, beautifully displayed. I've discovered thru this process that it's a good exercise to look at photos of my bookshelves. Makes it easier to spot the problems.

  • 8 years ago

    Thanks, Elizabeth...and, yes, photos really do help!

  • PRO
    8 years ago

    Some additional ideas that haven't been posted yet - consider swapping out a section of wood shelves for glass shelves, paint the back wall of the bookshelves to match the beautiful blue wall color, and add some can lighting in the alcoves. This combo would really brighten up the dark areas and give it a little more sparkle.

    Marsha Elizabeth thanked Shannon Gedey, AIA, LEED BD+C
  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Shannon, thanks for your suggestions. I do have two more adjustable sconces like the ones on the ceiling, and I was planning to mount them in the alcoves on new bulkheads, sacrificing the upper shelves. These areas are quite gloomy at night. There's a picture light hardwired over the fireplace, so I can tap into this switch.

    And in case you're wondering...yup that's a buzzer below the light switch! There's an annunciator in the kitchen (from the days when there were house maids) and this room comes up as Library. Our comical version of Downton Abbey meets Nova Scotia!

    And I do like the idea of painting out the back walls. I'd fill them in with beadboard if the shelves weren't fixed. Paint is certainly easier!

    And now I'm thinking of filling in the bottom shelves all around the room (with drawers or doors) to create some hidden storage, reduce the visual clutter and match what's already going on on the left side of the fireplace. No idea what's behind that bottom panel...

  • 8 years ago
    Elizabeth, I agonize over so many of the same things, they never get done (good thing I have a very patient husband who works long hours & travels a lot). But seeing it through another's eyes, it's just maybe trim (nail gun, or tap in a headless nail), paint ('easy fix' if you don't like it), bead board (again, nail gun, fill, paint) I know I'm making it sound easy. When I had the BM decks all out last week (no decisions, me=big wimp.) I guess what I'm saying is what my mom told me years ago, We don't have to be perfectionists, or Houzz. Dip a toe in the water. It's not furniture you're buying, it's paint or wallpaper the back of the bookcases. And I think I'm telling myself the same thing. Thx for listening.
    Marsha Elizabeth thanked smittycdm
  • 8 years ago

    @smittycdm Thanks for the nudge. It's been a little while since I posted and sometimes I need to noodle ideas around for a while before I act. I will set aside a week this summer to tackle this! Looking forward to it now.

  • 2 years ago

    Just because you have it doesn't mean you have to use it. Minimalist rules these days. One shelf, one sea shell, for example. Empty shelf is fine too. I have a friend who has a sideboard in her home and resting upon it is one (what appears to be) hair ribbon. That's all. Looks stunning.

  • 2 years ago

    To Marsha Elizabeth: You have probably moved, but in case you haven’t, please show what your home looks like now after whatever it is that you did. 2016 was a long time ago…..but since others may have similar issues even now, please post a few photos. It’s not too late.

  • 11 months ago

    YES!! After photos PLEASE!

  • 11 months ago

    Ditto!