Is it possible for a house to be so full of books that the foundation starts to sink, or it slides down the hill into the lake? If so, then Dan and I are in big trouble. We have so many books packed into our little cottage that I feel like a branch of the local library.
When we decided to downsize and move into our cottage, Dan and I each picked the things we could absolutely not live without.
Mine? Artwork, dishes and pillows. His? Books, books, books. Dan is a lifelong learner whose passion is reading. Walk through our house and you will find three books opened on the bed, and five opened on his desk. He’s been willing to put up with all the craziness I bring to our lives. So, how could I deny him his books?
Once we had a list of the things from our larger Atchison home that we wanted to shoehorn into our snug cottage, we set about making the design decisions that made that possible. That’s how our cottage became the land of the bookcases.
In our Atchison home, we had plenty of room to store Dan’s books all over the house. We had a few built-ins in our living room that housed a few tomes. But the bulk of the books were corralled in free-standing bookcases tucked in all over the house, like the antique chest in Dan’s upstairs office in the photo above.
Still, we had an overflow of books. So I began using them in my decorating. I love how books add warmth and texture to tableaux, can be used as risers for a vase or lamp, and can be stacked to make a petite table next to a chair to hold a cup of tea. Dan would insist that his books were not interior design props. Of course, I ignored him. What choice did I have? I had to do something with all those pages.
For years I had this wacky idea in the back of my mind: I would redecorate our living room and fill the walls with built-in bookcases, completely surrounding ourselves with books, like a library. I was so satisfied with the look of our living room in Atchison that the idea never materialized.
So when it came time for us to dream about how we wanted to design our cottage, I knew this was my chance. We were already gutting the house, so why not rebuild the walls with bookcases?
I confess, that this was a hard decision for me to make. My heart was tugging in two directions. If most of the wall space was consumed by shelving, I would have a fraction of space to hang artwork, my number one passion. I would no longer be able to place my sofa in front of a wall to save space. And I would have to say good bye to many of the antique cabinets I loved so much.
The tipping point for me was facing reality: Where the heck were we going to put all of Dan’s blasted books? Not only the ones he owns now, but the boxes of new books that seem to arrive daily?
Our architect took on the challenge with zeal. He found spaces where we didn’t know you could find spaces, with shelves reaching to the rafters, literally.
We finished off our stacks of shelves with sensational lighting. In our living room, brass lights cast a warm glow over the books below, providing us with lovely ambient light in the evenings.
In our dining room, we used swing arm lamps as spotlights. I love the variety.
Once the cases were filled with books, I got busy making them feel more homey, adding little touches here and there, despite Dan’s protests to not cover up the book titles. In the living room, where the books are densely packed, I’ve been tucking in photos and artwork. This pair of binoculars is at the ready when we see interesting birds by the lake. In the winter, our favorites were the bald eagles.
In our dining area, we backed the shelves with bead board for a full cottage effect.
These shelves are a shared space, for both of us to use. Dan gets to add a few books, but lots of the space is reserved for me to display dishes, serving pieces and accents that bring me joy.
Stocked and ready for business, the Garrity Library is a favorite play place for our littlest customer, our grand baby Maeve. From the looks of it, she’s taking after her grandpa!
Next Week … Easter is right around the corner. We’ll have fast and easy Easter centerpieces to inspire you.