It's the corners, darn it!

aliris19January 27, 2013

I realize now, however long after I've kinda sorta finished my kitchen but sure not the rest of the house, that it's all about where edges meet: moldings to cabinets, drawer stacks to drawer stacks, doors to cab boxes ... all the in between bits take care of themselves; what distinguishes good design from not-good is the joins.

I'm agonizing over how to treat a library-room with a couple symmetrical large-ish windows (given that the room isn't very large to begin with though) on opposite walls. Toward this end I was asking for pictures of window seats here and I actually like this one .

The trouble is, I want to wrap shelves around to the non-window sides so these shelves and cupboards all have to meet in one long seam at the corner (twice, no less -- each, I may do this on both sides). A huge proportion of the whole setup will be composed of the problematic corner-thing. yuck!!!

In kitchens, corners are a mess. There are funky-opening cabinets that work fine if you don't use them too much, but are no fun to go into regularly. If you don't want to turn the corner you could put in a half-circle pull out corner cab,... or those peanut-corners (costly).

What other options are there?

There are open shelves, or closed shelves I suppose, as uppers, that either angle the corner or do an "open" sort of right-angle in the corner...

Are there other ways to treat a corner I'm missing? (I hate em all). Can anyone please show me their corner solutions, either open shelving or closed-box cabinetry?

Corners are a mess: what did you do please?


p.s. As my final goal is for bookshelves not storage drawers, I've ignored those solutions. Along that way there are corner angled drawers like plllog's and nifty corner susan's like the korner king -- but these are not so relevant for my particular issue getting book storage, though they are interesting as part of a general "corners" discussion.

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Ikea has the Billy bookcases, including a corner solution.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ikea Billy corner book case

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 4:03AM
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Thanks, Petra -- I've stared at these Billy system pieces long and hard. Trouble is -- I know this will irk some, but try as I might, I just don't like IKEA stuff long term, especially the bookshelves. They just deteriorate and look icky. Plus, by the time you add a lot of modulars, it's not even all that cheap.

There was a sale on billy bookshelves a little while back around here and I tortured myself about just biting the bullet. But I didn't -- I'm trying to remember that voice that says "don't do it; they look great at first, then they don't, don't do it..."

But thanks for the show about the solution with a little angle on either side of the midline. I was seeing that on houzz last night too. I think geometrically that must result in the same amount of linear shelf space as meeting in a straight edge in the middle, no? It's just that you 'divide the dead-space pie', as it were, in two about the center-line. Is anyone following this? Is it true?


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 11:56AM
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I think you need to remember that what you're storing is books and not kitchen tools. Books can only be removed from a shelf in one direction. Corners are just a no-go period. Box in the corners and be done with it, just like any standard bookshelf. That also lets you trim out the shelves so they don't look like a grad school planks-on-cinderblox setup.

That billy shelf is not going to store any more actual books than simply boxing the corner.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 12:05PM
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Void corners are the best solution for a lot of millwork issues. And a good custom cabinet maker to create something level and plumb in all planes despite the wonkiness of the existing home.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 12:16PM
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Aliris, here are some pics from my husband's upstairs library. He isn't a decorator, so books just get stuffed everywhich way. I edited the pic to cut out the piles on the floor!
The bookcases are pine, built when we moved in. He built them and I stained them cherry and varnished them. DH made the decision on how to do the corners, which I think worked pretty well. And that is from someone who HATES dead corners and wasted space. But on a bookcase. . . .

And a close up of a corner:

The bookcases pretty well wrap around the entire small room. Here's a window:

We would have taken them to the ceiling, as we did with the ones in the LR, but the existing beams made that unworkable. DH just uses the tops as another shelf, so no space lost.

(I can post a pic of the LR bookcases, but they just run floor to ceiling along a 27' wall, so no corners are involved. Didn't think that would be useful to you.)

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Sun, Jan 27, 13 at 12:36

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 12:22PM
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Those bookshelves are gorgeous. Nice job on the staining of finicky pine.

Aliris: the gol dang corner, I'm in total agreement with you! I'm happy to say that I've managed to whittle it down to NOT ONE CORNER CABINET in my kitchen. Three straight runs of cab... a galley and a half, I guess. I'm lucky in that the little bit of dead space can be given to access on the other side.

I like to tour old historic homes and look at how the old craftsmen did such beautiful work on that finish trimming.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 12:34PM
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We also boxed in our corner in the library.

Edited to add inspiration pics:
around doorway:

This post was edited by pps7 on Sun, Jan 27, 13 at 12:45

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Thanks for all the pictures - really helpful! And yes, geometry-wise, it's true isn't it; there's just no getting around the corner-loss. But I hate it, it's just so, so -- unaesthetic to just lose all that space in behind the boxed corner.

But it's true, this should be simpler than a kitchen in the sense that there's really only books, and they really only come out of a shelf one way. I guess this is a period then....

pps -- is that last photo your house too? It's really beautiful!

Bellsmom - thanks for the inspirational pictures. I think looks like the perfect study! If there weren't piles of books on the floor it wouldn't yet be moved into. I decorate with piles of books ... ;) Kinda a speciality ;)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 12:58PM
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Here's another vote for the blind corner. You never miss that little space, I swear.

In this incarnation, I don't have a corner to fuss with. I'm lucky enough just to have 17' of floor to ceiling.

Space loss: If the shelves came across to the wall (no corner) it'd protrude at least 12". Your room will be 12" smaller.
If you add a perpendicular set of shelves, again you'll protrude 12" on the other side.
You're really only losing 12" square.
It'll be so beautiful you won't care. Books are works of art to me. Cats are, too.

Bellsmom, gorgeous. Love them! :)

I fussed about 5/8" vs 1/2" drywall losing space. Oh, Christine, Come ON!.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 2:28PM
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    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 3:39PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Hmmm, that first link worked in preview--I'll try it in the box:

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 3:43PM
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CEFreeman and Aliris
12'' x 12'', 1 square foot wasted in each corner of EACH SHELF is basically one wasted shelf per bookcase.
Nevertheless, I would vote to do blind corners in a bookcase.
And I just finished--well, almost finished--putting 14 susans into the blind corners in my pantry.
I agree with Marcolo, who sorta tends to hit nails on heads, that bookcases and pantry shelves are different beasts.
Much as I hate to admit it, I like DH's blind-corner bookcases.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 5:15PM
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Hey Mama -- that was just what I was thinking most recently, kind of melding -- was it your link with that bright yellow room? Here it is: . So, extending that ledge all the way around the room, having storage underneath and sending the shelving upward. Maybe even turning the corner on shelving to face into the window seat part ... only maybe that's too fussy; you need a back to lean against anyway, so they'd have to start further up. At some point simpler is better, just like bellsmom ... when there's a defined cavity already, then maybe it works to stick the shelf stick in it -- I really love that actually, but dunno .... may be just too fussy.

Thanks, mama, for correcting the link! ...oh and I hadn't realized the other ones worked too.

So OK, 12" square isn't really all that much .... except it IS! OK. I'll work on getting over it.

Bellsmom -- do you remember the dimensions of the wood you used? The thickness of the boards for those relatively long spans? And the thickness of the facing pieces which look really nice, BTW? No worries if not, but they look really nice on yours. And I second the mention of good staining on the pine. We have pine french doors that some random builder tried to stain for us and they look *horrible*. I'm trying to think of it as a "look" within the 'shabby chic' or 'distressed furniture' mold. I personally do happen to think all of that is ridiculous; stuff gets shabby and distressed without being pre-made-so; why would you elevate degraded quality to a position of utmost-fad? Still, I've got em so I just rationalize it somehow. And then I see what a beautiful job your stained pine is ... it can obviously be done! Well done.

Christine -- thanks for the link to the windows seats thread in bldg-a-hse. I am very curious to figure out how deep a comfortable, functional window seat must in fact be. I have a 32" door/desk and that looks like it could do it. I have a chest I sit on top of ... not -- it's too narrow. So this will be critical to figure out. As for the shelves, in general, I think it's a good idea to have less rather than more depth in bookshelves; almost no bookshelves really need that thick 12" sold commercially. It's useful for baskets and other non-book items that people like to fill up their bookshelves with. But mine are getting filled with books. Big coffee table books are often too large for 12" and short of that ("long" of that?), the vast preponderance do just fine in 9" ... looking forward to reading others' thoughts. But one thing is if there's that broad shelf on the bottom, all the way around, that will accommodate the coffee table books - there aren't all that many of them; then hey-presto!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 5:22PM
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In building the library shelves, we used pine 1 x 12's (which are, of course, 11 and a bit wide), with no shelves more than 36'' long at the most. Most are more nearly 30''. The exact width depends on the span and the number of units. 36'' spans push the limit of shelf strength. This depth allows up to store periodicals and nearly any book.

In the downstairs bookshelves (built the same way at the same time) where some of the units were nearer 36'', some of the shelves are sagging a bit. I don't see sagging in the library shelves.

I can't remember the grade. It probably wasn't top grade pine shelving, because we only really needed one clear edge.

Each unit was built separately,squared up, and a 1/4'' plywood back was attached. Then the unit was put into place and attached to studs. When all of the cases were up, moldings were attached to verticals and tops and bottoms for a more finished look. I'll send you closeups tomorrow if they will be useful. The use of a nice wide molding makes ALL the difference in the finished look of the cases.

This is really easy ''carpentry.'' I have since made bookcases for the bedroom the same way and I am an English teacher, not a carpenter. Really simple. In the bedroom, I used adjustable shelf brackets on each segment. Upstairs, all shelves are permanently attached with screws or nails (I think DH nailed them together.) I would suggest spending the extra few bucks for adjustable brackets.

If you are going to build your own shelves, I can give you a few more suggestions. Enough for now, I think.

By the way, I just reread the posts here. Do be aware that 1 x 10's will be only around 9'' wide, and 1 x 12's only 11'' wide.

Another alternative is to use plywood and face the cut edge with iron on tape. I just don't have the expertise for that, and have always opted for 1 x 12's since a fair number of my books are 10'' or more wide (lots of art books and periodicals.)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 7:35PM
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Hi again.

So I'm taking

Here's a sketch of a room that is meant to be a library that I have been turning cabinetry thoughts towards:

I know bookshelves are not kitchen cabinets, but they are kinda sorta ... sorta. Anyway, I am asking my kitchen cabinet guys to think about a lot of cabinetry I need in other parts of the house and this includes the "library". It could well be I should sharpen up my own bookshelf-making skills (I did once make a number of beautiful sets of them long, long ago now...) or at least find a carpenter and not a cabinet guy. In the meantime though I am still stuck on figuring out what to do.

I was thinking of -- as suggested above -- making a ledge on top of cabinets that wrap around the room and send shelving upward from this. Sort of combine the inspiration yellow-room picture with others that show window seats wrapping around a corner.

So I have kind of sketched this out on the plan.

And now, I think it's not really going to work. For one thing, it really cuts down on the floor space of the room to have two 30" ledges on either side.

The room is really symmetrical and I'm not sure whether violating that would be a good idea or not. I'm thinking it might be fine. The room has a very tall ceiling and peak running through the middle of it as noted with the dotted line. Above the attic door is a triptych set of high windows - clerestory I guess maybe? Not quite sure if there's a definition for clerestory and whether I clear it.

But for the purpose of bookshelf-figuring, I think the peaked part of the wall above the attic door is too filled by windows to sustain more shelving. But the peak part of the wall above the french doors probably could.

I'm thinking it would be nicer just to have a couple comfy chairs on the other side of the room -- or possibly a table instead. This would break the symmetry but it would return some floor space and perhaps be more functional. I like the idea of two window seats but practically speaking there may just not be enough room.

Has anyone any suggestions please? I'd really appreciate hearing anything that might occur.

Thanks a million!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 4:13AM
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30" is way too deep for a window seat. 17-24" is more appropriate. Deeper works if you put in a slight angled back between seat and window. The seat should start 17=18" O.F.F. Use drawers below for maximum efficiency (that's kitcheny!)

I think you're overfocusing on cabinetry alone. Start putting furniture in the plan. Think about the best things to sit and lie in and use, not just look at. That means seating furniture and tables--you need both. Chairs or chaises. Loveseat or sofa maybe, under the window opposite the one window seat. And lots of lamps, and places for them.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 9:49AM
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I love the idea of the light that must flood this room. And the tall windows. This will be gorgeous.

In my husband's library there is a small table (a sturdy old kitchen work table), a straight chair at the table, the leather Eames knockoff chair you can see in one photo and its stool, and a nice old upholstered lounge chair.
Room for two to sit comfortably and talk. Room to work at the table.
The room is about 12' square and definitely feels ''full.''

Now some questions. And these are from someone who adores window seats for lounging and reading.

What do you want to do in your room?
Comfortable places for two to talk? Will a window seat work for one of these? Or would two chairs be better?
A work table? Perhaps for a computer?

(Marcolo posted the message above as I was working on this. We are thinking along the same lines. Think function and furniture.) His measurements are right for a window seat that is used like a straight chair--for sitting, feet in front. A window seat wide enough to lounge in comfortably (sideways, feet up) will have to be at least 24'' wide, I think. Wider if it will have a pillowed back. And I would NEED it to be invitingly comfy. (I measured our bay window seat in the bedroom and it is 20'' wide. Not wide enough for comfortable sideways lounging--Enough for bottoms, but arms and elbows crowd it.)

Will a window seat be as inviting to actually sit in as a lounge chair?

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 10:20

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 10:10AM
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This is the finest place to read I've ever been in.

Off to one side are alcoves with two chairs in them. Sorry for the terrible pic. The furniture also seems askew here.

Through those little windows you see this.

Notice how small a role, relatively, the shelving plays in the experience.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 11:52AM
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OK you guys -- thanks for helping! You totally deserve for me to get off my lazy butt and upload some pictures. I will be so embarrassed to show what a storage heap-mess things are in. It's been two years now like this; just absolutely unforgivable. But I am trying to haul myself out of the pit now.... please overlook how non-Martha I am. Please. Thank you.

Yes, Bells-mom there's a ton of light in this room! I absolutely love it too. I am so excited about the prospect of snuggling into it.

And that's the point, isn't it -- as you all are saying. And yes, it is true, window seats are never as sunggly as you want them to be. Whyever not? I think it must be some weird filmy misty remembrance of of how you thought it should be to snuggle up with a book when you were little ... and when your legs happened to fold underneath you more easily?! Dunno. It's like a princess-castle sort of fantasy. And fantasies aren't good things to sink thousands of dollars into - at least not your last thousands. ;)

Marcolo - that room looks like the reading room in my college ... and out the window it sort of looks like it too. At least mine was more faux of what I'm presuming is the real deal here? Is this Cambridge? My favorite place to read was in a room just like this one at the Univ of Chicago. I loved that library -- *loved it*. And I can feel those leather benches just looking at them.

But I can't buy leather ... too politically incorrect. I just knew you'd love that, Marcolo! ;)

Marcolo - yes, light is man's best friend. A favorite GW quote in my head was breezy titling a post "help me light up my kitchen like an operating room" - at least I remember it all that way.

So yes, shelving is a small part of it all; it's just storage. And tables are wonderful places to lounge -- but I'm enjoying having the studying table be in the family room. The kids actually voluntarily, preferentially come do their homework in a shared space this way. I don't really even want them to disappear into this reading room. I want that to be a snuggle-room. For reference, for escape, for wrapping-around-you-comfort. That's different from study where you have to be on your toes thinking and questioning and incorporating: that's hard work. This is not to be a room for work, but for relaxing. That's my fantasy at least.

OK, here we go. This is looking through the french doors. No sniggering:

This will proceed counterclockwise around the room then:

I don't quite understand the photo-display situation. I've rotated the photos in photobucket but they don't show here rotated. Sometimes in the past it's seemed to take awhile so it could be by the time you-all see this it will have turned on its side.

As for window seat dimensions ... if I stick by this. I did rule out 24" and 30" on the floor and plopped myself in the space there. 24" seemed just too little. I have a 20" bench that I tried to turn into a window seat but noone uses it -- too uncomfortable, too narrow, and i don't think 4 more inches would do it either. I do think 30" is a more realistic dimension for comfort, presuming any comfort can ever be achieved.

But you are starting to sway me against it altogether. I did muse on the chaise-thing. I've never owned one. Once I lived with an aunt who had one and it struck me as a piece of furniture similar to the windowseat insasmuch as it seemed, in theory, like it ought to be a wonderful place to snuggle up and read ... only it wasn't.

I guess, I love to read in the chair you can see in that picture. It's from Sears and it reclines and it's comfy, or at least was when we bought it 20 years ago. DH could stand to lose a few pounds and the springs in that thing know it. But the reclining thing is a pia -- you have to have a ton of space behind it to accommodate that. There isn't really room in that space for more than one of them. Not that my fantasy of snuggling up and reading really incorporates another -- but it does embrace a totally unrealistic fantasy of my two daughters reading in there, together. Honestly, what is wrong with me... ? ;) They both love to read but it's to escape from each other that pushes them to it, probably!

Reading is inherently solitary. And it is also cold, which is why those library benches, while comfy, aren't a great choice for a house I don't think. It's one thing to goose your patrons a little by keeping em cool. Another thing in your own house.

Oh dear, I'm started to get discouraged again. And that leads to nonplussed immobility. Which is part of the reason I thought just building in something was a good thing: hand money to someone else and they can just do it.


This is a psychological problem, not a design one?! And, BTW, it's only connection to kitchens is that I'm thinking of using our kitchen cabinet guys, probably erroneously for several reasons.

Thanks for your patience and thoughts. This probably belongs on 'conversations' or another forum or just to be all left unsaid....

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 2:29PM
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That is a perfect room for a library. Enclosure plus light, coziness without claustrophobia. It deserves a lot of thought given to the design.

Don't toss away the idea of the window seat entirely. Just realize that if you want to lounge on it sideways, it will need high sides like a daybed. Perhaps an upholstered daybed would even work better.

Also, do NOT ignore that attic door. It is in a most unfortunate spot. Many people decorate by assuming they can get everyone to agree not to notice the elephant in the room, but bray it does anyway. Assuming you aren't running into the attic twice a day, I can think of two solutions that would work.

One is a hidden bookcase door. This requires some thought to construction but is becoming more common with the fad for hidden rooms.

The other is something I can't find the right picture for at the moment. Run a shelf and crown straight across that wall at the top of the bookcase, continuing it across the attic door. Paint/panel the attic door to match the back of the bookcase, and hang a painting on it. Position a small, easy to move console table right in front of the door, under the painting. Now it looks like an intentional niche.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 2:54PM
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I love Marcolo's idea of treating the attic door as a niche. Imagine the abutting bookcases with lights on the sides--Look at the 3rd picture posted by pps7 above. Imagine the niche narrower, the lights smaller, of course. And the door would have to swing out, not into the library room for the lights to work.

Hmmm. Could lights also flank the sides of the two windows? Kind of like this?

These windows and french doors are in our family room. There are ''seats'' under the windows, but even when there were cushions on them, no one sat there. I do like the lamps. They would have to be very flat/narrow lamps, of course, to work in your library. Probably not an option. But in my head it looks good.

But definitely the recess picture, lamps, and small table concealing the attic door and the adjacent bookcases is a GREAT idea for the doorway wall.

Sort of like this? (With apologies to pps7's original picture.

Enough of this! Aliris, this is going to be one of the best rooms in the house. It has such good ''bones,'' and nothing is better than books.

Do forgive me for maundering on and on.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 3:46PM
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My goodness, is "maunder" really a word? I love it when I discover new words! I would have thought though that it was a cross between "maudlin" and "meander", which I gather it isn't really. But had it been, that would have more aptly described me than you! ;)

Marcolo - I always did envision that as a hidden bookcase door. My cousins had one growing up -- you pushed the doorway/bookcase in and back. It was on some sort of piano hinges that didn't really "activate" until pushed out of the bookcase socket. I found some plans a little like this online.

But I just do not have the time to sleep, much less make bookshelves. I think that is a labor of love, not of earnings, iykwim. So I like your second-best idea of turning it into an intentional set-aside space. This had long been on my list of also-rans too.

And bells-mom as well -- I'm starting to warm to your idea of little lights in setback niches too. I'm sort of a purist and if it doesn't provide LIGHT I generally think of it as a waste of space. But it does provide ambiance. Still, I need to focus on just getting out of boxes. Ambiance is pretty much cart-ahead-of-horse. I guess I need to measure couches/love seats (of which I actually own 3 - no sofas, but a plethora of love seats ... for she who doesn't believe in it) or think about buying stuff.... I don't want to do that. I own too much already.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 3:59PM
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Regarding an inconvenient door- We moved the basement door from the kitchen to the living room. First, it gave us room for the double ovens, and second we now have a straight shot down the stairs without having to make a turn. Here's how we incorporated the basement door.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 8:17PM
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You can actually make the door knob and hinges completely invisible. For such a very central feature of the room, I actually think it's worth the effort. The hardware is not that expensive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Invisible hinges and latch

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 9:09PM
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Sixty - that's a nice treatment.

Marcolo - I actually did try to minimize the door's presence, shy of fancy hardware. I was afraid of games of hide-and-seek with stuck and lost kids so I wanted to be able to lock the door. Plus, I really liked emtek's arts-crafts locking hardware and I decided just to buy a lock only, no doorhandle. The key serves as a handle-enough for the few times we need to go in there - maybe once per month? Max.

Here's a picture. It was hidden behind the chair in all those above

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 2:39PM
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Still recognizable as a door. I'd lose the lock face and especially the hinges. Easy to do these days.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 2:45PM
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Okey doke, I'll put it on the list! ;)


    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 3:17PM
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I love this thread.
You have THE greatest space for a library!

Growing up, I lived in the den with its big windows and floor to ceiling bookcases. I read. (Then) I'd rather read than eat. Now I do both at once. Multi-taking, you know..

Anyway. My first home I built floor to ceiling book cases. My mom gave me a bunch of furniture. When my sisters came to town and visited, they looked at each other and laughed, "She made the den!" Smart-butts.

I have floor to ceiling in my living room now.

The best rooms in the world to spend time alone in are libraries. or solariums with a book. :)

I can't wait to see how you do this. There are a lot of secret door plans online. I'd build one, but it would put someone out in the back yard. Hmm.... Didn't PT Barnum have a sign of some sort ....?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 6:26PM
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:) Christine - you should check out the public library in Westmount-Montr´┐Żal -- it has a beautiful attached attached botanical greenhouse. How cool is that? No comfy chairs for reading in there though...

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 10:02PM
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I don't know if other people have mentioned this, but books are rarely 12" deep, even encyclopedias, Great Books, the OED, etc. Binders and art books are the only ones that need a 12" space (binders slightly more). We had a bunch of bookshelves made 12" deep but many are 8" deep I think. A paperback is usually about 5" wide. Our shelves are mostly adjustable because lots of books aren't that tall, either.

We have what you might call a "window seat" on one wall, because we had file drawers built deep enough so that they could hold our mega-printer.

People laughed when I wrote down book measurements, but we were able to get a lot more bookshelves in by making them shallower - including in the bedroom and guest room gables where nothing else would really fit anyway.

Another thing I did was measure how many linear feet of books we had in our free-standing bookcases. It seemed obvious to me that we'd want at least as much bookshelf space in our remodeled house as we'd had before.

I guess things would be different if we were displaying objets d'art that were deeper than 8", but we always knew these would be for books.

We got so much extra shelf space by making some shelves adjustable so there could be more shelves in a "stack" that it didn't occur to us to worry about losing space in the corners.

Sorry the picture is of such poor quality, and also doesn't show the narrow/short shelves I am talking about.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Beannie - yes, I do know about that little hidden fact about books! Even big ole "good" hardback books, as you say, just don't need more than 9". That surprised me when I built in some bookshelves a long time ago. We have quite narrow ones flanking a (useless) fireplace in our living room and there really is hardly anything they can't hold. It's so funny that those commercial bookshelves sold are so deep. It's sort of like kitchens for people who don't cook .... sorry; just thought I should pay obeisance to relevance here.

Thank you very much for the pictures! That's exactly what I had in mind doing! Though I've been leaning from it now a little bit but it's unbelievably helpful to actually see it in reality. I am not good at envisioning reality through my brain, iykwim. I just can't make that spatial leap at all. I think real designers do this: they actually see the stuff in their mind's eye, as if they were seeing it with their real eye, projected on their brain? Me, I don't/can't.

Can you please tell me how deep that ledge is? And can/would you ever sit there to read or for fun? Or is it just not cozy enough with only a 9/10" backing like those shelves provide?

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 4:50PM
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OK, here's what I've come up with. No fantabulous hidden bookcases though this was definitely what I had dreamed of ... I had no idea these were faddish now. What a disappointment! Though as always, it's hard to call something popular from the days of the underground railway too "faddish". I grew up next to some houses supposedly part of this network; it was pretty wild for hide-and-seek!

Not sure if anyone cares to weigh in on this at all since it's definitively not-kitchen... I'll understand if it's not wanting to be commented on. I'm sure I should stick this on some other forum, but don't even know which one.

I thought long and hard about the inherent drawbacks of a window seat. I think they're infinitely difficult to construct effectively; there are so many reasons they fail! So I decided to try to fit a arts-crafts loveseat I own up the stairs into this room. I think there's about an inch to spare in the stairwell. eek. That's very deep, but it's more comfortable. Then I decided to stick a foreshortened windowseat on the other side because in part I think the lower storage is functional.

My questions would include whether this is even more congested now and will lose the lightness of the room.

Here's a floorplan:

Here are elevations:

I guess I am wondering if anyone cares to think about this, whether I'm closing in the room too much, making it too tight and congested? Will the lower storage work or just be inaccessible?


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 5:16AM
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It's a very symmetrical room so you have to be very intentional about where you break symmetry.

The couch on one side is great. The art book storage under the opposite window is fine. But I don't think I like all the shelves on one side of the room cut off at the knees while all the others stand on the floor. And those floating shelves--no.

Remember BTW that you'll need tables on either side of the couch. It's OK that this makes those bookshelves a bit cumbersome to access. This is a home library, not a high-volume college stacks, if they even have those anymore.

Also, in furniture placement, it's also OK to obstruct passage to the attic as long as it's with a chair that's easy to move. Remember it's visually not supposed to be a door anyway.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:10AM
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Thanks for the off-topic opinions.

I see your point about zapping the shelves on one side but not the other. The couch has wide arms you can set something to drink on... not that anyone's actually supposed to be having any food outside of the family-dining-room area anyway. You could stack books there, e.g. like this, sort of. I'm not sure a table to the side would be all that necessary.

The de-knee'd shelving was an attempt at a functional solution resulting from the deep arts-books shelving that doubles as a seat under the second window. Course at 20" it's less deep and therefore intrusive in the room than before, but I don't like that it sticks into the room, unrelieved. I thought if the top extended the length of the room it would eliminate the step-back created by the deep shelf. And if doing that, then wrapping the shelf around the edges makes some sense -- functionally having some storage is useful too.

I thought the weird floating shelves might provide some balance to the weird asymmetrical heating duct.

I actually do like symmetry as much as the next; I don't know why I'm so reluctant to design it. Seems like cheating. Ludicrous, I know. But this is more symmetrical than I usually muster! I'm trying... this whole journey in brushing-shoulders with designers has showed me how each and every one tries to impose more and more symmetry, always, always. They/you're not wrong. There's just something in me always resisting. But as well, there's inherent asymmetry with that stupid deep couch which is there because it is actually functional, as opposed to window seats which are not.

I don't think I own a second seat that would work in there so well -- I've always wanted one of those arts/crafts rockers, but they're $$$$ and unless it falls in my lap, I'm not going out searching for one. There isn't room for the recliner I don't think. I was thinking of skipping a second seat in favor of the art-book-bench only. Else, I suppose nixing the deep bench altogether and sticking a chair under the other window is the best I could come up with. I suppose that would be the truly-symmetrical solution, and I should think hard about doing it.... but I liked the functionality.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:49AM
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I am not saying everything has to be symmetrical. Just that everything that isn't must be intentional. And I think wrapping the shelf would be OK on its own but it creates a weird change in plane at the floor level that isn't an intended effect. You might be able to get away with it, but I'd wait until I got the shop drawings from the cabinetmaker to see.

You will definitely need side tables. Not only to keep the couch from floating, but because you need lamps. It's a library. A room should not have single-source overhead light from recessed fixtures.

You also need a chair because it's not a one-person room. The opposite window is not the place for it--it's too far away and would look quite silly.

Also, the heat vent is not a feature you want to decorate around.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:54AM
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Hi, Aliris.

Things are looking good for your library. I love the idea of the arts/crafts loveseat in one window, and a soft, comfy armchair in the other would be my choice. I am SO eager to see what you will do.
Here are some thoughts based on our experiences with bookcases in the LR,.

Finally, some pics of our LR bookcases. These run floor to ceiling along a 27' wall. They are built with 1 x 12 painted pine, so the finished shelves are just barely over 11'' deep. Shelf spans are no more than 34''. All shelves are fixed.

And comments based on our experiences:

Things I would change.
I would build the units with fixed horizontals at the top and at the bottom and one in the center for stability. The other shelves would be on adjustable brackets.
I would NOT build shelves under the windows. They just act as receptacles for clutter. I would like the break, the breathing space, if you will, if they were not there. And I would like the interested created by the windowed ''niches'' if they ran to the floor and could accommodate a chair. If we had your 20'' wide shelf under the windows along that wall, it would be a mess of piled books and not at all attractive. Of course, not everyone piles books like my DH.

So, some pics:
Here's the most egregiously cluttered window:

Another window with a conversational grouping of chairs. We frequently sit here when four or fewer of us are chatting. The window isn't as cluttered, but I REALLY wish the cases were NOT there underneath it.

And finally, here's a pic of the single sagging shelf. It is attached on the ends and back, and the front has sagged as you can see here. I drew in the white line to better show the sag

I would certainly NOT build bookshelves more than 33'' or so wide without introducing vertical supports under the shelves. We did this in the upstairs library, and I can photo them for you if you want. Or you can use thicker shelving or a wide front edge trim on the shelves might provide stability.

1. Do you really NEED the storage in the 20'' deep cabinet in your library? More than you could use the additional bookcase space if you just ran the shelves to the floor? If so, then it may be a good idea.
2. I really do NOT think anyone will sit for any length of time on the shelf at the window. I am certain I would not. Now a comfy chair in the nook there would be a different story.
3. I agree with Marcolo's comment on keeping the symmetry of the room. Bookshelves, by their nature, are cluttery. At least ours are. I like the idea of the clean symmetrical structure broken by inviting comfy chairs and tables.

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Mon, Feb 4, 13 at 12:10

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:02PM
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Hmmm.... you are getting through my thick skull on this one. Bellsmom -- you need only look at the pics of mine above to lay to rest the suggestion that somehow we here would be any less cluttery. Absolutely no way. We are all just irredeemable packrats and slobs and hoarders and stackers. I used to think it was because we had no storage in the former incarnation of our house ... and hey look, two years in to this remodel and still we do not. So perhaps with storage it's possible someone would put something away ever. But by now all the patterns are likely so deeply ingrained, I dunno...

I absolutely love that green-covered, long-runneled (verticals) armchair with the upholstered arms. Ohhh sigh. That would be nice in the window! And I suppose there are scads of these around in the second hand stores. I just don't relish buying something but OTOH, that one looks good!

I'll wait, as Marcolo so wisely suggests, to see if the KD can give me a 3D version. But I'll take both your suggestions deeply to heart and try to work something else out. BM, after just reading about how you lightened someone else's kitchen just by greyscaling and then photoshopping it, you are in my books of knows-everything-about-design! Marcolo's its charter member. With such good-eye star power I will give myself a stern talking-to and go back to the drawing board with the intention of retaining the room's essence, its symmetry.

Thanks tons!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:22PM
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Wow. Thanks for the compliment. I really am NOT good at decorating, and I read Marcolo's comments with the attention and reverence I would give the holy book if I could find it.

And it's nice to know a fellow stacker.

I cannot get rid of family things that remind me of people I loved. The green channel-back armchair is one of a pair that belonged to my aunt Mary, then to my mother Eve, and they are now mine. They make me smile. I can just see two old sisters, Eve and Mary, sitting in them, chatting away, tossing barbs and smiles at each other.

Incidentally, in my head, I WOULD keep the shelf above the windows. And I would love the way the flooring would nudge back into the recess if the bookcases weren't below the window, suggesting real architectural elements instead of created ones.

I look forward to see what your contractor/architect/whoever has to suggest!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:47PM
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aliris19 - I should have known not to post facts about book sizes to someone called "aliris19!"

In any case, on that wall the bookshelves are 10.5 inches deep and the deep ledge is 22" from the wall. I wouldn't sit there to read - the window is not wide enough across, I don't think. Definitely my 6'1" tall husband would not! We have a nice living room nearby with (Stickley - incredibly comfortable!) furniture and a working fireplace, our preferred place to read.

It is REALLY nice to have those lower, deep drawers for files. That is why we had those particular shelves made like that.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:19PM
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tsk, tsk Beanie ... but wait -- why? :) Because there are numbers in the username? Yours has as well, but they're just kinda involuntary, no?

Anyway, it is true that I work with numbers all the same. I just didn't know it was quite so obvious. (sigh).

Those file drawers are very wonderful-looking. Mine won't really be a work room and I'm OK on file space elsewhere; when I'm not it's time to purge. (read: stick into box in attic; no house can have enough stored paper-fuel, right?). So the depth I was contemplating was as a sort of seat of sorts, but I'm getting talked out of it. I wonder where that stupid romantic notion of a window seat even comes from? But I see the point about maintaining symmetry and lacking the functional need of yours, the remaining argument is deep shelving for art books and I think I have another place for that stuff anyway; it probably doesn't eclipse the symmetry-argument under the circumstances. So I'm back, briefly, to the drawing board. It just seems too simple... I really like the look of your ledge a lot, but under the circumstances I have, also because my room is smaller than all these pictured I think, I just might have to revert to the designer's symmetry-argument. I'm hoping some 3D pictures will make this clearer; waiting...

Thanks for your pictures! It's a grand space.

BTW -- if you're not going to be standing at a counter, say, and cutting -- that is if you don't need to belly-up to a counter as you would in a kitchen, does one then use baseboard at the bottom of shelving/cabinetry instead of a toekick? Is there even a rule about this?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 3:23PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Wow, this thread took off and left me in the dust!

Bellsmom, I love your bookshelves, clutter included. Very similar look to the shelves that used to be in our MBR, before I took them apart to use elsewhere in the house. I fight to keep the shelves in the LR more organized. Aliris, these shelves have an extra piece on the edge of each shelf, front and back, to lend support. They are 46.5" and 43.5" wide. After 10 years they still seem to be carrying the load well:

Following pic is of one of my yard sale (reupholstered) chairs. It has the same wood trim on top as Bellsmom's pic, but I had the trim covered in an attempt to make it more similar to another channel-back chair that I had covered in the same fabric--back in the day when matchy-matchy was a good thing. ;)

It's one of three very similar chairs from yard sale/thrift stores, 25-30 years ago. I'm sure there are more of them out there.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:31PM
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Oh you're right, I keep thinking it is "a LIBRIS." Like "ex libris" in a book plate.

I don't know if there's a rule about the baseboard/toekick. It goes all the way around our room, and in this case, there's a baseboard/toekick heat vent in there.

Well, good luck with your layout!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:58PM
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