Thursday, January 28, 2016

Around the House: Bookshelves

My devotion to books runs long and deep.  In college my friends threw a surprise bridal shower for me....and the gift to give was books.  Each attendee was supposed to bring a book that was meaningful to him or her.  What an amazing treat.  I still have my "wedding shower" books and look back on them, and read their inscriptions, with fondness. 

For a very long time we limped along with one beautiful large bookcase (handmade by my husband's grandfather), a few smaller ones, and many, many books in boxes in our unfinished basement waiting for their day in the sun.  I would go through the downstairs books on occasion and make them promises about having shelves one day.  Our house is quite small (1135 square feet without the basement) and was built with an open floor plan, so my kitchen, dining area and living area are basically all one L-shaped space.  {And you can see my kitchen from both the front and back doors--I mean, ALL of it.  I would never have chosen this design!  But this is our home.}

The open floor plan means fewer walls which means fewer spaces to line with bookcases.

A couple of years ago we finally had our gloomy basement finished, and we had built-in bookshelves crafted and installed.  This felt like a great luxury. It was worth the many years we had to wait. While we drew up plans I worked hard clearing the basement and reduced our personal library by at least half.  This was a big deal for a bibliophile, but the truth was--not all those books needed to live with us!  (Last October I Kondo'ed the books, reducing them yet again...and making way, of course, for more books....)  The bookcases are in an L-shaped configuration.  I think this qualifies as "pretty." 

I am very particular about the organization of my books.  I want to know exactly where to find a book when I need it.  Not being able to find a book offends my inner librarian. 

Most of our "school" books reside on this side of the bookcase.  I have many, many classic books that were passed down to me by relatives over the years.  I am fortunate!  My oldest book pre-dates the Civil War. (We do not use that one for school!)

Also downstairs in the schoolroom is our collection of picture books.  Hardback on the top shelf, paperback in the basket, and board books on the bottom shelf.  I don't worry about the organization of these books--we go with it. 

Just a few field guides by the patio door. 

My great-great-grandparents' barristers' bookcase is in my bedroom.  It holds jadeite, silver, crystal and...books! I keep favorites in here that I want to reference through the year (like Edith Holden's Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, or Donald Hall's Seasons at Eagle Pond, or Sarah Ban Breathnach's Mrs. Sharp's Traditions) as well as books I'm currently reading.  That unsightly file folder is evidence of legal work....sigh. When my father gave me the bookcase the glass in this shelf was cracked--and taped with Scotch tape!  I would like to replace it, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Someday we will!

My collection of cookbooks lives in the cabinet above my stove.  I obviously don't own many cookbooks. We used to have many more, but we kept the ones we truly love and got rid of the rest.

I don't have a bookcase in my living room--no room!  Under the buffet we keep a wooden crate where the library books live.  If you find a library book, it must go in this crate. 

Next to the sofa we have a basket of books that we're just enjoying reading in our free time....picture books, chapter books, etc.  The selection gets rotated out every so often. 

Also in the living room is my beautiful basket of school books.  I keep this here and we rotate through the basket each week.  Some are for Finn's third grade year and some are for Annie's "pre-K/kindergarten" but it doesn't matter with classics--we all like to read them together!

Finn's room presents problems.  This setup was great when he was a toddler, but now that he's a serious reader it's insufficient.  We just decided last weekend to build a custom-made bookcase for his room.  Stay tuned....

Annie's room contains the beautiful handmade bookcase that used to house much of our collection, but it holds toy baskets and not books.  Her books have a little bookcase, but they usually find themselves spread out on one of the beds in her room.  

My husband and I keep our Bibles on this little end table--but his was probably on his nightstand.  I love this corner--it's virtually unreachable because the dog's bed is in front of it, so it stays uncluttered.  And I love my bowl o' yarn.

And for a dose of reality: this is what my dining room table looked like at 4 pm.  Children live here!  I whipped it into shape! I believe this qualifies as happy, funny and very, very real.

{Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter today for "pretty happy funny real"....because books and the storage of books are worthy subjects!}


  1. Oh Polly I loved visiting you with your books! This line is gold "Not being able to find a book offends my inner librarian. "

    1. So true, though....I just can't deal with a book returned to the wrong shelf. I need fast access to all books at all never know when you might have a literary emergency!!! ;)

  2. I have friends who like to read but do not have shelves of books in their home or really any books at all, and I literally cannot figure that out. As I sit here typing this, I can see books on the mantle, end table, coffee table, kitchen desk, and hall table. Not to mention in my lap. That's how it's supposed to be! At least, that's why my inner librarian says! ;)

    1. I agree!!! We also have stacks on nightstands, in bathrooms, and on the coffee table. And let us not even talk about Finn's desk...that boy needs bookshelves!!!

  3. Thank you so much for this tour. Love it. I heartily endorse the library box. The only way to go if you don't want the library's holdings disappearing in your vast collection!

    1. Yes! The library book bin is so helpful...otherwise we'd owe the library waaay too much money every month.

  4. Polly, you're a kindred spirit. I relate to every word of this! <3

  5. I love the barister bookshelves :) When my grandfather passed away and my mother asked me what I wanted from his home I immediately asked for his. He was a professor and they had been in his office. They have our *nice* books in them.

  6. thanks for mentioning some of the important books in the barrister bookcase (my brother got our family one - waaaaah!). New titles to me, but I put them on hold at our library!