Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anatomy of a Library

Although we have made little touches to every room in the house since buying our condo a year and a half ago, we only have a couple areas that we can call finished. At least while the focus is on "decorating" and not "renovating." One is the second bedroom, which spent last year transforming into a craft room/office. Next up on our crossed-off list is the library!

When you live in a loft-style condo, the number of "areas" you create will likely outnumber the amount of actual rooms. Right now our main living space contains the kitchen, dining room, living room and library. A careful use of furniture and space is vital to not overstuff the room. 

A less than stellar wide shot of the living room. If there was ever an excuse to buy a better camera, it would be because of the lack of natural light in our home! Our northern facing windows, right up against the neighboring building, force us to turn on all of our lights by noon.
The photos of the loft when it was on the market showed a pretty standard way of breaking up the room. The TV was over the fireplace with a couch, coffee table and general living room items taking up most of that side of the condo. A dining table was up against the other wall. 
When we looked at the place, most of the furniture was already moved out, so it was easy to see a blank canvas and imagine how we might best organize. Here's how it looked for the first week after moving in. Notice that the floor is covered in books, but the mantle has been decorated for Halloween. Priorities, people.
We decided to avoid the "TV/fireplace combo" after 2 years of craning our necks to watch television at our rental, where it did hang above the mantle. We had grown tired of the trend and wanted to use the fireplace space to create a cozy reading nook and a home for entertaining. A shot of our old place:
So how did our condo go from this....
to this.....? Read below for an extra long post!

We owned two Billy Bookcases from IKEA already and quickly realized we required another for our growing collection of hardcovers and paperbacks. Shelf styling is not overdone, with many shelves taken up entirely with books. There are personal items peppered throughout: display boxes from various overseas trips like a wooden spice box found in a Turkish bazaar, dried flowers from when Bob proposed, a globe on a shelf with all travel books. The same row on each shelf holds picture frames of all sizes and colors. I always liked the idea of containing the photos in one area of the house rather than having frames on every table and wallspace. 
We picked up a dozen magazine filers from IKEA and added them to the bottom row of 2 shelves to hold our Dwells, Marthas and Elle Decors. Check out this post with how I made the nametags for each. 
Pinterest projects certainly found a home in this area of the house. Painted thumbtack balls (find out how I made them here) rest in the large London Hurricane from Crate & Barrel, next to our favorite set of C&B silver candlesticks. These were the first items we scanned when it came to putting our wedding registry together.
On the other side of the mantle, a simple white vase from Target holds dried eucalyptus from a bouquet Bob picked up early in our relationship. The purple color plays nicely against the artwork hanging above the mantle: the five foot tall canvas Bob created for us! (check out Prove It Parts 1, 2 and 3!)
A recent addition finds itself displayed against the window. In my day job I book motivational speakers and entertainers for conferences. Last November, we had Jewel at one of our events doing a "storytellers" like gig. She was amazing - funny, witty, self-depracating... not to mention an incredible voice. The agents I worked with surprised me with a signed guitar as a thank-you. Extremely unexpected and such a lovely gift - although I can't play a lick!
Looks like I will need to add "learn to play guitar" to the next cycle of annual goals
Our cats are strictly indoor, not even a balcony for them to lounge about on, so we brought a little bit of the outside to them with a purchase of cat grass seeds. They didn't take long at all to sprout, and the boys have slowly started nibbling. 
As I move in a circle, next up is the bar. I first wrote about how we turned a $35 dresser picked up at an antique store into a backdrop piece at our wedding here. 
We wanted to use it in our house as opposed to discarding it after the big day, so after some consideration as an entryway table it was declared the new bar. Something about the mirror'd back makes this a natural fit against this wall when the top is filled with bottles, an ice bucket and decanter. We still find ourselves with way too much liquor after the wedding so eventually one of the bottom shelves will be opened up!
Above the bar we hung a gallery of three. A print from the Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute, an enlarged photo of a stairwell in Egypt that Bob took on our trip and a sketch of London inherited from a family member. Because a metal pipe runs along the wall, two of the pieces hang on much longer screws than usual. Bob is learning a lot about drilling into brick during our time here!
Next up, what library would be complete without a pair of armchairs? I wrote all about these in a post just before the holidays, when our Tux chairs from Crate & Barrel finally came in. The size of these are just perfect for the small space. We still talk about adding a footstool, but are waiting to find the perfect size and pattern to make it work here.
The chairs sit on the shag rug I made last year after staring at a Pinterest pin for months, getting the courage to tackle it. 28 white t-shirts, 4 boxes of RIT dye and 60 hours later - we're loving how it turned out. 
The cats like to slide into it after barreling down the hallway (this is their favorite game), so we finally picked up a rug mat last weekend to put under it and keep it in place. $5 later and the problem of finding a bunched up rug every morning was solved.
So you've got your book, you've mixed a cocktail and you've got your armchair to nestle into. All that is missing is a small table to hold your drink. We found ourselves at a going out of business sale at World Sofa last month. A contemporary furniture store with reasonable prices, we found more than a couple pieces we were interested in. For $60 we couldn't pass up a square end table with a black-brown tray top that matched the bookshelves and chrome C-shaped legs (is that a term?). I like that the table is lightweight, and open on the bottom to not take up too much precious library real estate!
There we have it, a cozy library to read, to entertain, to relax and to enjoy! I hope all of the other rooms in the condo are this fun to put together!

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