On the Shelf . . .

Andrea here. Oh, fluttery sigh! Is there anything that makes an author and book nerd’s heart go pitty-pat more than NEW BOOKSHELVES? At the moment, my answer is a resounding NO!

The trouble had been building for quite some time. It began with the overflowing closets, which to forced boxes of author copies to begin lurking beneath the large pine table in my workroom. (I don’t know what hanky-panky they got up to at night, but I swear they began to multiply.)

As the shelves above my work counter had reached their capacity, I began putting single books on the tabletop, vowing I would get moving on new shelves. Yes, you can see where this is going . . .

The stacks were soon of lethal proportions—ie, if they fell on me, I was toast. Finally, after uttering some very bad words for the umpteenth time because I couldn’t find a reference book that I knew was buried somewhere in the chaos, I decided enough was enough. I had spotted an ad featured a special sale on custom bookshelves from Closets By Design, and picked up the phone . . .
A designer show up the following week, armed with measuring tape, graph paper for sketching what I wanted. I have a long work counter along one wall of my writing room, with a desk area by the window, and bookshelves running the rest of the way, with storage cabinets beneath it. The shelves are topped by a decorative crown molding, and I basically wanted the new bookshelves to match the existing ones, in order to tie everything together.

There was a perfect place for building in the new shelves—a recessed area of 9.5 ft. between the wall and a jog out for a large storage closet, The designer and I carefully measured the exact height to match the existing shelves, and I was very prescriptive about how many shelves I wanted, once we had determined the height. (The shelves would be movable, but I wanted to be sure I maximized how many shelves I could have in each of the four sections, based on the sizes of the books I wanted to accommodate.

Plans were drafted, okayed , and a delivery date schedule to install the shelves.

Which of course mean I had to clear out the chaos to make room for them . . . (Sorry, no photos—it was not pretty!) The first thing I vowed was to cull through things and not just mindlessly cram books back into the pristine shelves. (Because we all know Nature abhors a vacuum.) 

The fact that my local library runs a huge annual book sale at the end of July, which is famous throughout the region, made divesting myself of books a less angsty task. Things I decided to let go went straight to the donation shed. Win-Win! I help raise funds for the library and the books go to new readers! (Note to self: do NOT buy a gajillion books at the upcoming sale. I already had about about 1,000 books in boxes in various closets around the house, waiting to be liberated. Those, too, were going to be culled.)

The day of delivery arrived and I greeted the installation team with a happy smile. I immediately bonded with Sean and Diego when they looked around on entering my writing room, and said. “Oh, cool—we love the look of real books in a room!” and then had a quick discussion on authors they enjoyed.

They were a well-oiled machine, checking measurements, bringing in the pre-made units and making sure everything fit perfectly. My smile kept widening as I watched everything take shape. OMG—why did I wait so long to do this? Once the the skeleton was in place and the crown molding added, they worked with me again on the height of the shelves and then set to work putting them in. (Thank you, Sean and Diego!)

The pristine shelves looked almost too pretty to fill . . . well, not really. To my eye, there’s nothing more beautiful than shelves filled with books. However, I really was determined to carefully curate the space. I’ve put in a few close-ups of sections: there is one area all on science/nature, one on Regency history, one with books my mother rebound when she was studying bookbinding. And one that has old books from my childhood—I distinctly remember my mother giving me this copy of David Copperfield when I was home from school with the flu, at around age 12. I think it made me fall in novel with historical novels, and have kept it to this day.

The shelves  are still a work-in-progress. One closet (a big one) remains with unpacked boxes of books, but I’m making headway. But oh, what a joy it is already to have my reference books and beloved favorites now at my fingertips.

Now, I’m trying to figure where else in the house I can squeeze in shelves . . .

What about you? Do you love seeing books on a shelf, or have you gone digital? And here’s the existential question: it is ever possible to have enough bookshelves?

21 thoughts on “On the Shelf . . .”

  1. That looks fabulous, Andrea, and well done on the culling! I’ve just tried to do that too and it is incredibly difficult to let go of anything!

    • So true! It’s VERY hard to cull! The library sale helps me enormously because I feel that I’m passing the books on to avid readers.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I still get a big smile every time I come into my writing room. The sight of my books on my shelves makes me ridiculously happy.

  2. Oh my…how beautiful. Thanks for a great story! It is only possible to have enough bookshelves when you run out of space to put them! I have bookshelves in every room in my apt. And yes, i have to weed if i want to get new books, but i try hard to resist it.
    I use the library instead and if i run into s book i simply must have….well……🙄😊
    I like the feel of a book in my hands. If I ever have to move to a smaller place I am doomed! 😊

    • Thanks, Jane. Yes, one does eventually run into the problem of no more room for bookshelves. I am savoring this new set, as there aren’t many more options for adding more. Weeding out is hard. I did say goodbye to some novels I very much anjoyed, but wasn’t sure I needed them as keepers. I can can always get them at the library if I wish to re-read. That’s becoming more the focus on what stays in the house—great research books, beloved keepers—I’m trying to be tough!

    • Thank you so much, Annette. Being surrounded by my books and my jumble of various funky bits and bobs I’ve collected over the years creates a conducive environment in which to work.

  3. I join Kathy Lynn Emerson in having serious bookcase envy. Your room looks wonderful, Andrea!
    I do indeed love seeing books on a shelf. Is it ever possible to have enough bookshelves? I don’t think so.

  4. The shelves are beautiful, and really match well with your existing crown moldings. And keeping everything white makes the room look brighter.

    • Thank you, Karin!

      It made sense to me to try to match what I had, for a look of contini uity. And white does keep things airy. Plus, the books get to be the stars against a very neutral background.

  5. Your room truly is beautiful!! I have large book cases in the sitting room that are completely stuffed. I also have a small den of my own and I have book shelves on both sides of it too. There are books everywhere in our house as we all read. It’s very hard to get rid of books here. The charity shops are not inclined to take them anymore, why I don’t know. It’s the first part of a charity shop I check out.

    • Thanks, Teresa! Your rooms sound perfect. (Honestly, any room filled with book is a joy!0

      It’s sad that many thrift shops won’t take used books. My local library is famous for its annual book sale, and theyy accept donations all year loge . The sale covers a huge swath of lawn, with connecting large tents. It’s wonderful. (But I’m going to try to restrain myself! . . . Yeah, good luck with that!)

      • The library sale is a fantastic idea Andrea! Wish they’d do that here. But like you, if I brought in ten I’d probably come home with twelve!!

  6. Oh well done, Andrea. I, too, had new bookshelves built in my new house, but I still haven’t finished sorting and culling the books. One of the things that stops me is a shortage of places to take my culled books. I don’t want them dumped in landfill and a lot of places that used to take used books no longer accept them. And because I mostly read fiction as e-books, there is no urgency to keep sorting and culling — apart from getting the room to look nice. Yours looks beautiful.

    • Thanks, Anne! I still have a closet full of boxes to cull through, so not at all finished. But do feel feel luck about my local library taking books all year round for their annual sale. People come from all over the state to browse and buy. Its a very cool vibe. The last day is fill a shopping bag for $5. so most of the books go home with someone. That makes me happy.

  7. When I moved into this condo, my best friend and her husband were still running their shutter business, and her husband liked an occasional break from shutters (which they did for me also) so I asked them for built in bookshelves on some otherwise useless walls. So there’s a floor to ceiling one in the dining room and another in the bedroom. I already had some inexpensive freestanding bookcases, but they were sized for hardbacks. I had my friends size the shelves for paperbacks and (then) videos as well. They built for the ages and I still have those shelves and they’re still stuffed with books (hardbacks and paperbacks), dvds and cds. It was good to have a best friend in the business 🙂

    But I still have “keeper boxes” in the closet, filled with paperbacks that haven’t aged a day it seems since the glory days for regencies – the “1980s-1990s” I am now beginning to wonder what will happen to them all when I’m gone, and thinking about what requests I can leave to ensure that they don’t all wind up in a dumptster somewhere.

    • Oh, lucky you to have a friend in the business, Janice! Your shelves sound fabulous.

      I’m struggling with paperbacks, too. I have so many hardbacks, research books and art books, that I wanted to keep my new shelves sized for them. (And the shelves are getting fulll!) So the boxes of PBs are remaining in the closet for now.


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