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Friday Favorites: Katie's Built-In Bookshelves

This week in our Friday Favorites column, we visit with Katie a design-savvy mom of two who shares with us her favorite item in her home, her floating built-in bookshelves. What’s so unique about these shelves is not only did Katie design them, she built them too!


What is your favorite piece in your house?
My favorite piece is our floating built-in bookshelves in our den that I built with my father-in-law. When we moved into our house we needed shelving. We were going to put in built-ins and I was told they would not work well in the den since the space was small; they would be too boxy. So I drew a picture of bookshelves I thought would work better. I brought the picture to my father-in-law and he said OK let’s go down to (his) basement. About two hours later we had four beautiful bookshelves. He and I worked on them together and used dremels to put on finishing touches then primed and painted them. Then my father-in-law drove up from Virginia and installed them while I was at work. He's the best!

What was your inspiration for the design of these bookshelves?
When we moved in I knew we needed shelving for our books.I wanted somewhere to display pictures, books and knickknacks in our house. The shelves needed to be light and airy because the space is small.  I literally sat down one day with a sketch book and sketched them. They are exactly what I sketched; my father-in-law had all the tools to make what I had drawn. He is excellent with his hands and is very crafty. He has all the tools in his basement in a tool room that Greg (her husband) would die for. It has any tool imaginable. We’ve built a few pieces together. We built Madeline’s (her daughter) hutch together too. I drew it and we put it together. My father-in-law is extremely helpful. He gets my vision, which is great! I literally showed him my sketches, which are chicken scratch on a piece of paper, the we go to the basement and build it. My mother-in-law was the one who really helped with the vision that they needed to be light & airy and we couldn’t have a solid built-in bookcase. So the two of them helped bring it together.



Was there anything else you considered instead of this item?
Initially I wanted built-ins across the entire back wall. We have so many books, so many books that aren’t displayed and so many things that don’t fit on the bookshelf. But we agreed that in the long run that large built-ins would of closed in the space too much. These shelves now are functional and are also an artistic piece on the wall. We just put books on the shelf that we use, recommend, and lend to people.

Is this something you envision keeping for a lifetime or is it a short-lived fling?
It will grow with the house. My father-in-law installed them beautifully. I don’t think we would ever remove them. They will sadly be left with the house but will be enjoyed while they are there.

Does your spouse/children like it as much as you? Do they know it is your favorite?
Yes, Greg is thrilled with how they turned out. He always looks at me when I come up with an idea like I might be crazy but he always gives me a chance! And as soon as I enlist one of his parents on one of my ventures, he knows its safe. Greg knows I love the bookshelves because I sat there with a dremel in hand doing most of the side pieces and he tried but he knew he didn’t have the detail to do it. So the fact that I sat there and I finished, he knows I have pride in those shelves and I love them.

How would you design style aesthetic?
It is traditional in some aspects. We have some Asian influence since Greg spent some time in middle school and high school in Asia (living in Japan and Hong Kong). We have some beautiful pieces from his father who was allowed to go into China when it was closed because he was in the shipping industry. Those are mixed in with my traditional style. Both of our mothers have played a huge part in how we decorate. His mom has beautiful taste and helps us pick out fabrics and wallpapers. My mom has given us some beautiful antiques and helped us fill in spots with them. We are a combination of our two parents.

What are you biggest design challenges?
Some of it is we suffer from moving into a house that was so beautifully done but wasn’t our style. We had these beautiful curtains with blue walls that looked beautiful with their furniture but horrible with ours. We fought and fought to make them work and finally my mother-in-law said, “You don’t like them; they don’t look good; get rid of them.” I think that has been our biggest design challenge is working with what we were given from the house but realizing it wasn’t really our style. Also space is another challenge. We’re in a small space that needs to be functional. It has to function for our family, our friends, our visitors, and our parties. Entertaining is the biggest; it has dictated the majority of the furniture we’ve bought.
The Jackie "O" book was a gift from Katie's father and is signed by Caroline Kennedy.


Where do you get inspiration for decorating your home?
My husband has really good taste. My mother-in-law has helped us tremendously and has been our biggest inspiration. They have the ability to walk into a room and tell you that a picture would look better there or you should really move this there. That’s been a really big help to us. The way we have operated with most things is, I pick three things I like and Greg makes the final decision because he has a better sense of what should be where. This goes with all things in our marriage! I also love to watch HGTV. My guilty pleasure is to look at real estate pictures and check out other peoples homes to see how they’ve decorate. It’s really quick and easy to do because if you see one room you don’t like you move onto the next house because chances are their whole house is in that style.

Why did you choose this home?
When Greg got his first job offer we came out to look for homes. We knew we wanted to be in this town and this was the first house we looked at when we were seriously looking. We both walked in the door and knew this was it; we had to have the house. It wasn’t our style choice but it looked great and everything worked. There were enough places we could do some little changes but the space was so perfect for us. What totally sold me was there was a bedroom with toile wallpaper (which I have since taken down). Also we loved the street. When we walked in on a January day and it was cold, there were kids running everywhere outside. So we bought it for the street as much as we did the house.

Please complete the following phrase, “Here in this house...”
...we are cozy and warm surrounded by things we have picked out, inherited and built.


Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with us, Katie. You have proven that when you want something done, it may be best to just do it yourself (or get a handy father-in-law to help out)! Enjoy your lovely bookshelves for years to come.


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    Friday Favorites: Katie's Built-In Bookshelves - Home - Here in This House

Reader Comments (1)

Are those eagles based on the ones that once stood above the old Penn Station in NY? They seem to be nearly exact replicas. Very cool.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAntique NY

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