When we first bought our former house in mid-late 1990’s, this room actually was used by the previous owners as a small dining room. But we transformed it into a home office, piano room and library all in one, then after 17 or 18 years it was time to think about selling this house. Here is the library before, during and after, taking it from a bland, boring room into a room full of character and ready for the market.
Here’s a picture I took of the room the first day we owned our former house. (since then we sold this house and moved into a 100 year old house that was in need of a lot of renovating) This room was just about as plain, lacking character as you could get. The trim in here was very basic oak ranch molding stained a dark walnut. Out the window you can see the landscape… or lack there of… (click here to see the before and after of that front landscape and the DIY pergola and gardens we added)
Like a lot of the renovations in this former house of ours, they had to be done in a few stages, actually taking several years to get to the final ‘after’ picture.
One of the first stages we did to the library, and rest of the house, was to rip out the narrow baseboard trim, replacing it with wide painted molding. During that same 1st stage, we also added these interior windows by cutting into the shared wall of the library and hallway on the other side. Cutting between the studs we created square openings that I then had decorative glass pieces cut and installed there.
Not only did these interior windows create wonderful character in both the library and hallway, but it achieved my goal of letting natural light into the dark hallway.
I was careful to have the interior windows placed high enough on the wall so that in the library the old piano would still fit on that wall.
As I worked my way through each room on the main floor, I had a goal to cover all the popcorn ceilings.
For this library room I installed a unique treatment of faux wood beams and a woven material used in caning chairs. (click here to see more about this and other ceiling treatments I wrote about)
We also replaced the original carpet. I replaced it with a natural jute woven flooring. It basically installed like a carpet. The pad was a special, super hard type of felt pad, and the carpet installer did not like working with this flooring. But I loved how it looked, until we had a spill! It was nearly impossible to clean. Vacuuming was fine, but for spills, it was a problem due to the super absorbancy of jute… as you can imagine. I wouldn’t recommend that product.
The library decor accessories for most of the years that we lived there were in a chinoiserie style. (Chinoiseire is a fancy French word referring to an 18th century European style of decorating in which the motifs and patterns were mainly Chinese. Now we use that word to refer to something styled in that style…)
Another later stage of this room included building in the bookshelves, I’ll get to that detail in a second. As an interior designer I’ve sold Capel Rugs for years, and this rug is from their Martha Vineyard Collection… it is super thick and soft. One of my favorites. (I am now selling this rug… super cheap! so if you’re interested and want details… let me know!)
So that’s how the room was for a long time…
Until it was time for us to think about selling the house.
I started to prepare to sell about two years before we actually listed it. Cleaning up and fine tuning outside as well as inside. Making every room ‘shine’. I just felt that even though I appreciate chinoiserie style, I don’t think the market of buyers in our Midwestern area would really appreciate it. In fact, in all my years of interior design in this area, I don’t remember ever having a single client that asked for that style… so I decided to best sell this house, I’d better make the library a little more neutral.
But for sure that did not mean taking it back to the bland, boring before picture!
Basically what I did was either sell or pack away the pieces that were most in the style of chinoiserie, (check out where I put the long door drapery in our new 100 year old house)
I then painted the walls a very subtle blue/gray color and cleaned up some of the furniture placement. (sorry, don’t ask me for the wall color, because I think this is one I mixed up myself with leftover paint…)
To lighten the window treatment, and to help with the full sun glare coming in the south window, I added a valance and cafe curtain. (here is a post with a little more detail about the window treatment)
The valance is mounted well above the actual window frame top, and the brackets of the valance extend out so that the existing Hunter Douglas woven wood ‘Provenance’ shade would work properly.
I loved the cute bird print I used on the valance, (Home Décor Fabric ) but didn’t want the room to seem too busy with it, so for the cafe, I just added a bit across the top for a visually connecting detail.
And notice too, that the cafe rod is mounted inside the window casing, so that the Hunter Douglas blind will be able to drop all the way down when closed.
The bookshelves are a huge bonus in this room now. Playing off the subtle bird inspired fabric of the new valance and the circle rug shape, these 3 bird prints from Decor Steals worked great on the face of the shelves.
For the back of the bookshelves, we had 4 x 8 sheets of paneling installed. Before it was primed and painted, one could have a hard time imagining it would look good… it was just super cheap paneling from HomeDepot or Menard’s. but it was the profile I was after. I frequently see this beautiful tongue and groove profile out east in older homes, so I knew it’d look good once painted. And the back of the bookshelf isn’t structural at all, since it’s actually built into the wall, so the paneling is only a wall covering, therefore the ‘cheap-ness’ of the paneling didn’t matter.
I should mention that the specialty glass for the interior windows is called ‘glacier’ style.
Before we listed our former house, another thing I did was to remove all the personal photos, which this piano top was full of… (even though I took them down for the during photo for this…) The bird themed pattern on this pair of urns works well for a neutral replacement that still adds interest.
So from this original bland space, through the years of adding character and interest,
the library evolved, with some creativity and a lot of hard work, into a room that was a bonus when it was time to sell the house.
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