It's time. By the way, did I mention that the tan house just went back on the market - no longer under contract? I told you so. Of course, that means we have to move faster, but after Christmas is, I think, time enough to start getting quotes for mortgage rates and so forth. (It may be hard to get the sellers to take a reasonable price, so we could still lose it, but we plan to try.)
So, here's the current family room in the tan house (my future library):
On the left you see what appears to be a bar. So you'd expect that there'd be shelves and so forth on the other side of it (which you can't see in the picture), but I didn't see any in person. Having a bar sounds nice-ish, but I'd probably rather just buy an antique dry sink and not take up so much floor space with this one (especially since we don't drink). But it turns out that the bar (if that's what it is) is actually there to conceal the rather odd feature behind it:
Best guess is that there were Bilco doors to the basement. When they built the addition (the family room is a one-story addition) they put it over where the doors were so...they just used an interior door, horizontally, in that space. Slightly insane. I'd still be inclined to remove that bar thing, and just put some ordinary stair-rail along the edge of the door. That would be more normal, and still take up less floor space. (We might even be able to fit a dry sink between the stair-door and the wall!)
Other than that oddity, the basic features of the room are straightforward. There's a working wood stove (very excited about that). There are several (large) windows, and there's a large, mostly-glass exterior door, which limits the amount of wall space for bookshelves (but I think there's still enough!). Oh, and coat hooks are useful, but these are going somewhere else - bookshelves come first.
There's wood crown molding and wood lattice-work on the ceiling. They're not as pretty as they might be, but they're sort of dry wood, and I think with some varnish, and a real warm ivory on the ceiling, it might look a lot nicer. So that's an easy fix.
Now for the first tricky part: the walls. It's not easy to tell, but that's not your standard shiny grooved knotty-pine paneling. Indeed, those are individual boards, with decent-sized gaps between them (I'm not actually that keen on that part), and they're not only unfinished, but also un-planed. If you run your hands down them, you could get a splinter, or twenty. So to get them to look like an ordinary wall, it would require heavy sanding, or removing them, planing them, and replacing them - and then using wood filler between, priming, and painting them (so they look like plaster walls).
But I'm not keen on that much sanding or planing, and the room has a certain rustic quality that I think ought to be preserved. (Doesn't mean I want wood trim, wood floors, and wood walls, all in different wood tones.) So I was looking into an old-fashioned technique called lime wash, traditional in Europe, which is used for plaster (not drywall) and raw wood. It's apparently easier than any of the new-fangled techniques - and it's not a "faux finish," it's the real thing. Plus really safe. Anyway, plain lime wash is transluscent white, and comes out like this:
You can also add pigment to lime wash, and that's one of the places I was stumped. I definitely want color (something light). Green? Blue? Maybe a gray-blue like this (obviously this is ordinary opaque paint, not transluscent):
But I'm not sure. What's the best way to go about this? I like the crown molding, ceiling, and floors (with a little spiffing-up here and there), but I really want to do something with the walls. Suggestions??
Now for the rest of the decor. We have a red-brown leather, reasonably traditionally-styled sectional that is a few years old (we got it off craigslist) but maybe the comfiest couch ever. I think it should go in there. I also think that room would be a good place for a decent-sized desk. I've run some different pictures by my dh. (I'd like to note here that while I never give him a decor decision to make from scratch, I compile a substantial cast of style options that would work within our budget and other things, and I make him give me his opinion. So I don't make these decisions unilaterally.) Rolltops seem to be the most practical and popular. Here are a couple on craigslist in our area (little pricey, but we have time):
(This cherry one above is the favorite, but it's selling for $600! My dh - typically - said, "Well, maybe that's worth it.")
Then there's always the traditional oak roll-top look.
I also think I've come up with a solution to my household's ever-green desk chair debate. My dh likes the comfy contemporary black leather desk chairs. I would rather something that looked old fashioned even if it's not as comfy. Last house we had an ugly black vinyl one. Now we have a petite wood one he doesn't like. But I think we could have both! Something like this (with a nice fluffy pillow):
Or (likely even more popular) something like this (I found a slightly less ornate one that's a real antique on craigslist recently, but it's already gone):
I think that would be good because it could be moved away from the desk when we have people over and be used as extra seating. And we could have some nice leather chairs on either side of the fireplace. Perhaps like these:
Here's the other difficult question: what about bookshelves? I mean, there have to be quite a few. In my head, the ideal library should have floor-to-ceiling built-ins, maybe even some that require a library ladder! As below. (No library ladder in the tan house, though, because the ceiling in this room is not that high.)
There are a few impediments to putting these sort of shelves in this room, however. First, one wall is taken up by two windows and a wood stove. The wall to the right of that has a very big picture window and a door; it could have one set of shelves or maybe two, and above-the window shelves. The wall with the doorway into the kitchen has room for at least one set of shelves (where those coat hooks now are). Most of the shelves would go on the fourth wall. Keeping in mind dark wood trim (shinier after I varnish it) and lime-washed walls (color still undecided), do I go for stained wood shelves (like the ones above), or white-painted wood? Like so, perhaps:
I like the idea of built-in bookshelves creating a nook for a window seat. This room certainly has enough windows for that. But I can't decide what bookshelf solution would look best for this room. I need your help. (Oh, also useful to know is that a friend of ours has a fellow who's a master carpenter who's a recent immigrant and has done some work for him at crazy-good rates - and I've seen the stuff he did, it's perfect. This fellow could definitely build me some bookshelves if I wanted anything that wasn't easy enough for me to do.)
The other thing that occurred to me is that I could fill the room with a collection of antique bookshelves, and do something to unify the look. One thing that designers often do is to whitewash a series of mistmatched antique items (such as dining room chairs). I do have two wooden Ikea bookshelves that I wouldn't mind painting white to blend in with some antiques, but other than that, I would feel bad painting lovely hardwood. What do you think? Could I make this idea work?
I did stumble across one possible angle this morning. I love barrister bookcases. I could do a collection of those. Even completely unrelated examples seem like they would go together pretty well:
(These are both for sale on craigslist here, now.) Barrister bookcases are also modular - the shelves come apart, and the tops and bases are separate, too. So we could put short stacks under some of the windows, or I guess mount one or two over the windows, or vary the heights if we liked that effect; and we could collect them over time. Here's the trouble, though. Although I'd love to have one barrister bookcase, I hadn't envisioned having a collection of them - because they're very expensive. Best price on a full (4- or 5-shelf) set I've seen is around $500. I'm not sure I could justify a room full of them at those prices.
Oh, also, the room will need a rug. I like this one a lot (I like that it's muted):
So I have some general ideas of how I want it to look, and things I want to do with the room (fire, bookshelves, desk for stationery and to hide laptops in, comfy place for guests to sit around), but I'm still not exactly sure how to get there. I'm sure nobody has anything else to do five days before Christmas and during a massive snowstorm, so you all can help me with your brilliant ideas.
Merry Christmas, infertiles. May you be blessed with all the grace sufficient to your situation - and plenty of extra, too.