What’s been going on in the Reading Room

We have one of those ‘front rooms’ in our house that isn’t our main family room, and I’m not sure who ever uses a ‘formal’ living room, which is what I’m sure it was intended to be. We use it as a computer room/library and refer to it as the reading room. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ve probably seen some of the updates we’ve done in there, such as replacing the ratty carpet with carpet tiles, building shelving for the office, and (my favorite) that time I scored a beautiful vintage Broyhill Sculptra desk that fits just perfectly. (You can see all the changes we’ve made to each room over the years here.)

What started out looking like this:


For the past few years has looked like this:



And it was good. It worked. But it wasn’t GREAT. Like dream room/forever home great. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been making some changes to turn it into my dream room.

If you’re curious, these changes were mostly spurred by the acquisition of my new china hutch in the adjoining dining room. Combined with our built in dining nook (still my favorite DIY), I really love our dining room space now, and I started to realize how just one little thing that bugs you can keep a space from really being everything you want it to be. So I’ve made two big changes in the reading room that I am SUPER excited about, and it might just have turned into my favorite space in the house.

The first change may seem small to some readers, but to me, it is BIG. We bought a new computer! And it is a total game changer for a lot of reasons.

New office computer -

First off, we went for a new 27″ iMac. I am a Mac snob girl through and through. It is the industry standard for my career as a graphic designer, so I’ve been using Macs professionally for almost ten years now and it was out of the question for me to spend money on any other computer. It’s just the way it is. That being said, the computer we used to have in here (also a Mac) was a hand-me-down from my office. It worked ok for what we used it for, but it was old and gigantic. The tower had to sit on the floor, and the hook up involved a ton of wires all over that never looked nice. The other issue was that it was not wireless. Meaning it had to be directly wired to our router and wireless printer to work. Meaning our giant printer ALSO had to sit on the desk. Meaning the whole area (monitor, printer, computer tower, router, wires everywhere) just always felt cluttered and clunky. Plus it hid the beauty of my desk… those amazing sculpted curved edges… which is still my very favorite vintage find, and I wanted it to shine. (I still need to sand it down and refinish it, but that’s for another day.)

Again, I realize this might seem like a small thing or an unnecessary purchase to some, but to me it was an investment, and something I’ve been dreaming of for a very long time. And since the old computer was free to us, I didn’t feel guilty replacing it for something we all really love.

The new iMac is literal perfection. It has a single wire to plug in, making the floor much less cluttered behind the desk. The screen size is great for the space, and perfect for when I need to get some work done or when the girls want to watch Netflix or play games, and when not in use it looks like a beautiful large work of art. It has a sleek slim profile that takes up virtually no room. But my favorite thing is that the tower on the floor is gone, and I could finally move the printer off of the desk. The whole area looks so fresh and clean to me now! I just love it. A lot.

Moving on to the other big change… I built my own library. This project cost far less money (about $170 total) but makes a HUGE visual impact in the room, as well as adding a ton of storage and functionality. It has always been my dream to have my own library. I hoard books like… well… a hoarder. I love everything about books: the feel, the smell, the ink on the pages, the typesetting, the beautiful cover designs, and most of all, the way you can get lost in another place and time with a great book. But I digress…

We have always had bookshelves in here, but to be honest, they just weren’t working for me.


The scale wasn’t quite right for the size of the room, and the multiple vertical dividers and various shelf sizes never looked as clean and orderly as I would have liked. Enter my brand new library shelves.

DIY Home Library -

I should say that there is still a bit of work to do on these. The shelves we got were so large that I opted to sand and stain them in place. So that will come in the next week or so, and I obviously won’t fill them up until that is done, but I threw in a few items for scale. And then Vera added her stuffed sheep and a post it note drawing too. :) You can also see the printer hanging out on that shelf. Perfect fit!

I have to say though, even though they are still in process, this is such a game changer for me! It’s something I’ve been contemplating for some time, and finally just went for it. The process was fairly straight forward and simple.

Building a DIY library -

We bought five  2″x12″x12″ boards from Lowes for around $19 each, and had them cut down to 10.5ft to fit the space. (Lowes will cut them for you if you ask! It makes installation much quicker when you know they’re all the right size and ready to go.) We also grabbed 15 shelf brackets for approximately $5 each. If you’re doing the math, that totals out to about $170 total for this whole project. I can dig it.

I wanted a very clean, minimal, floating look, but I also really wanted a functional library with nice deep shelves. Knowing that our shelves would be holding a lot of weight and wanting support across the full span of shelving, we opted for minimal black brackets, which are secured into studs in the wall. The style is exactly like the smaller shelves on the opposite side of the room above the desk, which also helps give a cohesive feeling that makes the whole space feel more connected and clean.

To get the shelves up and level, I first measured out the wall and found the studs. Then I determined what size of boards we would need in order for them to be centered in the space (I obviously did that part before heading to the store to buy said boards). I marked on the wall with a pencil line where the right end of each board would be, as well as where each stud was. I also measured and marked where the bottom of each board would go, drawing a line all the way across the wall for each one. I have quite a bit of paint touch up to do in here from the old bookshelves scratching the wall, so I was much more worried about making sure the shelves were level and evenly spaced than I was about marking up the wall. To make straight lines, I used a long level like this one (affiliate link), with a ruler on one side to help me measure as I went. In case you’re curious, we placed the bottom shelf 18″ from the ground, and measured the rest of the shelves 15″ from bottom to bottom, leaving 18″ from the bottom of the top board to the ceiling.

Building a DIY library -

Once I had all the stud lines marked and the shelf lines marked, it was pretty easy to see where each bracket needed to go. Wherever the lines crossed, I held up a bracket (centered on the stud line, and with the top of the bracket against the shelf-bottom line, since the bottom of the shelves would be resting on the top of the brackets) and marked where the screw needed to be placed. Then I screwed all 15 screws into the studs of the wall.

Next it was time to move on to the shelves. I laid each shelf next to the wall with the end touching the line I had marked for the end of the shelves. Then I measured over and marked where the bracket would go, based on the measurements I’d already made on the wall. The brackets are pretty simple to install. You drill one screw into the wood first, slide the top of the bracket onto it, and then secure the bottom of the bracket with a second screw.

Once I had all three brackets on a shelf, I called in the hub, who helped me lift each shelf and align it correctly so that we could slide the brackets onto the screws I had already screwed into the wall. Easy peasy. Once they were on, I just secured each bracket to the wall with a second screw on the bottom, and moved on to the next shelf. Five shelves later… I have a library!!

You can see in the image below that I ended up using two different kinds of screws for the brackets. The brackets I bought only came with 2 screws each, even though they have 4 holes. So I broke out some heavy duty wood screws I had on hand to fill in, and it ended up working out well.

Building a DIY Library -

I’ve been working away and actually already have these babies sanded down and am hoping to be able to finish the staining this coming week when the weather warms up and allows for open windows to ventilate the fumes. Followed by paint touch ups on the wall.

Ideally I would have sanded and stained them before hanging, but given that we had several inches of snow on the ground and that I can barely lift these shelves by myself, I knew if I didn’t just get them up, this project would drag on forever. I’ve learned a few things about myself over the years. For example, I know that I hate the cold, and I also hate prep work. So standing in a freezing garage trying to sand and stain shelves I can barely move was a no go. Now that they’re up there though, he excitement of being able to fill them up will all my books is spurring me on to really want to finish them off. I’ll keep you posted!

*dawn sig


  • Mary DeRuntz Perez

    I love your shelves. I loved them so much I’ve just built my own. Thank you so much for such clear direction. It made it possible for me to do them myself. These shelves are 6 feetx12x2. I used the same brackets. I’d post a picture but don’t see any way to do that.

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  • Cado

    Looks good! We just put in some nice new Lundia shelving for all our books, so much better! Funny what I big difference things like that can make. And big Mac fans here too ;)
    I reckon you should *try* not to have too many things on the floor under those shelves so they float and give the impression of more space :)

    • Dawn Sailors

      Thanks so much! I agree with your recommendation. Hopefully I can keep it clear, but we’ll see what the kids have to say about that. Ha!


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