WE MADE IT [insert happy tears]! We are BEYOND excited to finally present our moody green library space to you, and we have so many people to thank for helping turn our dreams into reality. But before we get to all of that, I just want to say a bit about what this room means to me. Being on the cusp of the millennial generation, I often find myself straddling the cultures of two epochs. On one hand, brass accents and millennial pink speak to me, but perhaps not as loudly as a good old smelly book, read from the serenity of my suburban home.
Perhaps none of that is entirely surprising. My website/Instagram handle is Kate Pearce Vintage, after all. I came of age in an era when not one of my friends owned a cell phone, but everyone had a PC at home. AOL chat groups were a thing, but iPads and Kindles were not. I can remember, still, the constant aches caused by carrying 25 pounds worth of books to and from school every day on my back. And my favorite stores to peruse downtown were the ones with tapes, CDs and used books.
For as long as I can remember it has been my dream to own a library, something that is perhaps a distinctly un-millenial desire. The thing is, home libraries are, in their essence, innately “extra” creatures. Their roots are distinctly aristocratic, harking back to a time when only the bourgeoisie had access to books, or even the ability to read. Today, they serve primarily hedonistic purposes (and are still considered rather “bougie”, to adopt a Gen Z term). Though just like other millenials, we’ve shared the hardship of buying into the New York housing market and also adhere to the pervasive millennial distaste for large homes with unessential rooms.
All of these things seem to make my library goals decidedly asynchronous with my generation, despite being your stereotypical millennial just scraping at the edges of the housing market with very little pocket change leftover (according to Zillow, we purchased our home for a price lower than 100% of the homes in our neighborhood). Yet, I just couldn’t shake my dream of having a dedicated space where I could be surrounded by bindings. So, we found a wall in our living room, ripped down some old moldings, and got to work.
We had a few challenges, seeing as this space had to be multi-functional, and not simply a bibliophile’s oasis. It is the first area of our home that one walks into upon entering the front door. We have no closets on the ground floor of our 1910 farmhouse, nor do we have a foyer. So, we had to get a bit creative about how to make this space sophisticated and serious enough for a scholar, yet low-key and functional enough to host a pre-schooler’s muddy shoes and two kids’ sloppy backpacks. We used color as an aesthetic tool to join the front door area with the rest of library. Burnt orange seemed like a fun enough hue for a young family of four, but mature enough for anyone looking to dip their nose into the latest issue of ArtForum. We used pops of this orange in all areas of the room, from high to low, to bring a level of cohesiveness to the project.
The next major issue we had was budget. Ours was QUITE low for a project like this. We had quotes done to have the shelves built for us, and in the end we were able to spend 20% of what those quotes were and build the shelves on our own (yes, it was an obscene amount of work but they look exactly as we wanted, and we were able to use REAL wood instead of MDF board). We thrifted nearly EVERYTHING and we also kept our couch. But, the real heroes here were our sponsors. We NEVER could have afforded to make this room as beautiful as we were able to without their help. As in our Spring 2019 ORC project, WE scouted almost all of the sponsors, not the other way around. And we were so grateful and ecstatic when they placed their trust in us, and sent their spectacular products our way.
The first sponsor I want to give a shoutout to is ModSprout. When I first dreamed up this library space, I knew I wanted it to, literally, come to life with greenery. But dark libraries aren’t exactly the best conduits for photosynthesis. So we teamed up with ModSprout and used two of their products – their GrowFrames and their GrowBars – to give our plantlife the ability to thrive. But ModSprout’s products are not just fun and cutting-edge, they also host one of my favorite design tools: COLOR. This fabulous mustard yellow got me so excited when I first saw it, and I am even more head-over-heels for it now that it is installed in the space.
The next sponsor of our moody library room is Ed of Online Oriental Rugs. Ed has such a first-rate collection of Moroccan, Turkish and Persian rugs, and his vintage and antique collection is also droolworthy. When I set eyes on this vintage Moroccan wedding blanket, I just knew it was the perfect eclectic piece to add to the space. The scale was unusual (yet perfect), and with its jewel tones, set against a neutral background, it makes the perfect centerpiece to tie in all the color-coded books on the shelves and burnt orange accents throughout the room. To say I’m obsessed with this piece (and everything on Ed’s shop) would be a gross understatement.
Heading back over to our entryway, we have our faux leather bench from HomePop. The scale, quality and design of this piece was EXACTLY what I had envisioned being in this spot, so when HomePop reached out to us to collaborate, it was truly serendipity. I love how it picks up the tones of the vintage leather chair from across the room and from the wooden library ladder that makes its way across the entire space on wheels. The scale of the bench was perfect for the space, and roomy enough to give us all a place to plop down and take off our shoes. Yet the lightness of its base makes it aesthetically unobtrusive . If we were to cast this bench in a film, we are confident it could play the roles of both Coco Chanel and Frank Lloyd Wright: sexy and sophisticated in its tufted faux leather, yet practical in its form and functionality.
So we’ve talked about that burnt orange color making its appearance throughout the space, but the next most-used color? GREEN! We have plants on the shelves, plants on the tables…and plants on the floor. We have our “cactus corner” on one end of the space, and wanted to counter it with a large dracaena on the opposite end of the room. Jen of Common House Studio handpaints planters of all sizes, and we felt super excited when she offered to send us one of her large floor planters to host that pop of green and to match all those pops of brass happening throughout the room, too.
And our last (but CERTAINLY not least) sponsor for our moody library space is none other than Sazerac Stitches. If you’re ever on the lookout for colorful, innovative modern lighting, Sazerac Stitches should be numero uno on your list. Kristen of Sazerac Stitches has the enviable ability to handcraft the most colorfully imaginative fixtures on her own, but she is also willing to work on artistic collaborations. We were already smitten with her Adjustable Kelly Sconces, and were ecstatic when she agreed to send us three of them in a matte mustard yellow to match our mustard yellow Growframes. Now that they’re installed, I can’t even imagine this space without them.
As for the rest of the elements in the room? Aside from obvious trips to the plant nursery, our go-to sources were estate sales and thrift shops. A few pieces, like the thrifted elephant side table, have been hanging out in this space for a while, but nearly all of the other decor pieces were thrifted specifically for this project. The brass and glass coffee table was a Facebook Marketplace score, the books were sourced over the past few years at thrift shops and estate sales, and all of the vintage knick-knacks adorning the shelves were thrifted, too.
The antique cement horse was one of my luckier estate sales scores, and much of the room was sourced from Saturday mornings spent on long estate sale lines. The ornate chinoiserie mirror was found at an estate sale in Western Long Island, while the worn-in vintage leather chair was discovered in the office space at a North Shore Long Island waterfront mansion. I traipsed from Manhattan to Montauk to find our treasures, and in the end it was 100% worth it.
Though I did have some help with certain vintage items. I turned to one of my favorite small shops, Kazimah, to score some stunning Turkish kilim pillows. The floor pouf, too, was sourced from another small shop love, Royal Rug Vintage. And that fluffy floor stool that many people mistake for a real, live Australian Shepard? An old Etsy purchase now finding new life in a fresh room.
So, here we are. Nearly two months after breaking ground we find ourselves just a bit more broke, and a lot more satisfied. In graduate school I remember attending a lecture by a renowned art historian named Linda Nochlin. Nochlin spoke of her childhood and described how, even as a small child, her mood would be greatly affected by the aesthetics surrounding her. It was a statement that struck a chord with me at the time, and has stayed with me, more than a decade later. Though we do our own construction, designs, and source our own second-hand items for our home, I still can’t help but constantly reflect on how damn lucky we are to be fortunate enough to make our home a place where we can feel happy, even if it leaves our pockets a little empty.
But, truly, what I want most for anyone following this renovation to take away from it is that it doesn’t have to take a million baby boomer bucks to turn your dusty fixer-upper into your happy place. With a little imagination, a lot of thrift, and a bit of grit, your modestly sized living room can become as whimsical as your heart desires (admittedly, a multi-talented husband who is willing to flex his woodworking muscles after 60-hour work weeks doesn’t hurt either). I truly am one lucky duck.
Now that it’s time to put down the paint brush and plop into that worn-in leather chair, we just want to thank you all SO VERY MUCH for following along throughout this six week-long journey! We hope you’ve enjoyed our transformation and we hope your NEXT stop will be hopping on over to see all of the other incredible reveals over at the One Room Challenge Blog. A big thanks to Linda Weinstein and the One Room Challenge team for making this favorite design event possible – and to Better Homes & Gardens, for their role as the official media sponsor of the Fall 2019 One Room Challenge.