We bought our house in 1994 because the lot was perfect for creating a garden from scratch. That's what we were looking for — the right site for a garden. The house had to meet a few standards but it was a secondary consideration. This one had the important things: big windows that would bring the garden indoors and a deck off the living room at ground level. We could live with any imperfections — and did so for quite a few years.
Our house is a 1954 ranch built into a slope. The front entrance is on the ground floor and then you walk up the stairs to the library and the house opens out in two directions all on one floor. So the library is actually the room you enter first. When we moved in 16 years ago we said the carpet had to go and then we started designing and creating the garden. We did some modest work updating the kitchen after living in the house 8 years; we redid both bathrooms and did a lot of updating of mechanicals and lighting in 2008 and then finally did the library. The room we planned to attack first we did last!
(Remember, you can click on any picture to enlarge it! The library is 12 x 23 feet.)
New carpet was installed on Sept. 21, just a little over two months from the first day workmen arrived and five months after we began interviewing contractors and doing prep work. It seemed like work went on forever but that is a pretty fast timeline looking back. The carpet is 100 percent un-dyed wool. It is a mix of grays, with a bit of brown and white — the natural color of the fleece used in the spinning and weaving. It is a very flat, almost industrial, weave. We made that choice hoping to someday be able to add Oriental rugs of some type as accents on top of the carpet.
As soon as I could walk on the carpet I started putting away the books. I spent four days unpacking books and creating a storage system based on accessibility of the books we used most (cookbooks). At the same time I edited out a good ten percent of the titles to make room for display of objects and for future book purchases. Then we sat on the floor and celebrated with hors d'oeuvres and champagne. No red wine in this room — at least not in the first month.
Over the years as we tried to decide what to do with the library, we spent thousands of hours looking at books and magazines (to say nothing of the $$ spent on them). We did plans on graph paper and made cutouts of the furniture. We bought a pair of antique Chinese wine tables that we planned on putting either side of the windows; an idea we dropped along the way. In the end, we realized that our big pieces of furniture were already in the best locations. The way we had been using the room worked well and so we kept that arrangement and just moved the bookcases around. From then on decision making got easier.
Once the books were in place, Mark and I brought in the two largest pieces of furniture: the couch and the armoire; both had been in the living room all summer. Putting them in place immediately made the library begin to take shape while lessening the crowding in the living room. That sounds so easy, but you can imagine moving that cabinet even with the doors off and one shelf removed. It's not something I ever want to do again!
Then Mark began to assemble the components of the "media center" — after our neighbor helped him carry the old TV into the basement. It took him a few days and a few calls to University Audio to get it all hooked up and working. He's still refining the system which means one piece is currently in the shop. We got a new flat screen TV, receiver and Blu-ray player — all of which live inside the Chinese armoire. The armoire is one of our best purchases ever; it's a focal point of the room and hides all the electronics beautifully.
Looking at the pair of before and after pictures above, you can clearly see what I meant about keeping the big pieces of furniture in the same locations.
Though the new window is the same size as the old one, this one has a larger uninterrupted center span for great garden views. It is also more energy efficient and the side vents work — unlike our old window. It's still waiting for the old curtains to be put back up in this photo.
The pair of views above shows the corner at the top of the stairs. One of the things the remodeling accomplished was to provide a focal point at the top of the stairs. I always felt the bookcase just looked crowded and busy and was not what I wanted visitors to see first. In this view you can also see where a wall of "Millington Gold" meets a wall of "Coastal Fog." The painted trunk is 19th Century Swedish from The Century House in Madison. On it is a Bamana Komo mask from Mali and a Thai ceramic pot. The wall art includes a collage by Madison artist Luann Erickson in which she incorporated gift wrap from our wedding presents, and an unidentified student floral painting with collage on plywood.
Another view of the same corner at the top of the stairs with a better view of the new bookcase bannister.
The pair of views above shows another awkward area the remodel solved. This low bannister wall at the top of the stairs was poorly constructed and always seemed the wrong scale. It also was hollow and thus was wasted storage space. So we turned it into another book/CD case and made it higher to conform to the height of the other bookcases. If you look at the stair railing in both views you can see we also made the new bookcase longer so it created a safer space at the top of the stair as you come around the corner.
A few years ago Mark took this unused space on the wall between the library and one of the bathrooms and added shelving to store CDs. It wasn't long before the discs gave way to his collection of wood-fired tea bowls of Japanese and Wisconsin origin. He designed a cherry frame with a maple back and glass shelves to hold the tea bowls. We also added a new ceiling fixture to improve the lighting. We now refer to the area as "the tea bowl niche."
In this pair of pictures you can see the side walls are painted "Coastal Fog" while the center wall is "Woodcut" by Mautz, a local paint manufacturer. We kept the same wood railings and the wood steps. We replaced the front hall's linoleum floor with ceramic tile. We also replaced the halogen chandelier with a track which lights the art as well as the space. The bulb in the old fixture is inside the bowl and was a nightmare to replace.
This pair of images shows closeups of our new display shelf. The old shelf is actually built around a support beam but was not flat and was quite narrow as you can see from the row of pomegranates sitting on it. The new shelf is cherry, is nice and flat and wide enough to display the majority of our sculptures like this Thai cave monk of painted wood.
Here are the other posts related to the remodel:
500 paint colors here.
We pick the wall paint colors here.
We begin teardown and construction here.