better homes than yours · Renovation · Resorting to Violins

Day 61: People of the Book Room (house tour!)

You’re about to enter one of the most beloved rooms in our house:

(Drumroll, excited murmuring from the crowd)

The Library.

When we started planning this renovation, a library was at the top of Mr. December’s list of must-haves. It made my top three as well, but it got edged out by natural light.

We knew we wanted the library to be an “away room”, to borrow a term from architect Sarah Susanka. If we had a living room and dining room that were open to each other, then we needed a room that could be closed off and isolated from noise. Since I also wanted a music room (for instruments and live music, not for listening to recordings) and that would require isolation of sound as well, we decided to put the two together. Besides, does it get any more classy than a room full of books and musical instruments?

On the first day of this tour you saw the mirrored doors on one side of the front hall. When they and the sliding glass door to the dining room are closed, there’s significantly less sound transfer between rooms. Between that and the built-in sound mitigation strategies (double drywall with green glue, resilient channel in the ceiling, extra insulation in the walls), the library/music room is the quietest room in the house. IMG_3579

Let’s open the doors, shall we?


The library has large windows that face due west, which means that we get bright sunlight all afternoon, which is why you can’t see the stone fireplace very well. The only part of our bungalow’s interior that we preserved, the wood-burning fireplace makes this our favourite room to be in on chilly nights.


It took us a while to decide what to put on the wall above the fireplace. We discussed a wedding photo, metal sculpture, and paintings; then Mr. December found this 3D wooden map of the world, and everything else paled in comparison — especially after we learned that it could be lit up with colourful LED lights. Tacky? Maybe. Epic? Oh yeah.

There’s a tiny house engraved on the map right where Toronto is, to signify our home. We also had a quote engraved just below where it says “Antarctica”: Life is short and the world is wide. 

I see this room as essentially having two halves: the book side, and the music side.


Three walls of the library are lined with built-in bookshelves and cabinetry. This was yet another one of my DIY projects that was interrupted by my concussion. I designed the library in sketchup and had our painter/carpenter dude build it for us. One day I plan to build a rolling ladder to help us reach the top shelves, but for now we just keep Terry’s poker books there, along with the complete transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials (important to have, but we don’t actually want to read them.)

The magazine rack in the back right corner of the photo is another example of making lemonade out of lemons. You see, we had to put a steel beam into the basement ceiling to hold up this wall and the post above it. To our consternation, the contractors installed the beam almost a foot away from where it was supposed to be, thus making our pantry smaller. I insisted that we enlarge the pantry by stealing some space from the library. To disguise it, we built these very shallow ledges to use as a magazine display.


At the other end of the library, on the music side, we have this beautiful window seat. The cushions are from the old window seat in our bungalow — I’m very stuck on choosing a fabric for this seat, so if you have any suggestions please send them my way.

Under the window seat is a huge space for storing instrument cases. We don’t access them often because we don’t take our instruments out of the house very often, and we prefer to have them easily accessible.


In case you’re wondering, yes, that is the same instrument hanger that I built years ago. I painted it to match the library and it’s still going strong.

Since the library is so quiet and private, K really likes doing her homework in here. For a while we dithered on where to put a desk — in the interim she used a folding table — until I decided that a pull-out desk would be just the thing. When she wants to use it, it pulls out and locks in the open position. With a sharp push, it unlocks and rolls back inside the cabinet.


On the opposite wall we have our electric piano with an adjustable reading lamp above it, and all of our music books. We also have a sturdy music stand that gets moved around a lot.


Since a library is really a celebration of words, we decided to decorate the crown moulding with quotes about books and reading. We chose our favourite quotes and deliberated over fonts; then I did the layout and sent it to a vinyl sign company to be laser-cut from adhesive vinyl. Installation was surprisingly easy, and we’re very happy with the results:


When we were choosing paint colours, everyone thought I was crazy for painting the ceiling the same dark purple-blue as the bookcases, walls, and woodwork. “It’ll be so dark!” my mother declared. “Don’t you want to lighten it up a little with a white ceiling?” The answer to that one was an emphatic no. I wanted to feel enveloped and cozy in here, and to do something a little different and daring. And now I’m so glad that I did.

The library still needs work. It needs furniture, a window seat cushion that actually fits, and some more books (see all those empty shelves? Don’t worry! We’re working on it!) But even in its underfurnished state, it’s a room where we all want to be.





3 thoughts on “Day 61: People of the Book Room (house tour!)

  1. What a fabulous room. A wonderful house, designed with thought, care, and the people who live in it coming first. Cosy, snug, safe.

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