How to Style Bookcases

I want more bookcases. Actually, I need them. My bookshelves are completely overflowing and don’t look great. I’m desperate for something that will allow me to get my books neatly single stacked on the shelves. You see, I love to read. I need to read more. I used to read a book a week. Now, there’s this thing called the internet that sucks me in and steals all my free time. I want to get away from that and dive back into my one true love: literature.

Also, I refuse to get rid of any of the books I do own and love. I am not a read once and donate kinda gal. I’m likely to read my favorite books every year and to return to favorite series biannually. So, don’t even suggest I reduce my collection! Actually, I need more books, to fulfill my childhood dreams of being a private library for all my friends. Then I can get super rich and have a fancy Living Room / Library like this to lounge in all the time. #dreambig


I used to hang out in my Oma & Opa’s office — which was a little room off their living room — and play with the books that lined their floor to ceiling bookshelves. I’d sit by the fireplace in there (yes, they had a library with a fireplace, can you say, “life goals?!”) and create “library cards” for pretend people on their typewriter. I’d force my little sister to come and pretend to check out library books and then I’d charge her late fees for all of her returns. You know, just in case you forgot I’m an older sibling.

So, back to today, I have this abundance of books and dreams of one day lining the Dining Room at Berrybrier with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. But that doesn’t solve the problem of today. The problem being: my two childhood bookshelves are overflowing and no longer cutting it for book storage. While I’d love to create something like this in my Dining Room (give me all the library ladders!), it’s just a bit out of the budget right now!

Instead, I’m thinking about purchasing two of these IKEA Billy units for my Dining Room. I like that they have glass doors (though that adds quite a bit of cost!), which would be nice to keep the dust cats out, but I could still style in some plants with out them destroying them all.

They could live on either side of the window on the left in the Dining Room below. I have bookshelves there now, but they’re smaller. I could also add some of the side units in to make these units wider. I have to measure to see if it will all fit and if I can actually afford it! But I like the idea of something like this for now. Or I could go to one of the natural furniture stores in town and buy some unstained shelves for the same purpose, but they wouldn’t have fancy glass doors, which means more dusting and the cats still could wreck havoc.

While I’m sorting all that out and running the numbers, although I’ve already addressed styling bookshelves full of books here and mixing books with objects in a bookshelf here, I wanted to round up even more bookshelves today. Everyone loves a styled shelf of books, right?!

Okay, so white built-ins are like the 1970’s shag carpet of the 2000s. Everyone is obsessed with them and they are everywhere. Unlike shag carpet, we’re not going to be ripping these out in 10 years though! These shelves are stylish, timeless, and add a whole ton of storage. This one below is styled in the sparse manner of those who don’t have a ton of books. So, it’s not very me, but I love the playful use of color and shape here. See how that round platter helps break up the repeated square geometry? And I’m very into that woven basket. the neutral palette pops in bits of green and blue to break up the natural tones. The crisp black accents in the hardware, wire object, and other accents create a nice contrast with the white on white look.

I can’t talk bookshelves without chatting about Chris Loves Julia‘s Reading Room. Their DIY bookshelves are stellar and Julia always has them styled with the most interesting objects with plenty of books thrown in too. Julia really mixes a lot of white and metallics here, which show very well against the moody blue-green paint. Even darker artwork is framed in white to provide nice contrast from the walls behind. Plus, I’m super into the lighting. I dream of lighting like that above more traditional shelves in my dining room. Wouldn’t that just be amazing?


I’m obsessed with the round boxes pictured below in these shelves styled by Emily Henderson. They remind me of these super affordable ones from IKEA with mismatched lids! I really want some hat boxes of my own, because I think they mix up the sea of squares and rectangles and help to create a more interesting styled shelf. Otherwise, I am digging all the color and packed in interest here. Emily Henderson is a styling genius and this shelf really showcases her ability to mix objects, books, color, storage, and tons of fun in one vignette. My favorite part, is that awesome, big, patterned vase on the bottom shelf, breaking up the line of larger book spines and the little brass objects scattered around the shelves. The color throughout provides tons of fun. There’s poppy red, dark teal, light teal, pink, yellow, and blue! That’s some serious use of color, you guys. I’m envious, because when I mix this much color it looks a bit Disney! I’m definitely taking notes from this image though. If that shelf was a deep, moodier color — like I have in mind for the Dining Room — would this still work? I think so! Note to self: find and buy more tiny brass objects.

This image is very extra, as it would need to be in order to be featured by House Beautiful magazine (aka, my bible!). It’s been on my pinboards for years and years. I love how the shelves hold a mix of colors and sizes of books. That big, beautiful painting in front looks so awesome and creates the best focal point when layered in front of the chaos of skinny book spines. If you look closer, there’s even another sconce and another little painting below the big one! How ballsy is that? This is basically my dream house, y’all. Someone buy me a giant, gilded antique mirror!


This image below showcases a similar, but much more achievable design for those of us who don’t have thousands of dollars budgeted for large custom portraits. Look how cute that tiny mirror is tacked on to the shelf that way? I’m on the hunt for tiny, gilded mirrors now, too! I like how the books are color blocked here, something I often do. This helps the books read as larger blocks of color rather than hundreds of skinny spines.

This more modern shelf from CB2 packs on the books in a way that truly worms its way into my heart. The addition of a large plant, single bowl, and vintage sewing machine makes this shelf feel styled and thoughtful. I’m into it and can see this in my own space as I also tend to have an abundance of books, but not very many objects. Plus, this is a great way to get your space hogging serving ware out of your kitchen and onto display. It can still be snatched up for that occasional dinner party!

This colorful shelf is just too fun. Look at the mix of objects, books, and COLOR! It’s beautiful, stunning, and I can’t get enough. I love how whimsical it is with everything from a casual nude drawing to a halloween decoration on the shelves! The use of black / charcoal throughout the shelves helps to tie all the design together without being overtly “styled.” Plus, they’re using magazines to style here, something I have too many of and yet also struggle to get rid of. Please pray for me and my reading materials addiction!


I have a soft spot for this image below, because I’m constantly recommending this solution to clients on a budget who want a built-in look. These affordable, adjustable shelving units are available everywhere from Home Depot to Ace Hardware. Buy the adjustable extensions and brackets, but skip the melamine or wire shelves themselves. Then, DIY some shelves from 1×10 flatstock and stain or paint them to your liking. They often hold over 300lbs and create tons of storage. These are styled with books, magazines, and some awesome sculptural objects. I like how the occasional book or picture frame leans up on the shelves creating a large block amidst the skinny book spines. A couple blocks of magazines on a lower shelf also helps create a resting place for the eye. I’m super into this look and it can work in modern and transitional settings. The adjustable shelves are easily transportable which makes it so perfect for apartment hopping as well!

Finally, I love how these dark and moody shelves is full of reading materials and the tiniest little brass bust. Additional small photographs placed on large stacks of books gives them a larger presence. Although there are a few stacks of booksets in the same spine color, for the most part these shelves have mixed together colors, subjects, hard-, and soft-cover books. This really is something I can achieve now in my home with my crazy overcrowded shelves. Perhaps, I’ll make it a primary goal? I definitely have a few sets of books and y’all know I have plenty of other books. This could work quite well for me… if I splurge on the Billy units and have a little more space!


So, there’s a round up of different shelves I’m eyeing as inspiration for my own home. I really want to be one of those people with cohesive book storage that looks so pretty. Right now I can barely find my books, since they’re double stacked on the shelves and hidden away! Does anyone else have this problem? I know the solution is to donate more books… but I can’t part with my favorites! Sure, if I don’t like a book, I’m happy to stick it in the free library up the street (gosh I want one of those so bad, too!), but the books I’ve read and enjoyed? I’m holding on to those forever!

Which styled shelf is your favorite? Are your bookshelves styled with books, or objects, or both? Do you have built-ins or are you also rocking the freestanding storage? Does anyone still read anymore or is the internet sucking the lives out of all of us? Dang internet!


The Order I Paint Walls, Ceiling, & Trim and the Refreshed Master Bedroom

When I first moved into Berrybrier, the Master Bedroom was one of the nicest looking rooms in the house. Thus, I filled it with all the junk I wanted out of other spaces (think unopened moving boxes) and largely ignored it.

You guys, this room, my room at Berrybrier, the “Master Bedroom” looked absolutely horrendous for over a year and 4 months. Yup, it took me over a year of doing all the other 20 million projects at Berrybrier, before I thought, “You know what would help you relax and feel more at home in this house? If you actually fixed up your bedroom so you enjoyed being in there.” If I could go back in time, I would have fixed up my bedroom first.

It seems silly to do such a non-priority space first, but realistically, all this room needed was a couple coats of paint. With a little help, I could have had this room completed in a long weekend, creating a small haven for myself amidst the utter chaos that reigned in this house for so long and wore on my body and soul. I really would have enjoyed that and have made a mental note for myself on the next place I decide to go crazy on.

But let’s get back to my bedroom. You remember when I bought the house and it looked like this in here? The bathroom was brown and yellow and fifty shades of gross. The room was better, painted in the last 10 years, but needed cleaning.

But then I fixed it up the bathroom! A full gut renovation later and that tiny bathroom now glows! It’s one of my favorite rooms in the house. When I shared the photos from that final picture a couple people commented on the sneak peek of the bedroom as well!

That’s right, ya’ll! We’re going green! Dark green. It’s time to make this bedroom a whole lot more fab. See how sad it is below? This shot is the first thing you see when you walk into the room. There was even a white sticker on the floor. You, know, as one sees on a frequent basis…

The periwinkle blue and brick red wall paint with white trim felt very Federalist and New Americana to me. Which isn’t really my thing. I wanted to get that totally changed up and get some privacy curtains up on the windows so my neighbors wouldn’t see me changing. I also wanted curtains to hide the just ever so slightly off center window.

The room is a decent size and even though there is a chimney stack housed in one corner, the room has numerous furniture layout possibilities. This is the door to get into the room, which yes someone decided to make smaller at one point and just cut off 3″ on the hinge side and rehung it. Questionable! But, still, it’s a beautiful, stained, solid wood, 5 panel door. I’m not trading that for anything!

This is the far corner of the room. The outlet placement was excellent for putting a bed on that wall and the vent on the floor is an intake air vent.

When I first bought Berrybrier, this room was on the bottom of the list of renovations, so it became the dumping ground for all my junk. I’d bought a bed for $25 off craigslist when I bought the house and threw it on bedrisers so I could fit some under-bed storage containers below. It was a lewk. And not a good one!

I bought all my bedding from West Elm way back in 2015 and still love it so much. When I first moved it, though, I kept half of it in storage and just threw the main pieces I’d pulled out of boxes first on the bed. I knew that whatever I did with this room, though, the floral duvet comforter would help dictate it. The bed, however, had to go. It was uncomfortable, old IKEA, I think? And it had been modified with random parts of other beds over the years.

After I’d settled into the house a bit more, I did try to dress up this set up a bit more and hung some art. But that didn’t really do much. Especially once I started swatching colors on the wall. I knew I wanted something dark and dynamic. A terracotta-y red, perhaps?

I ended up throwing a whole lot of colors on the wall. Oh, and guess what? I left the walls swatched like this for 8 months before actually painting this room. I’m super classy!

I was debating a charcoal wall and sampled two of those colors, one a bit warmer than the other. Then I looked at three different terracottas before realizing that my floors were so orange it would clash with them. Okay, cool colors. Which cool colors do I actually like? GREEN!!!

I only swatched two greens, because the second I realized the room should be green, I knew I wanted to continue the green trim color (Benjamin Moore 1498 Forest Floor) from the bathroom and kitchen into here too. The walls and trim could all be the same color, exactly like I did in the bathroom, but that felt repetitive and boring. So what about a very subtle contrast between the dark green trim and walls?

The top color is Benjamin Moore’s HC-112 Tate Olive and the lower color is Benjamin Moore 1490 Country Life which was on the same swatch card as the 1498 Forest Floor trim paint (which is on the trim below).

Can you guess what I picked? The top color! I loved the subtle contrast and the depth of tone. Plus it’s one of Benjamin Moore’s historical colors and that always feels kind of cool. I quickly went out and picked up a can of Natura Eggshell in Tate Olive.

Then I had to prep the room for work! I never remove all of the furniture in a room before painting, sure I move the light weight stuff, but for the most part, I just shove everything into the center of the room and throw big drop cloths over everything. Since I knew this would take several days, I left all my bedding on the bed too, so I’d have some place to sleep.

Before I could paint the room the room though, there were a whole lot of dings and repairs to take care of! This included a delightful ceiling patch that needed fixing; a result of the construction on the dormer. Oh yay.

First, I took out a scraper tool and used it to knock and scrape off any loose bits of plaster. This rough, textured ceiling coat is over the original lathe and plaster which I’d guess had a smooth finish like the walls. The textured ceiling is in every room in the house, but I have no idea why the texture was added! It’s rather annoying, sucks up a ton of paint, and shows every repair job super obviously. Once the loose plaster was off, the holes looked MUCH larger! Oh yay!

I threw up a layer of mud followed by a layer of pink to white spackle. I tried my best to match the texture of the ceiling, but it’s already been blatantly patched a few times, so I didn’t stress about trying to perfect it.

Once that was taken care of, all of the trim work needed sanding and cleaning. My sister Bronwyn took on that task, doing a quick sand on the gloss trim paint, so the new paint would stick better. A quick wipe down with TSP after sanding made sure there was no residue left behind. Things gotta look rougher before they can look better, right? Note: none of this trimwork is original to the house. It was all added in the last 20 years, and thus does not contain any lead.

I also used the drywall mud I already had out to fill in some uneveness on the walls and patch a small crack.

Then, because, no-prep-work-left-behind! I caulked all the seams of the crown which were gapping at the ceiling in places as the house had settled.

I wipe all my excess caulk with a sponge which ensures what’s left on the wall is only in the areas needed. This is a handy trick that works WAY better than a wet finger. I loathed caulking before I learned this trick. Now I only extremely dislike caulking, so it’s a huge improvement.

Finally, finally, after several days of prep work, it was time to paint! Woopee!!

The Order to Paint Walls, Trim, and Ceilings

  1. All Trimwork: including crown, baseboards, casings, decorative mouldings, etc. This allows you to no worry about getting the trim paint on other surfaces
  2. Walls: cut in your paint with a short handled brush, creating crisp edges against the straight lines created by the mouldings, then roll your main wall surface.
  3. Ceiling: cut in your ceiling around the trimwork, then slowly roll the main surface.

I began in the Master Bedroom with my usual down and dirty method of painting all the trim work first. I find it much easier to get a good coat of paint all over the trim — in and around all the curves, gaps, and edges — if I don’t have to worry about getting trim paint on anything else. It’s very easy to cut in a straight line against flat wood trim later, you see, but difficult to paint a curvy trim piece and get a straight line against the wall. Of course, this method results in a whole lot of crazy that looks like this picture below. BOY DO THOSE COLORS NOT GO TOGETHER!! Can you tell I began working on a ladder first?

Anyways, as I worked my way around the room cutting in all the trim, my trusty assistant and sister began rolling the first coat of paint on all the walls. We both like to use a W paint rolling pattern which helps to get coverage over every bit of wall – particularly if you have textured walls. These are flat thought, so it’s less essential.

Yes, this order of painting things meant the whole space looked like chaos, but the middle never makes any sense anyways.

Bronwyn also rolled the tad bit of space between the picture rail moulding and the crown moulding. Then once those coats were dried, I went back and cut in a first coat of wall paint around all the painted trimwork. I use a short handled brush exclusively for all my cutting in and trim painting. I find it much easier to handle and it gives me much more control.

Now it was finally looking like I envisioned with the subtle contrasting greens creating a very traditional take on the modern monotone vibe! Yes, even at this point, one coat half done, I was in love with where this space was going. It was certainly going to be a bit darker, a bit more cave-like than before, but in a cozy, moody way that’s just perfect for a bedroom. I love to sleep and frequently stay up late and sleep in late, so a nice dark space is perfect for me!

After all the walls and trim were painted with two coats, I went and cut in the ceiling paint and rolled the ceiling, careful not to drip or splatter the walls. That was the last step before I could finally bring this room back together!

When day broke after the painting was complete, I had a huge smile on my face. The room was exactly the way I pictured it and the two-tone green looked excellent — by itself, but even better next to the orange-y doors and floors! I needed to reinstall the outlet covers and put the room back together, but for a few minutes I just stood here, so excited and happy by this transformation. It was a lot of prep work and the room took over a week to prep and paint, but now it was glorious!

These are slightly different angles, but you can see how different this room looks with paint! It’s darker, but more romantic and cozy. The cool periwinkle color before was slightly hospital-feeling, a decade after it had been first painted, and the room was ready for fresh paint. We all know that view behind the bathroom door has changed a lot too!

I had taken everything out of my room the day all the painting was complete, which is why this room is now suddenly empty. I wasn’t planning on bringing it back in either! I have slowly been gathering new pieces for this space — antiques I’ve found on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace — and now the room was painted, they could finally be installed in their new home! I hadn’t wanted to bring them in until this room was finally painted. This way, I got to have my own little mini-install and reveal day.

I can’t wait to show you what this space looks like, now that everything has been re-furnished! I’m working on the final touches, updating art, adding ambient lighting, and hunting for that last nightstand… It’s so close to being a completed space, ripe for a reveal!

What do you think of this take on the modern monotone concept? I see walls painted the same color as the trim all the time to make it feel more contemporary and moody. My version feels more traditional, which feels right for this 1909 house. I absolutely love it, though I know a lot of people think I’m completely crazy for painting all my white trim dark green! What would you do? Monotone? Tonal Monotone? Or Team White Trim? Let me know in the comments!

How to Change Out a 220 Outlet

Remember how my kitchen looked like this the last time I talked about it? Transformed, but still a hot mess. Not a hot mess actually, just a mess. There was a lot still to be done. And one of those things on the to do list was fixing the 220 appliance outlet on the back wall beneath the windows. This was the outlet for the stove.

Not that the house came with a stove. It just looked like this when I bought it and my best guess is there was an older pre-1960s stove next to the stairs on the wall opposite the windows. This guess is based on the grease pattern that was left on the floor and wall there and the fact that there’s another 220 appliance outlet on that wall. The one under the kitchen windows is probably left over from when there was laundry up here. You can see the old dryer vent next to the outlet here below. We removed the vent when we demo’ed this wall down to the studs in February 2018. Yeah this really was the glorious kitchen I fell in love with when I bought the house. Can you believe it?

I wanted to place the stove on this wall because it made the most sense and because I didn’t want anyone falling down the stairs and burning themselves on the stove. Plus, who doesn’t want to look out the window while they cook?

Anyways, the problem with the existing 220 outlet was a) that it was ancient and looked suspicious and b) I’d shorted it pretty badly when I ripped the homasote off this wall during demo and one of the screws holding it to the wall came off inside the outlet. Whoops. Definitely not a safe move. You can see on the back of it that hole near the top where the screw went from inside the outlet and secured it to the wall.

The wiring had been checked by my electricians when they came in October 2017 and it was good to use, but I hadn’t bothered to flip the breaker back on this guy after shorting it. Just in case, I did double check that it was off using an electrical tester before doing anything further.

Then I gathered some supplies. Tea always comes in very helpful during electrical work! I’d picked up a new 220 wall outlet at Home Depot for about $10.

The old outlet had certainly seen better days, and I was excited to switch it out because this change officially meant I would have a working oven! At the time I did this, I hadn’t had a working oven in 6 months and pretty much cooked everything in a toaster over in my dining room. You can see that delightful set up in my February 2018 House Tour!

I unscrewed the screw in the middle of the outlet and loosened the cover. The outlet cover slid up and off the 220 outlet exposing all the guts.

At the bottom of the outlet you can see the screw that came out and shorted it. I’m lucky I’m alive, ya’ll, I do a lot of stupid things. Don’t do that. Turn off your electricity before demoing around it, please.

Now to unattach the wires. This was simple, just unscrew the machine screws connecting them to the outlet and pull them out.

Then I shoved all the wires together, unscrewed the outlet box from the conduit pipe using a pair of pliers, and pulled the old outlet box off the conduit pipe. Now there were just some wires floating there!

I took my new outlet out of it’s box and was very thankful that everything looked nearly identical!

I removed the bottom knockout on the new outlet with a screw driver (super easy: stick screwdriver in slot, twist, and pull) and crossed my fingers it would fit on the old conduit pipe.

I wrangled the wires and stuffed them through the knockout and pulled the little nut over everything. Luckily, it all fit nicely!

Then I used my pliers again to tighten the little nut so the new outlet was secured to the conduit pipe. I made sure that baby wasn’t going anywhere! There was also a screw at the top of the outlet which would have allowed me to attach it to the wall, but since it was secured pretty well to the conduit and my new drywall was 2″ without all the old siding behind it, I ignored this screw.

Now it was time to attach the wires to the outlet. I slid them in one at a time and tightened the machine screws that hold them in place.

Once I was done it looked like this! All the wires in place and ready for a cover plate! I was this close to a real working kitchen again! Woohoo!

The outlet cover snapped on to the outlet and all of a sudden I was done! Now just to get an oven in here and fire it up! All in all this project took less than an hour and used only the simplest tools: pliers, a screw driver. Anyone could do this, and I’m sure it would have cost at least $150 to have an electrician come out to do something this simple. That’s just money in my bank now! Well… I mean… I probably spent that $150 on something like paint soon after, but, still. DIY saves ya moolah!

You better bet I coerced my sister into helping me carry the oven into the kitchen that night and testing the new outlet. It worked! WE COULD COOK AGAIN. I roasted squash and made a mirepoix for butternut squash soup literally 20 minutes after this picture was taken. WOOHOO!!! It was such a relief to be able to use a stove after six months of nothing but toaster oven! I wanted to boil water and fry eggs and sauté veggies! There is nothing like not having a kitchen to make you appreciate all the little things you use a working kitchen for, amiright?

Have you ever done a quick electrical project? Or would you only trust an electrician with this type of thing? I’ll admit, after the house behind ours caught fire in September 2018, I’ve been a bit more nervous about electrical work, but not so nervous to not do it with careful consultations and triple checks! Are you someone willing to work on this or would you hire it out?