The Tale of Four Bookcases

What's happening on the Nate Berkus Show today you might wonder?  We are!!  Get your tv on!  And please pray we don't embarrass ourselves....

I'm a big fan of making a house work for the family that lives in it.  If there are rooms that aren't being utilized, turn them into functional spaces that you need! 

The house I'm living in now has a formal living room/dining room combo that just wasn't being enjoyed.  After living here for almost a year, I hatched a plan to turn the dining room space into my home office.

Problem number one:  It's one long, continuous room.

The solution?  Find a gigantic, former built-in wall unit at a thrift store, borrow a truck and trailer, and persuade your husband to drive over an hour to pick it up in a rain storm.  No biggie.

Skip the drama. We placed the big built-in behind the living room sofa as a divider, with the storage part facing toward my new office space.  One room divided into two, instantly!

Problem number two:  Her backside.  So unsightly.  Facing right into my formal living room.

I laid awake at night for months thinking of a way to cover it up. Wallpaper? Fabric? A board and batten treatment?  Nothing was convincing me into action.

Until the day I was reading one of my favorite blogs, {Little Green Notebook}, and saw Jenny's library.  Done.

After tirelessly searching Craigslist for the ideal thing for weeks, I came up with four,  perfectly sized  beauties.  This sweet couple was taking 12 of them out of the home they had just purchased.  I didn't have the heart to tell them they were crazy!  The units were big, brown, and kind of homely, but I could smell the potential, and I had just hit the jackpot.  They were $200 total.  I was swooning over the tongue and groove backs.

Fortunately for me, I was hosting {Club Project} that month, and I put Lettie and Cara right on painting them.  Not a word of complaining from these two warriors.  They just got 'er done.  Benjamin Moore's Gray Owl for the back, Valspar's Cincinatian Hotel Hannaford for the shelves.

Mia skillfully traced and cut the arches for the tops with a jigsaw.  Her entire body vibrated the rest of the day, but these are the kinds of things we do for each other.  And she was fine by bedtime.  Yes, that's one of my chickens in the pot behind her, laying her daily egg.

Jenny put together an excellent {tutorial} on how she added the arches to her Ikea Billy bookcases, which I followed ever so carefully.  What a brilliant way to make regular bookcases so custom.  Mia came over on another day to help me install the arches, because she's awesome like that.  The wood for the arches was $20.

I decided that because the bookcases were for my formal living room, I would dress them up just a touch with some very basic trim.  It was also a good way to hide the seams where the arches joined up with each other.  I found just what I needed at Lowes for $30,  and called in the big guns for some assistance. 

Caulking is your friend when you're working with wood.  It will make the BIGGEST difference in your finished work.

Be sure to cut your tip really small so you have maximum control when using it, and have a wet cloth handy.  There were lots of spaces like this in my bookcases because they were so old.

After caulking, you will never suspect the imperfections once it's painted.

After painting all the trim came the fun part.  Accessorizing!  99% of the items came from thrifting/flea markets/my backyard.  Even the $10 butterfly print, remember the one I hauled around NYC for 10 hours?  You better believe that thing was going to be front and center!

I found the sofa on CL for $40 a couple years ago.  I'm so sad I didn't take a before shot of it. I found 10 yards of striped linen at Goodwill for a total of $3.49 for the whole piece.  Can you believe that?!  One of my best girls, G, came over and  helped me reupholster it.  She's a keeper for sure.  I finished it off with some aged nail heads.  Lots of them.  I painted the wood a cream color, then rubbed a light gray all over it. I adore the detail on the arms and sanded a little bit of the finish off to highlight it.

Me and my mom made the three big pillows out of a couple curtain panels I found at Goodwill.  I love their feminine, pleated edge. 

And here is the highly anticipated final picture!  I'm so glad we finished it before the holidays. Total for the bookcases was $255.  If you add the couch in, the total goes up to $340.  And just for fun, let's throw the {coffee table} in there too, for a grand total of $355.  If you must know, the pair of chairs were a lucky CL find at $60 apiece.

Now, on to the curtains, which is the last task to check off for the completion of  this room.  I'm going to give myself an award when they are done.  Guess what?  I have had my own place for the last 20 years, and this is the first time I have done one thing to any formal living room.  I feel like such a big girl now!

We used to have to explain a lot when visitors came in the front door.  Like why there was the back of a huge, jacked-up piece of furniture behind the couch.  It's going to be so nice to welcome friends in, and not have them look at us like we're from outer space.

Don't forget to sign up for our {November Giveaway}.  It's a fun one!


  1. I'm watching Nate now :)

    GREAT JOB on this project



  2. I absolutely LOVE the room!! Styling bookcases gives me hives, and my 100% practical husband doesn't understand. ;) You did a fantastic job! My favorite is the coral and the ampersand.

  3. You guys look great on TV! I am watching your segment now. The bookcases are amazing. LOVE!

  4. OMG!
    That looks amazing!
    I LOVE this room! So much better with the nice and crisp bookcases!!!
    Thank you for sharing.

    Lovely greetings...


  5. I am a fan of little green notebook too and was WOW'd by her bookcases! I love both sides of your divider :) So fantastic!! J in Mesa

  6. Jill - You're my hero! I want to be you when I grow up! :) It all looks amazing! I can't wait to watch your show tonight on Tivo when I get home from work!

  7. Love the room. Another great job ladies. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

  8. Holy smokes these are amazing! You have a serious vision. I'm oober impressed. I would be honored to have you link this up to my VIP party today =) http://designergarden.blogspot.com/2011/11/vip-party-36.html

  9. What a great segment!!!!

    This home is amazing!

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  10. Love the room. It is wonderful.

  11. The room looks great - love how you accessorized the shelves, not overwhelming just pretty!

  12. This is the first project I have seen since newly following you girls last week, and holy cow you ladies do not disappoint! I feel like I need to go thrifting, or paint something or BOTH!
    Awesome, awesome job!

  13. Wow gorgeous!! Just saw on Just a girl's FB page!!! I LOVE it & am pinning it to my built in board!!! Yay!! Nice job!

  14. Holy smokes!! GREAT job!! This room looks amazing! I'm in! Debbie @ Inspiredhoneybee.blogspot

  15. Oh wow! I am so impressed I don't know what to say. They are just gorgeous! I never thought I could fall in love with bookshelves but I have. I would LOVE for you to come share them at my link party! http://www.literallyinspired.com/2011/11/what-you-talkin-bout-wednesday-party.html


  16. A-Ma-Zing. When you do a project, you do a PROJECT! Newest follower because I just know I'll be picking up tips on your site :)

  17. Wow!I am beyond impressed.The room is gorgeous and all of those thrifty finds are so inspiring. Enjoy :)

  18. I am beyond impressed! What a fabulous job you did, and at an incredible price!

  19. Wow, such a great transformation and great pricing as well!! Donna G.

  20. Visiting from Centsational Girl. Wow! Love this project and your sofa. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Your shelves look amazing! I have been dying to try this too. Love the entire room - great job!!!

  22. love these bookcases! i'm in the middle of a similar project...but you just gave me the motivation to hurry up and finish!

  23. I'd have never thought of back to back bookcases to divide a long room - but you've done it beautifully! What color did you paint the former display unit, and how on earth did you get it through the door? I hope it came in pieces! Another lovely and inspiring post!

  24. You keep your hens inside? You must do a post on those girls, and soon!

  25. Love the finished room! Awesome job!! Also, I saw y'all on Nate --- wish I could join the Club!

  26. OMG....this room is beyond description.....to die for...awesome....unbelievable - esp considering the $$ you spent!! I am sooooooooooo sorry I missed y'all on Nate - but watching for a rerun!
    Did I miss or what did you decide to do on the back side of the bookcases??
    Again - what a wealth of talent y'all are blessed with!!

  27. Love it! I too have an often unused formal dining room and would love to transform it into something useful and fabulous. No idea what though. Am your newest follower and will be checking back often for more inspiration! liz

  28. wow! these are incredible! your living room looks fantastic!

  29. Holy Cow that is amazing! What a fantastic project. Thank you for sharing !

  30. Gorgeous! I missed you on the Nate show. Oh, man. For some reason, I thought you said the 15th! I love, love, love that sofa. You girls are awesome.

  31. This is FABULOUS!! Great job (and what awesome friends you have!)

  32. I found your post through Miss Mustard Seed's Furniture Friday (mine is 106) and I wanted to let you know that I love how your bookshelves turned out. I just finished painting my second piece of furniture ... ever ... so I am blown away! Great work!

  33. What a great job!! Visiting from MMS.

  34. Your room is gorgeous! And everything was such a good deal! Seriously, I can't believe those are the same shelves. You did an amazing job transforming them!

  35. Found you through Miss Mustard Seed... I can't wait to check out all your other posts! I LOVE these shelves, but I love your couch even more! I love furniture with character!

  36. The shelving is to DIE for!! Imagine what you would pay for that in a store!!...Well done :0)

  37. The room is AMAZING!!! If you ever want to sell those chairs I WANT THEM! I have been looking everywhere for some there they are in your picture. Again, great job on the room.
    Kelly Duncan

  38. This is so awesome! I love built ins. What does the other side look like? I have to peek around and see if I can find it,

  39. Wow! Gorgeous room with an amazing price tag!

    Here from Remodelaholic,


  40. Amazing what you can do with a creative mind! Wow!

  41. Well done! I love that it was such a group effort : o ) Decorating brings friends together!

  42. Jill this is amazing. Can I invite myself over and come see this in person?? My sis just moved into a new house that has a weird long front room and she wants to use half as a living room/half as a playroom. This would be a perfect solution. You're brilliant! So is LGN who inspired you. ADORE!!

  43. OMGosh, I would be in heaven. That is beautiful.

  44. عزيزي العميل اذا كنت تبحث عن أفضل شركة كشف تسربات بجدة ومكة والطائف لا بد من ان تتصل الآن على شركة العلا لخدمات كشف تسربات بجدة وأيضا تعمل مؤسسة العلا في خدمات عزل الخزانات والاسطح والمسابح وحل مشاكل تسربات المياه التي تؤرق العديد ن العملاء لا تتردد في الاتصال بنا :
    من اهم خدماتنا :
    افضل شركة عزل خزانات بجدة
    افضل شركة عزل مائى بجدة
    افضل شركة عزل اسطح بجدة
    افضل شركة كشف تسربات الحمامات بجدة
    افضل شركة كشف تسربات الخزانات بجدة
    افضل شركة كشف تسربات الأسطح بجدة
    افضل شركة كشف تسربات المسابح بجدة
    افضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه بجدة


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Mia & Jilly

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