Tag Archives: bookshelf

What’s a Bay Window Without a Bench?

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Our house has a wide open space flowing from the kitchen to the family room at the back of the house. The formal dining room is actually in the front living room, but we never use it as such because it is carpeted, and no one in their right mind with kids eats over carpet. The kitchen has enough space for a table in a sort of breakfast nook, so we eat there. It has a sliding door to the back patio so it is a little tight, but it works.

The family room is naturally divided into two separate spaces. The middle space is deeper and has a bay window. The far side has the fireplace at the end with shelves on both sides and a large window to the backyard. Since a family room is the less formal space in the house where good friends and family can hang out, lets be honest and admit it revolves around comfortable couches and the tv.

So our first dilemma was where to put the tv. The first option was on a stand in the bay window, but it is never a good idea to backlight the tv with large windows. It would be good spot because we would be able to see the tv while working in the kitchen, but we just couldn't waste a bay window like that.

The second choice was above the fireplace. Our fireplace is up off the ground with a concrete bench, so the tv would be way too high. You would need a recliner just to watch tv without straining your neck. The final option was on the inside wall of the fireplace room. You can't see the tv from the kitchen, but we could live with that. So now the tv is placed, the couches naturally went around the tv. This left the middle area open and empty. The room had no built in lighting apart from one pot light aimed at the fireplace so it was both dark and empty.

Remember, this is a rental, so I can't build anything permanent. With that in mind, one of my first projects in the house was a window bench for the bay window. I did it in one evening with a 2×4 frame and plywood base and seat. I framed it in pine and painted the whole thing. The original idea was to get foam and fabric and make a cushion for the top. Of course, this never happened, so I had an ugly plywood bench. I left the front open, which is great for books and storage, but the top needed some serious help.

I have a friend who bought an older home and they had to redo some of the hardwood floor. He let me take all of the solid oak pieces that they tore out. It was all sitting in a pile in my garage and I decided the oak would look great on my bench.

After many hours of pulling nails and sanding, I had a pile large enough to cover the top of the bench. But just covering it in oak isn't enough for me. Oh no. I wanted the bench to be a unique reading nook, so with that in mind I decided to incorporate hard bound books into the top. I went to the thrift store and found hard bound books with interesting covers.

I also couldn't just put plain old oak down either. I wanted it to be multicolored without having to buy a bunch of stain, so I made my own vinegar based stains. I'll talk more about that process in a later post. With the boards stained and prepped, I began the installation. There was a lot of mixing and matching and cutting, but in the end it came together great. Three coats of varnish later, the top was done.

Now for the face. I couldn't just leave it white. To get the books to fit on the top I had to take out extra pages until they were the right thickness. So I decided to use the extra pages and decoupage glue to cover the face of the bench. I think the hardest part was to avoid getting glue on the carpet!

In the end, I had a great looking bay window bench that is completely removable from the room. Will I take it with me? I don't know. Maybe I'll ask the next tenants if they want it, maybe I'll take it. It will be hard to let it go, but when will I ever live in a house with a bay window of the same dimensions? In the meantime, we will enjoy it. Finally, that middle room has an identity. Let me know what you think in the comments.


The Magic Floating Book Shelf

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I love books. I love reading. I love bookstores and libraries and covet homes with big floor to ceiling book shelves with a rolling ladder. One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is to sign up for a library card. I especially love old books. I love the smell of books and the feel of books. But books are heavy and books take up a lot of space. Books are hard to move around from place to place, especially if they are not being read regularly.

Then came e-readers. E-readers like the Kindle and Nook are awesome. You can fit thousands of books on a single device and the battery lasts forever. You can use a tablet, but the e-ink on an e-reader is easy on the eyes and can be read in bright sunlight just like a real book. I used to have the problem when I traveled for work of loading down my suitcase with books. If I was going to be away for a week I would have to pack four or five books in my suitcase. I couldn't afford to just buy new books, especially when there is a library full of free books at home. Now I can pack one device, smaller than the average paperback, and carry more books than I'll ever read on one trip. You lose the feel, smell, and experience of holding and reading a real book, but I can live with the trade off in convenience and size. I can check out e-books from the library even easier than going and checking out real books.

I'm also a big fan of the audiobook. Download a book from the library on your phone or MP3 player via the Overdrive app and you can make your commute enjoyable and educational. I'll get to the end of a long road trip and want to keep going because the book isn't done yet!

So how do I incorporate books into my home design and decorations? There are a certain number of antique books that I will never get rid of. Some were passed down from my parents or grandparents. Others are just cool books I have found at garage sales or thrift stores. They need to be displayed for others to see and enjoy. I can't keep good books hidden away on a shelf or in a closet. I also had some books that I knew I would never read again in paper format. If I do decide to revisit them, I'll load them onto my e-reader. Instead of throwing them away or recycling them, I decided to use them to build shelves. This design uses a hard back book and an “L” bracket to create a floating shelf. When other books are stacked on top, it creates the illusion that the books are floating on the wall. It is a great effect and has been a huge talking point for friends and neighbors visiting the house. It is a simple project requiring only the purchase of the bracket, a book, some glue, and some screws and can be made for well under $5.