The custom built-in bookcase

My Office Library Remodel

I started with a blank canvas, a simple 10 by 14 foot room--a white box. There was no moulding, no color, no doors, and not even a single light. The only thing of interest was the honey-colored hardwood floors which had been carried in from the rest of the house.

(hint: click on any photo on this page
for a larger detailed view)

A custom desk and comfortable leather chair sit below a pair of sconces

Over a period of about four months of devoted nights and weekends and a garage full of sawdust the result is a formal yet quite warm and inviting office. A large built-in lighted library (bookcase) dominates one wall. The rest of the room is fenced with custom wainscoting made of beveled panels with fluted stiles, and built-up mouldings all around. Deep red leather-textured walls bring in warmth and are nicely highlighted by a pair of up-facing decorative sconces and a matching ceiling penant light.

Building the bookcase

Side-view showing the deeper lower shelves

close-up of a spotlight

By far the largest amount of effort went into the library. I designed them to be beefy permanent built-in units, some seven feet wide by eight feet tall. Several of the shelves are height adjustable though by using 1/4 inch moveable pins. The whole thing is very heavy and strong.

A nice feature I added were some lights. Above the top fixed shelf are a series of five rescessed low-voltage lights. There are also two adjustable spot lights which hang out from the cornice to provide a waterfall of light down the book spines for easily locating a book without creating a shadow while you stand in front of it.

The lower half of the bookcase is about 5 inches deeper than the top which gives a little waist-high shelf area for browsing convienience as well as adding some visual interest. It also allows the lower portion to be used for oversized books while still remaining proportional to the smaller books stored above.

The crown moulding wraps around the bookcase

At the base of the library are two almost-hidden pull-out drawers. They blend seemlessly into the trimwork with only the pull handles hinting at their function. They open to a fully extended position on ball-bearing slides to provide a little extra storage. The slides are slightly inclined so the drawers do not drag across the floor and also so gravity helps insure they stay closed.

The fronts of the vertical stiles between shelves have decorative flutes, while rosettes are placed at the tops and important intersections. This same flutted pattern is repeated, at different scales, thoughout the rest of the room both in the wainscotting and the door casings. Each vertical member is a full three-inches thick, providing exceptional strength and architectual bulk, as well allowing easy book removal without snagging them on any front pieces.

The shelves are made of very strong 3/4 inch furniture-grade plywood. The shelves are given additional strength with a bead-routed heavier stock affixed to their fronts with a strong rabbet joint.

Mouldings and wainscoting

The wainscoting panels and trimwork

French door casings repeat the flutting
and rosette motif of the library

The decorative library is complemented throuhgout the rest of the room by rich custom wainscotting. It is composed of 1/2 inch thick panels each with bevels creating an attractive recessed rectangle. The vertical stiles between the panels have a larger scale version of the reeded flutes that are also found on the library as well as the door casings.

The paneled wainscotting is finished with a layered chair rail and baseboard. A complementary crown moulding circumnavigates the room, even carrying across the library and flowing around an unfortunate structural soffet. All the trimwork uses coped joints to insure tight seams that won't open up over time.

A tricky piece of crown moulding around a soffet

A double French door opens into the room facing the impressive library. While classic and simple, the casing around the doors again mirrors some of the same design patterns found throughout the rest of the room.


A large cherry desk faces the library

Of course no room would be complete without all the stuff you put in it. The primary pieces in this room is a custom desk and matching credenza/hutch. (These pieces were commissioned, I did not build them.)

A credenza and hutch provide the computer workspace

Both are made from a red polished cherry and complement the red walls and honey floors well. A set of lights were added to the hutch which provide necessary light on that side of the room. It also brings out the rich grain texture of the wood and mirrors the built-in lighting of the library.

A large leather sitting chair fills out the room, giving you a comfortable place to sit and read.

To do: Yes, to the observant, I am still looking for a nice desk chair. The blue office chair there now is temporary. I'm also still accumulating more interesting books which will eventually fill in the bookcases. Oh, and a nice floor globe may be in the future too.

A soft leather chair near the library is
the perfect place to read a book