My Home Office Transformation

This photo was taken when I was about 11, reading The Baby-Sitter’s Club, as always.

Ever since I was a child, my parents used to call me “Belle.” Not only was Beauty and the Beast my favorite movie, but my head was often filled with stories and it was hard to get my nose out of a book. I also have always had a deep devotion to libraries. I think it was because my dad would never say no if I requested to go to the library, because it meant the books were free. Our library was only a mile up the road and I visited often. First I had to hitch rides with my dad, then later it turned into weekly visits on my bike. When I was fifteen I got a job there shelving books.

To this day, I have never lived more than one mile from a local library.

In the summer of 2017 my husband and I moved our family into the home of our dreams in Oakdale, MN. The house was full of light and lots of room for hosting our many family gatherings. There were many play spaces for our growing children and I immediately found a potential “play” space for myself.

I was only just getting started on TpT at the time and the idea of ever making a living off of its earnings was still a far-off dream, but I remember mentioning to my husband that our front room, which would be used as a formal living room (aka the least-used room in a house) would make a great office one day.

BEFORE: Our formal living room, August 2017

Fast forward about a year and I was starting to see steady success with TpT. I predicted that I would be hitting the first earnings milestone by the end of the year (which I did!), and to celebrate we took steps to convert the formal living room into my office. Even then my dream of a personal library was still a silent hope in the back of my mind.

Over Christmas, I approached my dad with the idea of putting a wall of shelves in my office. While he was wary of making bookshelves, I showed him some open shelving ideas that I had found online and he was immediately on board. I cleared out the room, sold or stored the last of the furniture, and prepared to transform the room.

One way that I saved some money was by helping my dad with the shelves. I am useless with a saw so the actual construction was all him, but I can paint at least. On New Years Day I joined my dad in his shed staining the shelves for a few hours. The next day, they were installed!

Pre-stained…
Stained and installed!

As soon as the shelves were up I unboxed all of the books I had been storing over the years, as well as moving the books out from our basement and our bedroom. As soon as I dumped them out I realized I had a problem: I did not own enough books. It felt like an impossibility, but I had purged many of them before we moved, and I was still a more frequent visitor of the library than the bookstore. I unearthed a few knickknacks and vases stored around the house to fill about four shelves, but I knew I would have to invest in a few more books if I wanted to fill all nine wall-sized bookshelves.

So over the past few months I’ve been picking up secondhand books from wherever I can get them: Facebook, secondhand stores, discards from the library, etc. I also started buying vintage books for my top shelves, which would be more decorative than functional because of the height.

I got my last book yesterday and I can finally announce that all shelves are filled! The furniture is moved back in and everything has been arranged with great care. Here is the final result!

After!
I scrapbook when I find the time, which is rarely. But I still needed storage for all of my supplies for the few times I year that I find the time. Most of it is stored in this antique sideboard I found at Mama’s Happy on Grand Ave. in St. Paul.
The search for the perfect reading chair went faster than I thought, as I fell in love with this wingback chair from Wayfair.com right away. The ottoman was much harder though, as I bought two (and returned two) before I found this one. I got the side table from an upcycling shop in Afton, MN for $20.
My kids spend about as much time in my office as I do, so I wanted to have a space for them. You’ll see the shelves around this desk are filed with children’s stories and art supplies. My son John is a budding artist and he feels proud to have a desk of his own next to mine. The desk is an old school desk that I bought from someone on Facebook for $20. It was filthy, but once we cleaned it up it looked great!
This little stool acts as a ladder to the upper shelves when I need it, but the rest of the time it perches in this corner. Above it are my four favorite poems that I typed up and had framed. They are “Oxygen” by Mary Oliver, “Digging” by Seamus Heaney, “Warning” by Jenny Joseph, and “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins.
I bought the Dumbledore quote from Etsy as a celebration of the shelves going in. The bottom art piece is a painting of Jem and Scout right before they are attacked on Halloween night. A student actually made this as an assignment a few years ago!
It took me a long time to figure out how to organize my books. I knew I couldn’t do it alphabetically and to do it by color seemed ridiculous to me. In the end, I chose by categories. My personal categories are: Harry Potter, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, humor, non-fiction, fiction hardcover, vintage classics, vintage misc., mass-market paperbacks, children’s chapter books, children’s hardcovers, young adult, misc. books I have read, and misc. books I haven’t read yet. That all being said, the organizational strategy probably only makes sense to me, which is something I like 🙂
I read a lot of humor and comic memoirs, but it turns out most of them have been from the library. These are the few I own.
Top: Books I haven’t read yet
Below: Misc. books I have read, next to hardcover/illustrated fiction
I added personal touches wherever I could, including this precious note left for me by my son John.
The very first “grown-up” book I read was A Stranger is Watching by Mary Higgins Clark and I fell in love with her suspense novels. Her books are by far my biggest collection of a single author.
These vintage children’s books were from a shop on Etsy, $20 for a box of 10!
Someone was selling their collection of National Geographics so I bought them for my top shelves. I ended up getting rid of most of them, as I was worried their weight would crush the whole shelving system, but I saved the ones from the Great Depression and World War II, as well as a few of my favorite covers.
More vintage books from Etsy, these ones are classics.
Stephen King is my favorite author, but I tend to read him in library form. I’m working on finding more secondhand copies of his books. I still can’t believe I don’t own The Shining!
Of course I needed a Harry Potter section, and you can see by the spines of these books that they have been read and re-read several times. My friend Nicole gave me the precious frame on the left, and my friends Janette and Alan sent me the cute postcard from Diagon Alley when they visited Harry Potter World over Christmas break. My wand is stored there as well, if you can tell 😉
I found an old ink set tray from a vintage printing press online, and it was the perfect storage for my essential oils. I’m diffusing pretty much constantly in here 🙂
The lower shelves are filled with more children’s books. The hardcover Disney books were mine when I was growing up, and I just found out that my mom had saved them all these years! She generously donated them to the library. The shark bookend on top is from my friend Marquette in honor of my strange shark obsession.
I got this desk from Target to match the industrial style of my shelves and, despite Stephen King’s warnings, I placed it in the center of the room. I promise not to let it get to my head.

Thanks to everyone who donated books or contributed to the precious gifts that now adorn my shelves. This room is filled with light and positive, productive energy. I absolutely adore being in it and look forward to squeezing many more books onto the shelves.

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