I know, I know. I already revealed the library/dining room in this decorating for Christmas post, but I didn’t really reveal it. You didn’t see it from all angles and you didn’t get a sense of what it actually looks like when it isn’t all tarted up for the holidays.  Everything looks different when it’s tarted up.   I for one look totally different when I’m tarted up than I do when I’m just everyday slumming it.

I feel like I look better when I’m tarted up a little bit, but whenever I watch Survivor and I see the contestants on the final “reveal the winner” show in a studio I’m always a bit horrified.   The women have makeup on, the men’s scabs have healed and nobody is missing big clumps of their hair.  I mean, they look awful.  I much prefer how everyone looks on the show when they’re makeup-less, wearing ratty clothing, chasing an escaped chicken through the woods.  So … I like it better when they look just like me.

I’m sorry, it’s a little late for me to say Ta Da but, TA DA!  Probably should have said that at the beginning of this post.  This is what the dining room looks like on a regular day, sans ornamentation, garland or a big barfing of sparkles.


O.K. it’s not exactly how it looks. I don’t normally have a stack of plates and cutlery on the middle of my table, but the table looked empty so I had to stick something there for the photo.  That’s what we like to call propping.  Or “dressing” the set as we used to say in the world of television. (Which I quit 5 years ago because they insisted on clean hair and perfect makeup almost ALL the time. It was infuriating.)


I cannot put into words how much I love this dining room now. And I’m a writer, plus kind of a talker, so that’s saying something.  Actually I’m just being lazy. If I sat here for an hour or so I could probably pound out a really great sentence that would sum up exactly how I feel about this dining room, but why bother. I know what you people are like.  For this type of post, one that’s a reveal of my library/dining room, you’re just in it for the photos.  Now, if I were giving you a post on the date I went on last week you’d want the words.  And probably pictures now that I think of it, so not a great example.



I know a lot of you were worried about Margaret (who I intend to research a bit more about this year by the way) and whether or not she’d stay.  No matter what happens in the rest of my house for the rest of time, Margaret will never leave.  Margaret is my homeboy.  Schizzle mafizzle.



The shelves aren’t particularly styled and I really didn’t spend a lot of time putting things in there.  I just stuck some stuff in and made sure it was all relatively balanced in terms of books and “objets d’art”. Which is a fancy term for knick knacks, the same way penis is a fancy word for that big purple thing. Literally translated objets d’art is “art objects”, but anything that’s generally small, has artistic interest or is a curiosity can be convincingly called an objet d’art.

But here’s the thing.

Not all of my “stuff” is an objet d’art.  In fact some of my stuff is just regular.   It’s not arty or cute or curious.  It’s just bleh.  Stuff like toilet paper, tripods, other camera equipment and craft supplies.  I’ve always had trouble finding spots in this storage-less 175 year old house to put crap like that.   People didn’t need a lot of storage in 1840 because they only owned a shotgun, a potato masher and a bottle of snake oil.

So what to do with all of that extra, boring stuff?

Put it right there in the bookshelves with everything else.

Ready for the secret surprise?


Yep.  In between every single, individual bookcase is secret storage with shelves, hidden behind a door.



It. Is. A. Storage. Miracle.


That’s part of the reason the bookcases took me so long to do.  There was a bit more planning when I had to also figure out how to approach my storage idea.

I ended up just using flat, stock pieces of MDF for the “doors” combined with concealed hinges.  I bought them off of Amazon (here’s the link to them) and they worked great. These particular concealed hinges are incredibly easy to install because they just screw directly into the door and you don’t need to recess them at all.  There are other, sleeker concealed hinges but they’re really difficult to install and way more expensive.  If you want to do something like this, and you aren’t a master craftsman these non-mortise concealed hinges are the way for you to go.



I mulled over a few ways to put the corners on hinges as well, but ended up just using strong magnets to hold the corner doors in place.  It was the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to do them.  Being able to take the entire corner door off meant I would gain another inch or so of space to shove things into the corner.



That extra inch is exactly what I needed to be able to fit my entire white Christmas tree into the corner along with a whole whack of Christmas decorations.  This in turn means I don’t have to shove this Christmas tree up my 18″ wide basement staircase every year AND I gain that much more room in my basement.




The other corner doors come off the exact same way, only hidden behind it is my 1950’s era floor buffer, some photography lighting and backdrop equipment.

One entire section of the super-secret, hidden storage areas is devoted to my canning.



Everyone.  That is the definitive list of those who tried to dissuade me from putting these bookcases in my dining room. Every. One.  The reasons they gave were everything from “It’ll make the room look smaller.” to, “… but the bookcases look good in the foyer!”.  Well, the room somehow looks bigger with the bookcases, the foyer looks just fine without them and most importantly, I knew that I was going to love it.  I could just feel it.

And sometimes that’s just what you have to do with decorating, with clothing, with life.  Go with your gut feeling.  Nobody knows you better than you do. Other than maybe your mother.  And even she gets you wrong sometimes.

The room isn’t completely done, I’d like two new head chairs, I need to move my chandelier to centre it over the table, and I’d actually like to make a new chandelier.  I have paint on the floor I still need to scrape up and I need to make a roman blind.

But for now I’m just enjoying the fact that the bookcases are done, the tarty Christmas decorations are out and I can finally behold my new library/dining room in all her natural (slightly scabby) glory.


  1. Diane R. says:

    OMG Karen, you never cease to amaze me. You are a brainiac! Love the whole room and especially the ‘secret’.

  2. Jodie Bobco says:

    I literally gasped when you revealed the hidden storage! My baby was confused.

    Love it!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. That’s O.K. Your baby is getting an early sense of the remarkable phenomenon of “Design Gasp”. Soon they’ll be doing it too! ~ karen

  3. Kari McD says:

    Wet done, Karen! you did it! You had an idea and made it happen. I think they look perfect, and I hope you blow secret raspberries to the naysayers who said it couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t be done.

    So excited for you!

  4. Monique says:

    So impressed with the ingenuity of the extra storage..the buillt-ins themselves..everything.And Margaret..she really is stunning and larger than life.Heart of your home:)
    In awe.You really must be so happy with yourself..proud.
    Have a great year.

  5. Diane amick says:

    It’s official… have joined the genius level!!! Outstanding. Now we ALL want floor to ceiling bookshelves in our dining room. You could travel the US installing DR bookshelves in every home while imparting the sassy, funny as hell brilliance that is you. Worth every dime and then some.

  6. Jennifer Lee says:

    I had wondered about the “wasted space”, too. I love your hidden shelves! But when I saw them, I immediately thought they were for hiding your books of erotica and witchcraft. And your money. And toilet paper. I doubt a burglar would ever find them. Burglars are in a hurry, and haven’t enough talent with interior decor to wonder about the wasted space. I must say, it does actually make your room look roomier. I think it’s because it looks like the room says “Look at me! I have so much available space that I can afford to waste it with these white panels that absolutely are not hiding anything!”.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Very smart use of all the space!
    Me, I would just push the table over a smidge ;) rather than bothering to move the light!

  8. Ceilidh House says:


  9. Becky Couch says:

    Beautiful! I knew it would be. Can we see a night/dusk picture with the spotlights on????

  10. Beth W. says:

    Brilliant. Seriously

    I wondered why you were setting the shelves so far apart in the first place. I lament that I ever questioned your brilliance.

    Now I’m bummed I didn’t put space between when I built them years ago

  11. Ann says:

    I love your hidden storage. How genius. Now that is something only a mind that works like yours would been able to conceptualize and then also make happen.

    I am a beginning canner and have been reading more this last season. One thing I read is that if you stack full canning jars directly on top of each other you can ruin the seal of the bottom jar. Sometimes in just a tiny spot which is even worse since the jar may still be able to pop when you pry off the flat lid. Not sure if your canned stuff is garden produce or maybe like many of mine, storing dry goods but I just thought I would pass on the info just in case.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Ann. That makes sense! I think since these are only 500 ml jars for the most part and it’s only 1 jar resting on 1 jar it should be fine. Not a lot of weight. But I’ll make sure to pay attention. ~ karen!

  12. Debbie D says:

    Even my so called “modern” house that is 27 years old has no built in storage. Have been adding that as I redo the house. Congrats on a beautiful job. You have now given me evil ideas for mine.

    BTW, how did you ever get Margaret into your house? She looks huge (in a good way). Did she fit through your doorways and in a car/truck to get her to your home?

    • Karen says:

      Yup, she came straight through the front door (she’s 5′ wide or so so she came in head first … kind of like she was being born into the house, lol) ~ karen!

  13. Canuck says:

    Genius! You have such great style, Karen. It all looks so inviting and sophisticated. I do have to ask though, did you really call a penis, “a big purple thing?” Bawhahhahahaha!

  14. Debbie says:

    The hidden storage is perfect. My parents 200 yr old house had floorboards that could pull up and there were hidden spaces below-never found treasure, just dust

  15. Dawn Craumer says:

    I live in a 150 year log cabin and yes, storage sucks. Very primitive basement is not viable as storage space, so I continue to hope the attic (which is accessible with stairs) doesn’t fall in on the rest of the house….so much stuff. My solution for the living spaces has been antiques. Yep, dough box holds games, pie safe holds books, old trunks hold “stuff”, hoosier cabinets, ice boxes, wardrobes, all employed. The one thing I have always wanted is a library (or corner) floor to ceiling shelves, full of books. With a cozy chair nearby. Your shelves are AWESOME! And that hidden space? Totally ROCKS!

  16. Wendy says:

    Brilliant….simply brilliant!

  17. Eva says:

    I must admit that I also belong to those who wondered about why you’s waste so much space – especially as I have way too many books for my shelves and no room whatsoever for even one more shelf … And I noticed the big lamp above the table for the first time. If you ever decide to get rid of it please remember I am first in line … :-)

  18. Melissa says:

    Ok, first, I love it. Like, really love it.
    Second, I got, blah, blah, hidden shelves, blah, blah, DATE, blah, blah, big purple thing.

    Me thinks you need to dish on the date thing….

  19. marian heelan says:

    I too was wondering about the “wasted space”… oh, we of little faith :(
    Absolutely love it and am looking around house to see where I could fit it right now!

  20. Trish ORiordan says:

    My mouth was hanging open! What a twist, you must be pleased with yourself.

  21. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Okay. This is the best reveal EVER! I’ve been wondering how you could be so happy about this with all that wasted space between each shelf but I was just gonna go along with you. Not stir up your reign as Queen of “It ain’t that hard”.
    I should have known better. I should have trusted you more. I’m just like that sometimes.
    This is absolutely brilliant! Inspired and beautiful! You are absolutely brilliant, inspired and beautiful!
    I get it that you are loving this. You have triumphed once again! Bravissimo, Queen Karen!
    (Where’s the crystal chandelier?)


  22. Catherine Naulin says:

    Lady! You are SOME awesome. Great reveal, love it. Congratulations on keeping it secret all this time.
    Oh, Happy New Year to you, and keep all these brilliant and funny posts coming..

  23. ronda says:

    sheer brilliance once again! the shelves, with hidden storage, are amazing. now … about that date!! fess up!

  24. Elaine says:

    I wanted to hire you in a previous post but now ….. I REALLY want to hire you! Please say “yes”!!

    I think the dining room looks fabulous and I love the chairs and, of course, the terrific, unique storage idea of yours! Congratulations on a job well done!

  25. Gayle M says:

    Fab. U. Louis! Just you don’t love it when a project turns out two-fold? Taking up a bit of space and having it make the room look larger. Just what the doctor ordered. Great job. Great thinking. Great outcome.

  26. Isabella says:

    Wozers, love the secret storage. You never disappoint. Always surprise and astound me. Thanks. Date? Really? Think hard. Usually not worth it.

  27. JulieD says:

    Awesome, Karen! Awe! Some! I was only slightly worried about all that space in between those book shelves, wondering what you were going to do with it – couldn’t bring myself to think you’d actually let it go to waste. Really really great idea! I like it so much better than pushing them all together. When I designed my buit-ins, I left only enough space between to run electric cords and cables. Thanks for the hinge link. I wish I’d known about those a few years ago.

  28. Nancy says:

    Just brilliant.
    A combination library/dining room is a fantastic idea; you and your guests will never run out of conversation. I see you have games and puzzles in there, too. I want to come over and play some backgammon in that beautiful room.

  29. Cred says:

    Gorgeous and clever; everything you could ever want in a bookcase…. or a date.

  30. Wendi Miller says:

    I was all ready to yell, “SPILL THE DATE DETAILS!” when I was done reading the blog, but then you revealed those hidden shelves….you blew my mind! ;o)

  31. Sharon Grant says:

    Functional AND beautiful. Not much more a person can ask than that :)

  32. Karen T. says:

    A-freaking-dore. There’s a different “f” word I want to use but I don’t know if the internet profanity police would delete my post.

  33. Louise says:

    Here’s how my thought processes went:
    1. Huh, the shelves look even better than I thought, now that I can see them. Nice job!
    2. Ooh, I want to hear about the date – bug Karen unmercifully until she spills all the details!
    3. Oh My GOD! That’s BRILLIANT!
    The rest of the time was spent muttering words like “genius,” “unbelievable” and “incredible.”
    And “WOW!”
    I even forgot about the date until I saw someone else mention it in the comments.
    GREAT job, Karen!

  34. Marianne says:

    Genius storage idea! I am (almost) inspired to do something similar. Perhaps major decluttering first. Then bring on the tools. You are inspiring and SO entertaining. Next post The Date. Please. With sugar on top.

  35. Nina says:

    Hot diggity, ding-dong dang girl!!! This idea is pure storage genius. I didn’t see a before picture, but I agree that the room looks very airy, not closed in at all. I’ll be using the references for the hinges for a small project planned for spring. Thanks for the update!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nina. If you look here at my house when it was featured in a magazine a few years ago you can see the dining room. It looked great and airy as well, but there’s more room now and it feels more like a “room”. :) ~ karen!

  36. Lori says:

    Okay….that’s just awesome! Now…about that date???

  37. Auntiepatch says:


  38. Edith says:

    Wow Karen, that’s really clever! Your room looks great!

    ……So, btw ……….in Canada they’re purple!?

  39. Amazing shelves and brilliant storage idea. But, let’s get to what’s really important – the date? :-)

  40. Sue says:

    Wow! Stroke of sheer genius!

  41. Sara says:

    That is Brilliant!! I love it. I have to admit, seeing the photos the last couple of weeks, I was thinking that there was so much waisted space between each section. I should have known better. I should have known that you would have an ingenious plan.

    Enjoy your secret.

  42. Raymonde says:

    I’ve always thought that bookcases look great anywhere and everywhere and yours are no exception! As for the hidden storage, it’s a genius use of little bits of space. Bravo!!!

  43. Ardith says:


    Total coolness.

    Brilliantly executed.

  44. Sandi says:

    The dining room shelves look amazing. The secret shelves are a great idea. Tell us about the date, with pictures.

  45. Robert says:

    I definitely did not expect the Christmas tree in the corner ?
    How big are the shelves?
    Were not for Meryl’s speech earlier today this would have been my favorite thing of the day

  46. Barb says:

    Absolutely fabulous, fantastic, amazing, incredible!

  47. Megan Campbell says:

    Wow. This is fantastic. Love the HIDDEN STORAGE, the shelves, the WHITE CHAIRS, Margaret, everything. Your resourcefulness and creativity are amazing. So much so that I would like to marry you, except that I am already married.

  48. Megan says:

    I can’t be the only one who quietly whispered “oh. my. god” when those brilliant shelves were revealed.


    • Karen says:

      LOL. glad it got a reaction. :) ~ karen!

      • pat barford says:

        Not at all!

      • Karin in NC says:

        Oh – it got a reaction, all right. I, along with everyone else here, gasped when I saw the storage idea! You are fuckin’ brilliant! I also have a very small, old house with no storage (which I kinda like as it forces me to not have so much crap), so I’m always looking for new places to store must haves like T.P. I love the idea of bookcases in the dining room – always have – but unfortunately for me my dining room is the former sunroom which has three walls of floor to ceiling windows. So no bookcase filled dining room for me, but I LOVE yours.

      • Jen says:

        I did too~! I was wondering why there was this big white piece of what I thought was weirdly flat molding between each shelf. GENIUS!

        • Karen says:

          Ha! I chose to use flat actually to keep it all very simple looking. But if someone else liked the look of fancier or more ornate mouldings, you could easily use those on the flat door pieces. :) ~ karen!

    • Leah C says:

      You are not the only one! I got so excited my heart started racing! :)
      (I may be a storage nerd.)

    • Jenifer says:

      Definitely not the only one!! :)

    • Katie C. says:

      You definitely aren’t the only one!

      I think I silently (if I wasn’t at work it would have been audible) exclaimed, “Whoa!”

      Those are amazing! I want secret storage bookcases!!

    • Ev Wilcox says:

      Me too! When I saw the hinge I said “what the hell…. and was jumping up and down inside!

  49. Mark says:

    Brilliant idea!

    • Karen says:

      I know, right? It’s the way the brain thinks when you live in a house with no storage. So really it’s the house that deserves congratulating. ~ karen!

    • martina says:

      Seriously, you are a total genius. I’m currently planning on making a custom bunkbed for my kids and you’ve given me so many new ideas! I thought it was so odd that you didn’t use all the space, but of course you did!

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