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. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. Barb says:

    Absolutely fabulous, fantastic, amazing, incredible!

  5. 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

  6. Sandi says:

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

  7. Ardith says:


    Total coolness.

    Brilliantly executed.

  8. 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!!!

  9. 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.

  10. Sue says:

    Wow! Stroke of sheer genius!

  11. Amazing shelves and brilliant storage idea. But, let’s get to what’s really important – the date? 🙂

  12. Edith says:

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

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

  13. Auntiepatch says:


  14. Lori says:

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

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. Sharon Grant says:

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

  20. 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)

  21. Cred says:

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. Isabella says:

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

  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. 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!

  27. ronda says:

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

  28. 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..

  29. 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?)


  30. Trish ORiordan says:

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

  31. 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!

  32. 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….

  33. 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 … 🙂

  34. Wendy says:

    Brilliant….simply brilliant!

  35. 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!

  36. 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

  37. 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!

  38. 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!

  39. 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!

  40. 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

  41. Becky Couch says:

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

  42. Ceilidh House says:


  43. 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!

  44. 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!”.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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!

  48. 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

  49. Diane R. says:

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

  50. Deb says:

    You’ve done it – again! My Jaw on the floor, breath gone, envy running out of my ears, brain whirring/spinning at where/whether I could install something so amazingly awesome in my home, budget/time/energy all screaming negatives at the thought, admiration for your awesomeness off the charts, curiosity peaking over whether date teaser will lead to another reveal (of sorts!) – oh, the emotional overload now leaves me spending the day in my bathrobe eating Oreos. I don’t know whether to hate you or thank you ? Maybe a twinge of the former and a whole lot of the latter! ❤️

  51. Stephanie says:

    Brilliant! Simply and truly, but we now expect nothing less. Perfection!

  52. Clare Hollingsworth says:

    To use your words ‘IT IS A STORAGE MIRACLE’! I couldn’t have put it better myself (of course)! You are Queen of the Words as well as Queen of the DIY.
    I actually gasped when the cupboards were revealed and need to go and share the brilliance of you with everyone I know.
    Karen for President! (Except, no, because then she wouldn’t have time to do the Words or the DIY and her daily wonderfulness keeps us all sane as well as inspiring us.)
    Just floating off into the ether now with the awesomeness of this post and Karen in general………

  53. Melissa says:

    When I saw the white space between shelves, I thought, “hmmm, she’s losing a little storage, but that white space is really nice.” And then bang~ your secret storage thing. So I think you win on two fronts – both design-wise and storage-wise. Well done, Ms. Karen. Well done, indeed…

  54. sledwell says:

    Best post ever. Brilliant hidden storage!

  55. Jenifer says:

    OMG! I fucking love the hidden storage in your bookcases!!!!!!!!!!! Love, love, love!!!!

    I want them in my house!! OMG! I lack the skill set but I’d be willing to trade…2 dogs, a cat, a husband…no, wait…I think that’s illegal.

    Job WELL DONE!! You totally ROCKED IT!

    (Let me know if there’s a bartering possibility…I’m sure we can work something out.) 😉

  56. connie says:

    OMG ….It all makes sense now . Brilliant idea , very clever of you and well thought out!
    Kudos to you for going with your gut instincts !

  57. Cyndy says:

    A simple “WOW” says it all!

  58. Marilyn says:

    ( Purple)?? Really???? Why don’t you just move your dining room table. Sometimes I think you are a masochist or your OCD is just outta control. But wow those shelves and storage are the bomb!! Great job..and I don’t recall saying it or shouldn’t. I think I was on the yea side. Just saying

  59. Alice says:

    A gob-smacking WOW! I will live vicariously through you in this room.

  60. Meredith says:

    So truly awesome. Styling my bookcases was on my Christmas break to-do list. I got it done, but there are just some books that are kind of ugly that I still need to keep, so it wasn’t perfect. Hidden storage would be great for that, along with so many other things.

    Also, Canada, Winter, how is that room so bright and clean and cheerful? That room makes me feel so calm just looking at it. White paint rules!

    • Karen says:

      That’s exactly the only reason that room looks bright. White walls and bookcases. Also I took the photos in the morning which is when that particular room gets a tiny bit of Canadian winter sunlight, lol. ~ karen!

  61. Leslie Zuroski says:

    Beautiful! P.S. I hope you’ll do a how-to when you make the Roman blind.

  62. jainegayer says:

    I like others read, date, Date, DATE, there was a date!! But those bookshelves blew everything else out of my head. Totally f***ing AWESOME, Karen!! You never cease to amaze me!

  63. Ellen says:

    “Which is a fancy term for knick knacks, the same way penis is a fancy word for that big purple thing.” “generally small things” Aaaaaaaand there goes the coffee…”wipes computer monitor”…dab dab dab
    Awesome job Karen! Love it!

  64. Linda in Illinois says:

    If a big purple thing is a penis then a tiny purple winky dink is a miniPENI ?? lol… rofl with tears.
    Love the shelves and storage. You are truly a genius.

  65. Thera says:

    I love it, the bookcases, storage, Margaret, everything!
    It reminds me of a quiet little study/lunch room in a museum (which I would love to have)!

  66. Alena says:

    I love the hidden storage. I did, in fact, ponder why you had the wide “planks” in between the bookshelves; it never occurred to me it was hidden storage. I am planning to do something similar between my fridge and the wall, there is a little space that can accommodate a broom and a swiffer (they don’t necessarily have to be in site). I have leftover Ikea kickplates that I am planning to utilize for this purpose (same finish as the kitchen cabinets), I was thinking a piano hinge – haven’t decided yet. My right shoulder and elbow are in a bad state so I am on forced project freeze.

    Margaret. Come to think of it, her dress reminds very much of the one Susan Boyle wore to her audition at Britain’s Got Talent. Although Margaret wears with more aplomb. Not that it really mattered what Susan wore because she still would have been be the best even if she wore a potato sack.

  67. Tisha says:

    Fantastic idea on the hidden storage! I love this room

  68. Kate says:

    May I copy you?

  69. David W. in Oakville says:

    You are a genius! Maybe not a genius in the Richard Feynman solve the Challenger disaster and win a Nobel Prize in physics kind of way, but a genius none the less. I am thinking Marie Kondo might have written a different book if she had seen your bookcase first.

    • Karen says:

      Do you think I could tackle physics without any aptitude for math? ‘Cause if that’s possible don’t write off that Nobel prize yet. ~ karen!

  70. Mary W says:

    WOW! I just love the bold stripes in your library. That alone was so unique and beautiful. I assumed you just put a flat board up over the joint and there were books tucked behind the stripes. A bit awkward but the effect was so beautiful. Now the pure genius is revealed and I was taken by surprise! Saying WOW out loud, I caused the dog to jump and bark which caused the bird to squawk and blow her moulting feathers everywhere. The peeing Santa is still one of my favorite books on your shelf. I’ve always wanted to build a tip out cabinet over my drapes that would hold “stuff” and look like a long, narrow headboard to cover the rods. I might be thinking a little more about it now that I’ve seen the success you have. I’m looking all around my house as I sit here and thinking about storage. You’ve opened a whole new hidden world to me. THANKS!

  71. Paula says:


  72. Mary says:

    Wow and more wow! Brilliant freakin’ idea – and perfectly executed! No one would even have guessed had you not shown us!! I’m scanning my eat-in-kitchen for how to incorporate these bookshelves!! Love love love!! 🙂

  73. jill says:

    Karen, can you talk a little bit about the lights over your shelves?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jill! I mentioned those in a previous post, but TOTALLY forgot to address them in this post. I also forgot to talk about the trim and a few other things so if people are interested, maybe I’ll write another post with a few more details. The lights are from Ikea but they required a bit of modifying to make them work in this scenario. 🙂 ~ karen!

      • jill says:

        Yes – details, please! And how you ran the cords from the lights without having an octopus of cords behind the shelving.

  74. Erica says:

    This is the reason I started following your blog and this is the reason I endure all your gardening and produce posts. For ideas like this!!!! Amazing. Brilliant. Cue all of your followers applauding!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Well, yes design is one part of what I like to do. Problem is there are only so many rooms in my house and only so many times I make them over, lol. 🙂 Other bloggers have actually moved houses in order to keep it all going! But I think I’ll stay put unless I happen across the world’s most inexpensive and perfect stone farmhouse only 10 minutes away from town. ~ karen!

  75. Ev Wilcox says:

    Ok, you got us, and got us big! The first thing I thought of when you started this project was-Oh dear, she likes to change things, this is a pretty permanent detail here. And you talked a bit about all the measuring and angles, etc. And it took you longer to finish than usual. Holy cow Batman! So well done! My house is over two hundred years old, so the no storage thing is so typical. Hats off Karen-you made my day! Here’s a “shake your hand”! And glad “Margaret” is staying!

  76. Those shelves are amazing with the secret storage. I was wondering about those spaces when I first saw the pictures. LOVE the white dining room chairs, they look really comfortable and are so unique.

  77. Liz says:

    !!! You must be beaming with pride and satisfaction 🙂 It combines all the things: DIY, style, utility, design, and some sneaky. Bloody brilliant! You must sleep better just knowing all your tomato sauce is tucked away neatly. Love it.

  78. maggie van sickle says:

    love it. I always say “go with your gut feeling”. If you screw up fix it and don’t do it again. Good job Karen especially the hidden storage. Who woulda thunk of that unique idea.

  79. Elen G says:

    Gobsmacked! That is all.

  80. Sonja says:

    You are always one to surprise…and you certainly did it this time! Since you know JUST how to build these shelves, how about a ‘working vacation’ to my home?!!

  81. Linn says:

    You are so fucking smart!

  82. Jessica says:

    Wow just wow. I absolutely loved reading that! You have a great way with words, something to inspire to.

    The storage in the bookshelf is freaking GENIUS! Seriously, great job! I’m sure you’ve just inspire so many people to add hidden storage.

    Thanks lady!

  83. Terri J. says:

    Love. it.

  84. Carol Reed says:

    Karen its genius! You’re genius! I knew you were doing the bookshelves but the secret storage detail was a surprise, its brilliant and the room looks gorgeous. I always loved the shelving in your foyer, knew it would look amazing in your dining room too…..and it does, but,,,now you have a foyer to redo. ~ C

  85. Wisconsin Gal says:

    When I looked at the wall of bookcases I said to myself, “Boy, she sure is wasting a lot of space between the cases. How odd.” Well, I should have known. Please come and decorate my house – and bring Margaret along. Well done!!

  86. Jan says:

    First of all, yes this is brilliant. Second, tell me about the ceramic pieces on the shelves please? They look like the work of my neighbor!

  87. kathleen short says:

    Soooooooooooooo great! I LOVE the little storage cupboards and the magnet solution?…brilliant. What is the deal with Margaret? Where did she come from? Was she in the house? I love how big she is and where you have her in the room…by big I don’t mean …unhealthy…just life sized! I have been reading your blog for a year now and I laugh out loud at work when I read your stuff…at work…out loud. So there work people…I’m having a good time! Anyhoo…love to know more about Margaret.

    The pic is me and my daughter…I’m the blond one in case you couldn’t tell from the pic who is older…lol.

  88. Trackeyb says:

    That is the best idea I have seen in a long time. And the Christmas tree gingerly jammed into a the corner – true brilliance.

    Stupidly smiling at my computer screen…

  89. Jebber jay says:

    I’m in love. Amazing. Secret storage. Whoa. It’s Jan 9th, and you posted the best blog of the year. I don’t need to read the internet until 2018.

  90. May Ling says:

    You are fecking A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!

  91. Gretchen Sexton says:

    Brilliant! Genius!
    You’ve done it AGAIN!
    The secret shelves steal the show (in a hidden way)
    I’ll take a couple of sets!

  92. Deb says:

    Well, my husband is ready to run off with you – that fact that you found non-mortise concealed hinges he can use for our kitchen and will save him a ton of work. Hell I am ready to run off with you given that a job I’ve been waiting for, for 3 years, now can be done with no excuses 🙂 Much appreciated!

  93. Holly says:

    I wondered why you were building the shelves with so much space in between. Nonetheless, I was completely surprised by the hidden storage. I was just reading along enjoying the pictures, then Bam! Completely gobsmacked. You are a genius.

  94. Jeanie Burch says:

    Are those real orchids on your table? If so can you please do a post on how to take care of them? Before mine dies? You went on a date?? What the what!

  95. Barbara Cooper says:

    Can you see me bowing down to you right now…oh Goddess of storage and brilliant ideas?

  96. EEEEP!!!! Hidden storage! HIDDEN STORAGE!!!

    I just about danced in my cubicle with that little surprise. Well done, Karen!

  97. Linda Wade says:

    Oh I love the bookshelves. Magnificent. I really enjoy that you go through all the hysterical pain & agony first so we don’t have to. Bless your sweet heart. Thanks for all the fun things on this blog. I especially like the chickens.

  98. Marti says:

    I was expecting a monkey hanging from your chandelier, but instead, I got mod lighting and storage?

    All I need now is a khaki linen shirt because you know what? I have those exact same dinner plates (extracted lovingly from various Goodwill stores here in the DC area) and silverware. Except “silver” is a loosely used term at my place.

    Now I have to think: linen shirt? Linen apron? Linen tablecloth? I’m guessing it’ll be the latter because I can’t afford those gorgeous bookcases at the moment. Really well done, Karen!

    • Karen says:

      Cannot believe you noticed the linen shirt. You’re like the linen police. I got MY black plates from a thrift store! I love them because they’re completely matte. No shine at all, which is a photographer’s d r e a m. ~ karen!

      • Marti says:

        Yeah, mine are all matte, too, but only four shaped like that. I have a stack of others that are massive and “bowl” shaped, so when my OCD friends come over (the ones who can’t have one food touching another) they have first priority on the flat ones and the rest of us sane people, who aren’t bothered by spaghetti and salad getting to know each other, eat on the un-flat ones.

        There’s something about matte black plates that makes dinner by myself a bit … better. Even if I did haul them home from Goodwill.

  99. jody says:

    Stop it. That storage business is awesome.

  100. Janie says:

    I hate to burst your bubble but I read your posts for your writing. The pictures are like the icing on the cake. I find your writing to be quite entertaining and as I sit chained to my desk all day it is a nice refresher. You could even put pics of your cat dressed up and I would find it even more amusing – just a thought.

  101. Grammy says:

    You’ve done it. You floored me. I loved the idea of bookshelves in your dining room. And I loved that you were going to show me how to do it with Ikea shelving units because I had determined two years ago our “spare” bedroom is going to finally be a library and that I wanted to use Ikea shelves made to look built-in. Perfect.

    Except then you showed us some of the process and I thought that although the look was aesthetically gorgeous, it wasted SO MUCH space. I foolishly assumed you just must not have nearly enough books to fill a whole roomful of shelves, and I don’t have that problem. Oh, well. Karen’s dining room is lovely but I need more useful space.

    And then, like many of the others here, I quite literally gasped when I saw what you did. Every single thing is the most brilliant and beautiful thing that could have been done. Now I’m scheming about what I can do with all that extra hiding-space storage (my house is only seventy years old, but seriously lacks storage) at the same time as corralling all the books that now are stuffed in random sets of shelves throughout four different rooms.

    I should have known. Your brain is a treasure. I always liked your dining room, maybe even would have said I loved it. But I didn’t used to know what real love of a dining room is, and now I do.

    For those who want words and pictures about your date, too bad. You get to keep that hidden in it’s own little personal hiding space while we look longingly at your shelves. If they can’t figure out what reason there might be that “the color purple” suddenly cropped up in a post about a storage space, then they are most likely not old enough to get the details.

    Carry on, Girl Genius. And thank you for the hundredth time.

  102. Tracy N Egan says:

    *slow clap*
    THAT is effing brilliant.
    I don’t have a dining room, but this needs to happen somewhere in my house.
    Well played.

  103. SusanR says:

    Amazing result, excellent design and planning. It looks fabulous!

  104. Kim C says:

    Totally freakin’ brilliant!!! You hit it out of the park with this storage idea. Now can you come to my house and build some?

  105. Peg says:

    what a brilliant idea!! all that extra storage. cmas tree storage is so cool! love the theater light on shelve, nice nod to your previous job.

  106. Mary Gilkinson says:


  107. m'liss says:

    Amazing, just amazing.

  108. Jan says:

    others have said it better, but the hidden storage is the bomb!!!
    and the rest looks great too!

  109. Fritzy Dean says:

    NOTHING shabby about this glory! Fabulous, Karen, just fab! I lovelovelove the “hidden
    secret” shelves. I intend to drool on the photos until I am past the lustful longing.

  110. Stephbo says:

    You. Are. Brilliant. I really like the look of the boards between the shelves anyway, but add in the secret storage, and it’s amazing!! As my MiL is always reminding me, if you live in a small, old house, everything has to do double duty. You’ve found a genius way to make that happen. And I absolutely love the idea of bookshelves in the dining room. It adds a lot of personality to the room and provides plenty of opportunity for conversation.

    And I’m not even asking about the date because I know you won’t tell us anyway. ?

  111. Tracie says:

    Oh My God, how do you do it?!! And why would anyone possibly try to dissuade you on anything? Look at what you can accomplish! The best part about all of it, is that you share everything with us…I love your dining room, every single thing…most especially Margaret, I think. p.s. I think I will just jack all of your Christmas wrapping ideas, even though I will be a year behind. Who will know but you? Love the gold and black…besides, you don’t allow for much time in the current year to copy…just saying…;)

    • Karen says:

      I know, I know! I try to give you enough time to copy my present ideas, but this year it was definitely late. But everything was late this year because of .. the stupid bookcases, lol. So I’m going to remind you all about the black, over the top wrapping in plenty of time next year. 🙂 ~ karen!

  112. Candyse says:

    Gorgeous outcome for all your hard work, my husband just loves the corner idea!

  113. Dana says:

    Everything about this is magnificent. Brava!!!

    As someone who is trying to be braver in the face of taking design risks, this is an inspiration!

  114. savitri says:

    You are a true genius. Can I ask where did you get your dining chairs and table????
    love you…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Savitri! The chairs are copies of the iconic “Panton S” chairs and I got them at Homesense in Canada (Homegoods in the U.S.). But you can buy them from Amazon, which I believe one of my readers did. I include them in the shop page on my site. The table I had custom made from antique barnboard. 🙂 ~ karen!

  115. Denise Leavens says:

    I am so proud to know you! I was so not prepared for the complete surprise of your secret shelves. I was gobsmacked. Utterly jaw-droppingly blown away by your brilliance! And thank you for the links to the hinges. I have needed these for my pantry shelves for the past 10 years.

  116. No! no! Let the Roman see it. Unless……Roman is the name of your date and you don’t want him to see the hidden corner space where you can keep him when he is not being charming, useful or fun.

    Absolutely awesome and brilliant room!

  117. Julie says:

    I was hoping there was something more….I didn’t think you’d let wasted space happen! They look amazing!

  118. Liz Douglas says:

    Hi Karen,That was genius!!!!!! I have an old house that is lacking storage and that is perfect. Thank you so much for great ideas. Now I can see why it was difficult to do. Actually most anything done in an old house is difficult. I don’t think that they even had squares or rulers.

  119. Melinda says:

    I am speechless. You are the Queen of Eclectic Charm…it is so beautiful and unique!

  120. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    You never cease to amaze me…also I would love to hear Margaret’s story…

  121. Janelle says:

    Well, I for one, did not see that coming. Well done! It’s brilliant! And FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY….if you are wanting to part with that light fixture, let me know and I will purchase it from you.

  122. SeaDee says:

    Oh thank god. When I saw the earlier posts about the bookcases I was screaming at the computer screen “What a waste of space!!”

    I should know better. Forgive me for doubting you! :-p

    Happy 2017!

  123. Dawn says:

    Ah! Brilliant! I was wondering why you would waste all that space between the bookcases just for nothing. Outsmarted us again, ya did. Well done.

  124. Karin Sorensen says:

    no waaaay!!! get the fluff outta here!!!! this is flipping ridiculously amazing! you put….. YOU PUT…. storage shelfs …. in between….. wow, just wow…. I can’t even.

    wow. I’m blown away.

    Margaret is a cool lady and all, but YOU my virtual friend are the real Schizzle mafizzle!!!!!!

  125. Anne MacKay says:

    You are a genius – it’s beautiful! I so love the bookcases in the dining room, you were right all along. And brilliant hidden storage.

  126. I am so in love with these bookcases. Before the big super secret reveal, I kept thinking how I liked the look of the thick partitions between each bookcase, and now, now to also have storage – it was so brilliant!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Shauna! I actually like the look with the wide spaces and I was surprised at how so many people were worried they weren’t closer enough together, lol. ~ karen!

  127. Mariella says:

    Hi Karen,

    I love your bookcases! And what a neat idea of adding storage in between the units. I do have a question no related. Where do I get dinning room chairs like yours? Are they comfortable? Thank you! I love your blog.

  128. Erica says:

    This is the most amazing thing!
    I mean, I thought it was beautiful when it appeared to just be book shelves. But the hidden storage!!! Brilliant!

    • Karen says:

      I have to say, I’m still pretty impressed with myself whenever I go into the room, lol. Especially when I go in there to put away huge packages of toilet paper! ~ karen

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