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

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

  2. Barbara Cooper says:

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. May Ling says:

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!!

  13. 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

  14. Terri J. says:

    Love. it.

  15. 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!

  16. Linn says:

    You are so fucking smart!

  17. 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?!!

  18. Elen G says:

    Gobsmacked! That is all.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Tracy Martinez says:

    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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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!! :)

  26. Paula says:


  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. Kate says:

    May I copy you?

  30. Tisha says:

    Fantastic idea on the hidden storage! I love this room

  31. 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.

  32. 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)!

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

  35. 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!

  36. Leslie Zuroski says:

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

  37. 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!

  38. Alice says:

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

  39. 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

  40. Cyndy says:

    A simple “WOW” says it all!

  41. 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 !

  42. 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.) ;)

  43. sledwell says:

    Best post ever. Brilliant hidden storage!

  44. 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…

  45. 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………

  46. Stephanie says:

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

  47. 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! ❤️

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