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. Rebecca says:

    Speakeasy spaces and using up every square inch of possible storage are two of my favorite things! You had me at “secret”, but I think I surprised myself with a gasp of awe when I saw that your christmas tree fit into that corner spot. Brilliant job all around!

    Incidentally, finding your website 10K clicks from initially researching how to fix the entire concrete sidewalk/driveway “easily” by way of city gardens with terraced levels, quite made my insomniactic wee morning.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!!!!!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. Nancy Blue Moon says:

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

  11. Melinda says:

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

  12. 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.

  13. Julie says:

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

  14. Teresa Chandler says:

    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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. Candyse says:

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

  19. 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!

  20. 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. ?

  21. 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.

  22. Jan says:

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

  23. m'liss says:

    Amazing, just amazing.

  24. Mary Gilkinson says:


  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. SusanR says:

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

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. jody says:

    Stop it. That storage business is awesome.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

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