before and after

before & after: sarah’s shelving wall

by Kate Pruitt

i have to confess: i go absolutely cuckoo bananas for built in bookcases, or any shelving that spans an entire wall. one of my favorite games when i was little, which my friend meredith and i would play constantly, was…can you guess? library! trust me, it was cool. the game basically involved organizing my parents vast collection of books by subject, labeling them with fake call numbers (that followed NO logical system mind you) and “checking out” the books to our library patrons (stuffed animals), but only if they had their library card. anyway, i got majorly sidetracked here, but honestly, when i look at this gorgeously clean, white, expansive wall of shelving, with a rolling ladder, no less…i just want to start playing library again! great work, sarah! –kate

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  • I can’t believe that someone else played ‘library’ when they were little! I did the EXACT same thing… even with the stuffed animals as customers. :) I’ve been looking for some inspiration for wall to wall shelving as well, so THANKS for that! :)

  • i have always told myself that my future home will DEFINITELY have at least one thing: a wall to wall, floor to ceiling bookcase. preferably with ladder :)

    i loved your little story, and now i’m all sad because i never thought of playing library when i was little!!! i used to play “college” and “high school” where my siblings and i would use the closets in the hallway as lockers and we would rush to class, and have notes slipped into our lockers :P

    i miss being a kid!

  • Where did you find a rolling ladder? It’s so cool! I love me some shelving, but it’s the rolling ladder in beautiful libraries that always does it for me!

  • The library wall looks GREAT. Plus … Sarah’s been really smart about it! She didn’t immediately fill it up with everything she owns. Now as she gets new books and finds things over the years she has a place to put them! Be-ooooo-tiful.

  • I too played “library” as a kid. A friend and I had a “neighborhood library” in my attic. Loaned books to friends. Even had a record book to see who had what. This shelving would have grown our library exponentially! Very nice work – and a big project! Brave!

  • LOVE the Library Wall! I’m so excited I was able to do something similar in my new apt w 2 ikea lack bookcasess – they fit PERFECTLY on a wall, like they were made for it. Such a happy accident as I brought them from my old ap where they didn’t fit perfectly at all :-)

    I too played Library when I was little, and longed to be the lead character in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler who plotted her sneaky overnight stay in a closed library…very heady stuff for a 10-year-old!

  • THIS is what I want to do, exactly this! I have the perfect wall in my living room that I have imagined this way since we moved in. Please, please tell me there are details – materials, contstruction methods, etc…?

  • I am in love with this!!

    I just wrote down this morning my necessities for my next house and “built-in bookshelves” is right after a bigger kitchen.

  • I’m so happy that other people played library when they were kids! I wrote Ashley’s Public Libary in every one of my books! My Mum didn’t see the miss spelling until they were all finished! when I look at them now I always have a good laugh! ….. and my spelling hasn’t gotten any better.
    I love built in book shelves and hope to have a wall of them one day too!!

  • I am in love with it too. Although I also love that color green. Hmm, maybe at the back of the shelving paint it green?

    Strange, I used to play library too. Never thought anybody else played that. Lol.

  • Kate, that is so funny! I used to play “library” too! (We’re so part of the cool club!) I still have a few of my books from when I was kid and they still have the call numbers taped on the spine.

    And I also swoon over whole walls covered with shelves. love love love!

  • I love the look, and they did such an amazing job! I’d love to do something like this, but paint in a fun color on the back panels to break up the white a bit.

  • I’ve never played library, but my sister and I have always had a deep longing for a room with floor to ceiling shelves and a roller ladder.

  • I used to play library with a friend (who ironically used to live in the house across the street from ours). We’re making a “built in” in our front room with Ikea Expedit shelves, but we only have a third of what we need right now and now I want to run out and drive to Ikea as quickly as possible!

  • I love the wall of shelves. I’ve been tempted myself but I am such a horder that I worry that a shelving unit like this would just feed that habit rather than tame it.

  • Lovely. I love the shelves, the ladder, and the boy.

    But is it not possible to take before and after photos in the same light? It’s very hard to gauge the true amazing-ness of the makeover when the first photo is taken in the dingiest possible conditions and the second in glorious natural light. Seems to be a running theme, reminiscent of before/after headshots in the makeover section of women’s magazines. Surely the quality of the transformation should be impressive enough to render such photographic bias entirely unnecessary.

    • lauren

      it’s not an issue of “photographic bias”. it’s just the fact that these are normal people who aren’t thinking about publishing images when they snap before shots. they’re taking them for personal use and when we run them, we’re working with whatever they have on hand. i wouldn’t read into it so much- it’s just the nature of working with casual, personal shots. when something’s finished and pretty people tend to want to gussy up the shot and make it as nice as possible. i think it’s more about showing off their hard work rather than trying to make the “before” piece look worse. ;)


  • This is exactly what I am looking for to put in my home office! I was thinking of buying Ikea shelves then adding the top cornice or moldings to make it look custom built in. Is that what they did? I also played library and still crack up when I open a book with the envelope that we cut in half and glued to the inside cover to put the check-out slip in! I’ll bet those of us who played this still adore books and libraries!

  • Thanks for all the lovely comments and compliments!

    To answer some questions:

    – The bookcase is not IKEA.. it was custom built by a contractor… so I can’t provide any “how to’s” other than to say “hire a contractor”
    -The ladder is from a company that custom builds library ladders – I don’t know which company the contractor used, but a Google search of “library ladders” will pull some companies up

    Sorry that I’m not terribly helpful!

  • I’ve been wanting a rolling ladder for years – here is a link from my favorites: http://www.putnamrollingladder.com/

    I played library as a child, as well. I got in big trouble when I segregated my books from my little sister’s and wrote “no Sarah” directly on the shelf. Ooops!

  • i played library too – catalogued all my books and wrote call numbers inside them.

    i just finished my masters degree in library science in may – it was a long time coming!

  • Wow – love the built in shelving – definitely something on my wish list. Along with a window seat. Although I do hope they kept those PS cabinets – I bought one earlier this year, and am very much smitten!

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