Divine Intervention: Designer Candice Olson renovates a home library

  • Article by: CANDICE OLSON , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: January 24, 2014 - 3:08 PM

A book lover’s townhouse renovation has a happy ending, with room for all his precious tomes.


After: The focal point of this book lover’s retreat is the fireplace, which features a new mantel and surround. The room also now has three walls of custom floor-to-ceiling shelving.

Photo: Photos by Brandon Barre • MCT,

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The problem

A collection of books was starting to outgrow the homeowners’ townhouse, and parting with the excess wasn’t an option.


The solution

Designer Candice Olson created a warm, inviting library with added shelving providing room for all the books, plus a wall-mounted television.


How it happened

• The fireplace — the focal point for the room — got an upgrade with a cast-stone surround and a clean-burning ethanol log set.

• Olson maximized storage space by designing three walls of custom floor-to-ceiling shelving — only the window wall lacks shelves. The shelving flanks the fireplace, and is unbroken except for the place reserved for a wall-mounted flat-screen TV.

• The couple travel extensively, and the library features many of their souvenirs. To remind them of their happy travels, Olson installed a mural depicting a map of the world in muted browns and creams.

• In front of the mural is an ivory sectional sofa placed atop a linear-patterned area rug. Over by the windows sit the couple’s two existing tub chairs, recovered in a sparkly black velvet fabric with nailhead trim to add just a touch of glam. The addition of an inviting ottoman and a small side table created a nook ready-made for reading.

• Olson chose a modern ivory and dark espresso color scheme for this room, which played out in the richness of the dark shelving, the ivory sectional sofa and fireplace mantel, the drapery fabrics, cushions and area rug. They disposed of the old carpet and brought in new, dark hardwood flooring that sets off the ivory walls, couch and area rug.


Best trick

Two wall-mounted lights behind the couch are on flexible arms, so they can be perfectly positioned as over-the-shoulder reading lamps. Overhead recessed fixtures, sconces and a table lamp also bumped up the lighting quotient for easy reading.

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  • Before: Alice and Bob’s library was jammed with rickety old shelves.

  • After: A mural depicting a map of the world in muted browns and creams reminds the couple of their travels. It’s flanked by two wall-mounted lights on flexible arms so they can be perfectly positioned as over-the-shoulder reading lamps.

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