In which I go overboard about another shelf


When I was in fourth grade, my teacher created a reading corner in the classroom. Tucked into some unused alcove, she covered it with cardboard decorated to look like a castle and filled the space with pillows, stuffed animals and this brick-like wallpaper where she’d write the title of books each student read.

I ached to slip into the reading corner. I’d finish my work and rush into the miniature castle, plopping into the pillows with the satisfied “ahhh” of a seedling introvert.

By the end of the year, my brick boasted the most books by far. You had to write a short report before the teacher would write on the bricks. And for unknown reasons I was afraid that she would take away my reading corner privileges if I copped to reading all the fantasy and choose-your-own-adventures I actually digested.

So instead, I scoured our house for whatever looked like legitimate reading material, skimmed the back for information and watched as the reading corner walls blossomed with titles. I would kill to see those reports today.

“War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy was a big book about … war that settled into peace. It was 9,000 pages. By Leo. Tolstoy. The end.”

“The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was about angry fruit. It was long. I enjoyed the book cover immensely.”

There was always something so comfortable about slipping into a quiet place with a book. So it doesn’t surprise me that even today I have my own reading space: a comfortable chair tucked into a corner. We have to move the chair for our Christmas tree each year, and by the end of the holiday I am always lobbying to immediately throw the tree out of the window — anything to get my beloved chair back in its rightful place.

I’ve always wanted to build a special reading corner for Emmeline, a place where she could unwind and call her own.

This month, we did it together.


We built a book shelf with a special section for her books alone and a special section for my books. (Dana got the shaft.)

I build crap every now and then (like this door table, light well piece and Shelf 1.0) to reclaim my Man Card after sewing so many dresses and barrettes. But I have to say this was by far the most fun I’ve ever had doing it.

Emme joined me at Home Depot where we bought the wood and watched one of the workers rip it to fit in our car. Emme helped me take all the measurements before we went to grandpa’s and broke out the table saw for more precise cuts. Then we spent mornings and afternoons gluing, sanding, hammering and staining that thing into life. It turned out that Emme was much better at sinking nails into the wood than I was, so she was in charge of all detail handiwork. She didn’t like the stain so much, but she was pretty handy with the sandpaper. Note how smoooooth….


In the end, it took us about three weeks to put together. But it wasn’t finished, according to Emme, until we installed a fairy door. We hid one inside her section.


This morning, after I put in a few books to test it out, I went to fetch the camera. When I returned to the living room, there was Emme in her little red chair in the corner, absorbed in a new book.


I put up some more photos and details over here. I’ll also post something soon about a book … report … thing … I’ve been thinking about starting, just to do something more useful with the 50,000 books I’ve read since Christmas. Stay tuned.


  1. Wow. Just wow!

  2. Way to go! It looks great. Emme will remember that forever because it will be right there to remind her!

  3. That is so bad ass I can hardly stand it. What a cool way to spend some time together! And cool design too. Where did you guys come up with that?!

  4. Thanks guys! I didn’t think about that, but she won’t be able to help remembering this! Awesome.

    Andy, I wanted something very minimal to go with our living room and I found these legs at the hardware store. They could give anything a minimalist feel, so we basically just created boxes and rectangles and hoped for the best ….

  5. It looks wonderful. I LOVE that last picture.

  6. It looks fantastic! Are you taking orders?