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Practicing What We Preach: Bookshelf Styling

For Throwback Thursday, thought I’d republish this post that revealed my styled bookshelves. We get asked a LOT about restyling of shelves so thought a little inspiration for a summer project was in order. You can also see the before and afters of my built-ins project here.

It’s all well and good to give advice, but the most important part is showing you that our advice is easily applied! As a follow up to yesterday’s post, we wanted to unveil my new, STYLED bookshelves (yippee!.) There was some serious bookshelf philosophizing going on as we tackled these yesterday while our four kids (collectively) wreaked havoc in the basement! LOVE how they turned out –the right balance and mix of art, books and accessories!

Before pic shows a start, but clearly not a good finish

Master Bedroom Built-in Bookcases Before Styling

And, the after:

Tessa’s Master Built-in Bookshelves After Styling

Full view of styled left side:

Master Bedroom Built-ins Styled Left Side

Full view of styled right side:

Right side of built-in after styling

As you can see, we also moved the chair to create a reading nook near the lamp. While totally functional, the chair also adds dimension and interest to the room. It also serves the purpose of keeping the focus on the left side of the room rather than the right side which houses the TV–never something to highlight in my opinion!

Amy applied the same amazing skills that she used on my junk drawer to the bookshelves. I brought her all my favorite things and we played around with layering, texture, size…and of course, functionality. The best part is that we didn’t buy one thing for this project–everything came from my house!

Here’s what we did:

  • We used different sized and colored frames, art, photographs and accessories and layered them on top of each other. We also used all hardcover books in different colors and pulled all the covers off.
  • With the books, we also stacked them horizontally and vertically, pulled some to the front and some to the back. We used them as a way to create height when needed–example using them to prop up the dark grey vase that, along with the new lamp and large print, fills the big shelf on the left and balances the TV on the right.
  • We used a lot of the room’s colors to create a cohesive feel–grey, black, brown and blue–but then added other pops of colors.
  • A little greenery and natural woven baskets for storage of extra blankets and remotes provide texture and an organic feel.
  • To keep things interesting by not having all the pictures leaning, we hung one of the prints on the back of the largest shelf on the left with Command Strips–that way we didn’t ruin the paint job.

Close up left side built-in bookcases

From the shot above, to the shot below, you can see we wrapped the cord and hid it behind the lamp so that when you enter the room you don’t see any cords–when I built the shelves I made sure to move all the electrical to the bottom edges of the big shelves to accommodate a lamp and the TV. If you recognize the lamp, it was moved from my entry console to the bedroom built-ins because the height and depth worked perfectly…now need to get something new for the entry…the hunt begins! (Side note, here’s the source for the lamp.)

Another angle

As we said yesterday, the most important thing is to make it personal–you’ll like it more that way. Above you’ll see on the left side of my bookcases I have a picture I took on my honeymoon in Bali behind a painting done by my Dad, Bill McCann. Below, the photograph of the feather was taken by my sister-in-law, Lacey Bediz, and on the upper shelf another painting by my Dad. The globe is just a cheap one from Target–I love globes and what they represent.

Master Built-in Bookcases Close Up Right Side

And here it is again, the final shot (well, before a bench cushion!)

Master Bedroom Built-in Bookcases After Styling

We hope you like them. (BTW, My husband told me tonight he likes the before better–but he would have been happy if I’d designed the room to have him sleeping in nothing but a cardboard box as long as he had his TV!) We wanted to show you ideas can really be applied. Let us know if you have any additional questions! And if you’re new to the blog and want to see pictures of the room before we put in the built-ins here’s where you can go.

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Celebrating July 4th

We’re back! Hope everyone had a great week. Such a good week around here–super busy, but great family time. Started off a fun weekend hanging out at Wilmette Harbor (I think Madeleine has aspirations of hanging out in the South of France…)

Madeleine july 4 harbor

…and fishing off of the back of Grandpa’s boat. My father-in-law has the best view of the Bahai Temple–so beautiful to just sit and watch the light change in the evening.

Madeleine Conor July 4

We then had our big 4th of July party which was a lot of fun. Amy came over early to help prep and keep me focused on my to do list while the rest of our families went to watch the Evanston parade.

Blue ikat pillows, table linens and a few little flags on a red table set a festive tone. BTW, a note to parents–invest in a jumpy house….perfect energy burner…best purchase ever for parties and everyday!

July 4 party 1

Kept the tables super simple–fresh white flowers and a little trail mix in white and blue bowls. I wrapped the glass vases in themed french fry holders from World Market like Amy posted about here.

July 4 Party 2

There are about 30 kids 6 and under at the party so we decided on having one table where a few could sit down–mostly they’re just running around like Lord of the Flies. We used paper from IKEA to cover the table so kids could draw and used duct tape to put a red/white/blue stripe down the center. Fun and practical.

July 4 Party 3 Kids Table

July 4 Party 4 Kids Table

Amy’s husband and her daughter creating a masterpiece…

July 4 Party 5

Snacks were simple and kid-friendly–pretzel rods, popcorn and trail mix–all things that could sit out in a little heat and not get all gross.

July 4 Party 6

July 4 Party 7

Loved  these straws to go with a pitcher of lemonade (both from World Market my go-to source for July 4 decor!) I keep the glasses small because the kids end up leaving half of every drink.

July 4 Party 8

July 4 Party 9


Pulled pork, beans, mac & cheese, potato chips and fruit was on the menu–not exactly low cal, but delich!

July 4 Party 10 Buffet

Andy loves his Hecky’s bbq!

July 4 Party 11

For dessert, we took a crack at recreating another one of the ideas Amy posted about–we put them all on a tray and just brought it out after everyone had eaten.

July 4 Party 12 Dessert

July 4 Party 13 Dessert

July 4 Party 14 Dessert

My kids used duct tape to cover old Vitamin Water bottles. They were supposed to be used for bowling, but in all honesty, ended up being launched around by crazy five and six year olds.

July 4 Party 15

July 4 Party 16

Love this pic of our daughters…

July 4 Party 17

It was extra special for me this year because my brother and sister-in-law were visiting from New Jersey!

July 4 Party 18

And, after all that planning and setting up, in the end it always ends up looking like a disaster!

July 4 Party 20

GREAT day–such a fun party. And to top off the weekend, the five of us headed to the Cubs game on Saturday. Couple of selfies from the game…


This is as good of a family shot we could get!


On a totally separate note, because things are so busy with the kids out of school and client work is picking up, so Amy and I are going to do a summer schedule with new posts on M/W/F and on Thursdays we’ll do a throwback post to one of our favs from last year. We’ll go back to posting every day once the kiddos are back in school! See you Wednesday.

Tessa Signature

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Easiest IKEA Lack Hack Ever

My daughter Madeleine’s room is a work in progress (having an infant just isn’t conducive to getting design projects done!) She’s now three and wants a little area in her room to sit down and draw, have tea parties, play with legos, etc. But, she can’t really be trusted not to draw all over the place yet so I decided to get her a cheap little IKEA Lack table.

lack-side-table__22519_PE107398_S4If you don’t know this great little parsons-style table from IKEA, it’s about $8 and comes in different colors. I did a post about Lack Hacks earlier this year. So, my plan was to go to Paper Source down the street from me and get some paper and modge podge and cover the top much like I did to this West Elm tray. Then, as I was trying to decide what paper to use, I spotted this:

Madeleine Lack Table Duck Tape

Hmmm…maybe it could work… measuring tape out, I discovered the duct tape was EXACTLY the width of the side edges of the table and the color was the perfect shade of aqua blue to match her two new little chairs.

Madeleine Lack Table Before

This is literally the easiest home project I’ve ever done and it makes such a big impact for virtually no work–my favorite combination in home projects! Just cut start by wrapping one corner…seriously I’m almost embarrassed to post these “steps” — this barely qualifies as DIY.

Lack Hack Step 1

Then, just keep wrapping it around…

IKEA lack hack step 2

Be sure to end at a corner and use a really sharp pair of scissors to cut a straight line…I told you this was easy.

And, voila, here’s the finished product in her room. (BTW, the painting was a Christmas gift from her Pop Pop–LOVE it.)

IKEA Lack Hack Madeleine Room

Lack Hack 3 Madeleine Room

Lack Hack 1 Madeleine Room

When people see this they never guess it’s duct tape! And when I was at Target last week, look at the selection of tape I found so the possibilities are really endless…

Duck Tape at Target


Table: IKEA Lack side table

Chairs: little Jake chair from Room & Board

Chevron duct tape: Paper Source (I got mine at the Central Street, Evanston location in case it’s not online)

The little cups for crayon and pencil storage on her table is actually from the bathroom department at IKEA–the Losjon toothbrush holder

Tessa Signature

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