Amsterdam House Tour – The Library (Living Room)

This may be my favourite room in a house full of rooms I love. Having moved over twenty times since we were married in 2003 (I wish I were exaggerating), Tony and I have come to realise that although we have many things in common, our decorating tastes, although overlapping, are not identical. So when we moved into our new house, we decided that we would each get a room to decorate exactly how we pleased. The other party could serve in an advisory capacity, but the person to whom the room belonged had total autonomy when it came to layout and decor. This arrangement has worked out beautifully. So go ahead and step through that right hand door in the hallway to enter my room.

Moving a little further in, you can see that it’s designed as a cosy little sitting room.

That lamp you can’t quite see on the round glass table came from a bric-a-brac sale at a shop down the street. I spent ten euros on it, and adore it. Behind the lamp you can see how we’ve layered the ample window seat with rugs, sheepskins, and pillows to add some extra seating in the room. Throughout our house we’ve had to make some compromises due to the limited space, and in the living room the biggest compromise is that we opted to not put in a couch–just the two armchairs and the window seat, although the piano benches and desk stools can be pressed into service in a pinch. SO IKEA. I know.

On the left side of the window seat, serving as a base for the old fashioned miniature greenhouse, is a delightful antique metal chest, which I admired in a shop window around the corner about a week after we moved in, and Tony surprised me with the next day. My original inspiration for the room was a sort of British colonial feel that is embodied in this piece, although I also ended up incorporating some more eclectic elements, since I’m not one of those people capable of sticking to a single style.

I’m sure you were also dying for a closer look at that interesting pendant lamp. I think it looks like something out of the Arnold Lobel picture books I loved as a child, like Frog and Toad or Owl at Home. I got it off of Etsy from a Russian designer in London. It’s papier-mâché. You can’t really tell from the photo, but the inside is painted gold, with an oversized Edison bulb, and I am in love with it. Lighting has a huge effect on my mood, which is why, apart from some low-profile purpose lighting, I usually refuse to get it at IKEA even though I will buy pretty much anything else there.

If you look at the room from the opposite direction, you can see both of my beloved bookshelves, which we bought in San Diego, and have moved across the country to Florida with us, and now across the Atlantic Ocean, along with their contents.

Before we go any further, I should bring to your attention the fact that this is the room in our house that most truly encapsulates my genius. And in order to explain that, I’ll have to take a step back and show the before photo of this room. Here we are, once again standing just inside the door of the living room. You’ll notice the room seems bigger. And that’s because it is. Before we bought it, this was one very long living/dining room, as shown below.

Unfortunately, the house had only one bedroom, and even we couldn’t make that work. So I designed a wall that would split that huge room into a living room and a bedroom. Yes. I. Designed. A. Wall. And not just any wall. This wall. Champagne yellow, with two inside corners and two outside corners and lovely transom windows that would let light in from both sides, keeping both the new rooms as bright and open as they used to be before.

The biggest constraint when building this wall is a super weird feature of our house: smack in the middle of that big room two pictures ago is a big square hole in the floor. To wit:

Previously they had just kept the lid on so you could walk over it, and then lifted it up when they had to . . . hide a body, or whatever. I wasn’t keen on having a weird hole in the middle of the floor, so I hit on the brilliant idea of building the wall right next to it. So then we just had to decide whether we wanted the hole in the living room or our bedroom. In the end, we decided that the hole (which went down to a creepy basement that would eventually become Tony’s special room) should go in the living room. So we built the wall against two sides of it, a banister on the third, and left one open so that you could walk down what now somewhat approximates a normal staircase from one floor to another.

The other thing you might have noticed against my wall is our adorable little home office corner. I know the sheer number of photos in this post is getting a bit gratuitous, but indulge me. The desktop itself is cut from an IKEA dark cork table top. It got discontinued right after I fell in love with it, so we begged the IKEA people, and they checked their stock everywhere, and we ended up taking a trip by train, tram, and foot to the Haarlem IKEA where they still had one and then carrying a giant tabletop all the way home. We sawed it into three pieces. One is the desktop, the other is the perpendicular shelf where the printer is, and the third is the short shelf above, which also has recessed lighting. All the cute little storage boxes are also from IKEA, and they are exceedingly functional, holding everything from office supplies to financial documents to yarn, all neatly labeled and stacked. As my mother will testify, I have never been so organized in my life. Living small will do that to you.

I use this space on a regular basis; in fact, I am typing this very post while sitting (on a matching dark cork stool) at the desk. Here’s a closeup of the pretty dark cork, with a regular cork coaster on top for comparison.

And now I think the only corner you haven’t seen is the clavinova corner. This wonderful instrument was an incredibly thoughtful wedding gift from my in-laws, who must have somehow known that no piano that couldn’t be disassembled and securely packed would survive our nomadic lifestyle. Tony got me the romantic black and white print that hangs above it. when we lived in Washington, and it has been the inspiration for many a kissing selfie. Above that you can see my complete matching set of Shakespeare plays. To the right of the clavinova, so low-profile that you might miss it if not for the dragon-shaped incense burner on top, is a set of repurposed IKEA trones shoe holders, where I keep sheet music.

Thanks for dropping by my little cave of wonders, and stay tuned for the next visit to our beloved Amsterdam flat.

2 thoughts on “Amsterdam House Tour – The Library (Living Room)

  • April 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Sarah, I am totally enjoying these house posts. And it all looks just as amazing in real life as it does in the photos. The banister looks awesome now that it’s painted. Can’t wait to see what Tony has done downstairs.

  • April 14, 2017 at 10:15 am

    I have been looking for a solution for sheet music storage! The thing we got from IKEA in Dubai is not sold here (or has been discontinued). I’ll have to look at the shoe holders. Great room!


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