I will admit that sometimes I make major errors in judgment and experience lapses in taste. Sometimes the vision in my head does not exactly gel with the realities of how something looks in real life. The bookshelves in our apartment bedroom? One of these times.
These shelves went up almost three years ago in a fit of panic, when my modest book collection collided with Max’s enormous book collection and and we found our new, co-habited lives together overrun with books. People can wax poetic all day about how the presence of books makes a house into a home and whatever, but in a small New York City apartment, this many books can be hugely challenging. At the time I tried to think of as many places as I could to stash the books, but all of the solutions either meant kissing goodbye to a few prime art walls, or another necessary piece of furniture, or a window, or my sanity. My friend Maya had constructed these super amazing wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelves (pic here) with nothing but 2 x 12 pine lumber and steel L-brackets, and some part of my brain decided I could replicate the look with 1 x 12 pine (first mistake), not wall-to-wall (second mistake), and not floor-to-ceiling (third mistake).
It did not pan out well. What I ended up with was a mess of shelves hanging too high with ugly hardware above my desk, back when I still entertained the notion that I’d ever use a desk facing a wall in my bedroom (fourth mistake).
Because I put a fairly significant amount of effort into building them and really did a number on the plaster underneath in the process and they served their function reasonably well and there weren’t loads of other options, I went through all the stages of regret and remorse that one does with these kinds of things. At first I tried to like them. They weren’t overbearing; they were bold. The hardware wasn’t ugly; it was utilitarian. The books weren’t overcrowded or cluttered; they were cozy. And so on.
Eventually, the desk went away and a much more practical dresser took its place. The dresser is really pretty and, like, a real piece of furniture instead of something I cobbled together, and I think the shelves started to look extra bad as a result of the pairing.
At some point, I went from pretending I sort of liked the shelves to despising them with every fiber of my being. I don’t know when it happened—I don’t recall any defining moment—but the transition was swift and aggressive. Every morning I woke up resenting the shelves, the books on them, the fact that they hadn’t collapsed during the night and crushed me in my sleep…my hatred knew no bounds. I try not to apologize for things in my home when people come over, but I got in the habit of always apologizing for those shelves. In retrospect, maybe the shelves weren’t even that bad, but I wasn’t really seeing things rationally anymore.
Admittedly, I feel a lot of disappointment in myself that I never really solved the shelf issue in any commendable or creative way. I had a couple half-baked ideas, but by the time I had kind of stopped improving the other spaces in our apartment and would have maybe circled back to reevaluate the shelf situation, we decided to buy a house and relocate the vast majority of the library there. The rest went on these little shelves in the corner of our bedroom, re-purposed from old Elfa components from my childhood bedroom. Hooray for me. I’m so clever.
But! With the books either gone or relocated to these little shelves, I could finally just take down the original offenders. I don’t even think I have a single picture of it happening, or the wall repair that ensued afterward. Since I hung the brackets with big toggle anchors, and there were four holes in each bracket, and there were 16 brackets, there were 64 large 1″ holes to repair (fifth mistake—wtf was wrong with me?). I ended up having to repair the holes with fiberglass mesh tape and skim-coat the wall before re-painting it. I never stopped kicking myself until it was over.
But now? BLANK WALL. LIKE THEY WERE NEVER THERE. I know this picture is kind of super lousy, but the lighting in this room is tough. I TRIED.
I don’t know. I kind of got so used to seeing/hating those shelves that I’m really enjoying having this wall completely empty right now. I thought I’d hang a reasonable painting or something on it once the shelves were down, but I don’t think we really have anything that I like that’s the right size and would play well with the enormous pieces over the bed. I know. Cry me a river.
But seriously, at night when the thrifted block lamp is on and brassy candlesticks are lit in front of that big blank white wall, it kind of looks like some kind of Scandinavian villain lives here. I dig it.
Maybe I’ll hang a mirror there or something. Maybe I won’t. I can’t predict what I’ll do. It doesn’t really matter, in the scheme of things. Someday we’ll all be dead.
ANYWAY. That’s basically the deal with the bedroom. Aside from obsessing over the idea of painting the whole room black and reupholstering the bed in canvas drop-cloths and finding new side tables and maybe new bedside lights, I finally feel generally happy with the bedroom. So that’s nice and stuff.
Ignore those slabs of burl under the bed. I HAVE AN IDEA FOR THOSE, OK?
If you want to see more pictures of the apartment bedroom, here you go!