A Designer Transforms a “Pukey Green” Home Office into a Peppy Pink Library

published Apr 25, 2024
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Dark brown chairs and wooden desk in neutral library with built-in shelves and beamed white ceiling.
Credit: Courtesy of Katie Shober

As a book-loving content creator focusing on book reviews with a little bit of beauty and fashion on the side, Katie Shober, the founder of Beach Reads & Bubbly, dreamt of having a home for all of her novels. ”I wanted a feminine and fun yet classic space in my home dedicated to my favorite activity,” says Shober. The good news? The 100-year-old house she shares with her husband and young son in the Chicago suburbs had a sizable spare office that would be perfect for this purpose. All she needed then was a design plan, and that came from an unlikely but fortuitous source: Alexandra Davin of Davin Interiors, one of her Instagram followers who just happened to also be a pro designer. 

“In early 2023, Katie posted that she purchased her home and wanted to turn the existing office into a library,” says Davin, who had followed Shober’s account for several years. “I sent her a message on Instagram, and we set up a video call to chat!” From there, the two clicked, and Davin agreed to take on the project with her full-service e-design services. 

Luckily, the room had good bones to start with, from a wall of built-in bookcases and large bay window seat to the coffered ceiling and wall paneling. The paint color was a beigey pukey green originally, but Shober had taken part of the space to white and amended the shelving before Davin signed on to the project. The existing built-in wasn’t in great shape or the best design for showing off a huge collection, as the base was closed cabinetry, and it only occupied one wall. What the room really needed was more bookcases, so Shober hired contractors to redo the built-ins and add even more shelves on two of the other walls, essentially from floor to ceiling. When Davin entered the chat, so to speak, the room was essentially a blank slate. All that had really been decided on was the paint color: Benjamin Moore’s First Light, a pale pink that would provide the perfect neutral-but-still-peppy backdrop for reading.  

As far as the design brief went, Shober wanted the space to have “that cozy, comfortable feeling of a great library or bookstore but with a fun and feminine twist.” Although she loves the color pink and patterns galore, she didn’t want to lean too far into a super-sweet Barbie palette or go too maximalist with multiple bold prints. Instead, drawing inspiration from Boston’s Beacon Hill Books, the duo went after an ultra-welcoming but sophisticated look with comfy yet stylish furnishings and a touch of whimsy with artwork and a bit of pattern play. “That Nancy Meyers-esque feel was exactly what I wanted for my at-home library,” Shober explains. “With Alex’s help, we found the right balance of fun and comfort.”

Credit: Styling: Kimberly Swedelius; Photo: Sarah Crowley

Davin started the design process by sourcing key high-quality, timeless foundational pieces to anchor the library: The blue upholstered sofa is a custom Kravet design, and it’s paired with pillows custom made using fabric from Liberty London and Lee Jofa. The two selected the room’s coffee table from Society Social and chose custom Roman shades in a Thibaut fabric with a Samuel & Sons trim. Overhead, the Visual Comfort ceiling fixture is “an ode to bubbles, perfect for the Beach Reads and Bubbly HQ,” Davin says. Adds Shober, “The sofa is so comfortable, and the brass pharmacy lamps aren’t just cute — they’re a great light source for reading!” 

Credit: Styling: Kimberly Swedelius; Photo: Sarah Crowley
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The space features many budget-friendly finds, too. A Loloi x Rifle Paper rug adds cheer underfoot, and pink velvet chairs from Target introduce a dose of charm, thanks to their pinky hue and funky fringe. “This was such a fun find, as the small scale of the chairs is perfect for the room, and the fringe detail makes them look so much more expensive than they were,” Davin says. The book-shaped vase on the side table is a piece that Shober sourced on Amazon, the Bibliophile Ceramic Vase. On the coffee table sits an acrylic tray with a needlepoint insert that reads “Buzzed On Books” in a bright pink and orange, handmade by Shober’s cousin Meredith. The cute skirted ottoman is from Wayfair.

Most important of all, though? The ample storage the finished room’s built-ins offer — and the dreamy, Beauty and the Beast-like ladder the room now has for access to the highest shelves on one wall. The duo even added Visual Comfort brass picture lights above some of the bookcases. “I love that I can display my books and look back on my favorites or share book recs with friends and family when they’re browsing the shelves,” Shober says. “I also have an entire section dedicated to my ‘books to read,’ which gives me a great visual of what I’ll be enjoying over the next few months.” 

Credit: Styling: Kimberly Swedelius; Photo: Sarah Crowley
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Shober and Davin worked as a team to bring the room’s gallery wall to life, which hangs in between the room’s window seat and one wall of built-ins. Shober sourced all of the artwork, and Davin assisted her with layout and framing. “The design of the library is eclectic and layered, and we wanted to continue that same feeling in the gallery wall,” Davin explains. “The frames are all different sizes, finishes, and styles, as is the artwork.”

Pieces on the wall include a “Please Leave By 9” print by artist Riley Sheehey as well as a framed poem (“It’s Called Maximalism, Babe”) by Lyndsey Rush. Davin advises anyone planning a gallery wall to “anchor one corner of the layout with a very large, oversize piece, and balance the opposite corner with the next largest piece.” Then, mix in large and medium scale frames to finish off the design. 

Credit: Styling: Kimberly Swedelius; Photo: Sarah Crowley

Having worked together remotely for the entire redesign, Davin, who is pictured above, didn’t see the finished library in person until it was time to photograph the room. “Sitting with Katie in the magical room for the first time, chatting with a client who had become a great friend — that was so special,” she says. 

For Shober, the library has become her happy space. “Walking into the room feels like a giant exhale,” she says. “The room just feels so magical, and I think there’s something to be said about the impact of being surrounded by books — it is good for the soul!”