The Mysterious Library

I have only ever offered glimpses of the Cross House library.

The room was a gutted shell when I purchased the house. And it was the first room I mostly finished because I needed to get all my books out of storage and into the house, STAT.

So, while the room was finished, it was not decorated. And this is how things have remained for almost four years.

I have had a decoration plan in place, and long ago ordered wallpaper from Bradbury & Bradbury, and a stencil for the frieze, but…but…nothing really progressed.


2014. The east wall of the library. At some point, a door had been created, cutting through a diagonal support. I removed the door (center of image), recreated the diagonal support, and created a new door opening to the far left.


And, after.


And, after. Most of the walls in the library now have shelving. Only bits-o-walls are still exposed, like the narrow vertical walls between the windows, and the wall above the over-mantel.


The west wall, 2014.


And after. Note the bit-o-wall above the over-mantel. All the flooring is new.


This was supposed to be the decorative scheme. A Bradbury & Bradbury reprint of a 1970s pattern, with a picture rail above (not shown), and then a dot stencil frieze. And there was supposed to be some sorta ceiling pattern.


Supposed to be.

PROBLEM #1: I could never get a wallpaper hanger to show up and install the paper.

PROBLEM #2. Megan suggested the dot frieze, which I love, but then realized what a nightmare it would be trying to do it around all the window trim, which protrudes into the frieze zone.

So, yet again, I just stopped. And began to wonder if the library would ever get finished.

A few day ago however, I woke from a nap with a thought in my head: Screw all your library plans. Start over again.



I had not thought about the library in months. So, why was THIS the thought in my head after a nap? Most curious.

Because I am a slave to WTIMH (weird thoughts in my head) I got up, went to my computer, and started a search for stencils which would work for the library walls. Because there is SO little wall space, and because of the very narrow walls between the windows, and pattern could not be large. But the pattern could not be so small as to look silly in the large room.

I looked. I pondered. I looked. And pondered.

Then I was struck by lightning,

What, I suddenly thought, about doing molded pieces on the walls?????????

Ye gods! This was friggin’ brilliant!


This is the Heurich Mansion in Washington, DC. See the molded decoration on the stairwell?


I already have molded decoration in the parlor. And it’s striking. So, for the library walls what if I did something like…


…this? A fleur-de-lis motif was a feature in the original stairhall wall paper and ceiling paper. Or…


…this anthemion mold? Anthemion motifs are a feature of all the hardware in the house.


I am leaning anthemion.

For the frieze…


…I was thinking of doing molded versions of these medallions which are in the parlor. Medallions are ideal for the frieze as I can place them anywhere and avoid all the wood trim protruding into the frieze zone.


See the ceiling in the above picture? The “cracked ice” effect was created by simply painting gloss polyurethane on the flat ceiling paint.

For the library…


…I thought I would do a similar effect but with zig-zag lines and a center “oculus” akin to a caterpillar because there are FIVE ceiling fixtures in a row.


Yes, the above drawing is not inspiring. I know. But I am excited by how it will turn out.

The room needs, as do all the rooms in the house, the recreation of the vital picture rail about 20-inches below the ceiling. Picture rail helps to balance the rooms, and restores the original proportions.


A few months ago, Blair gifted me with some lengths of PERIOD gilded picture rail! There was not enough to do a room but because most of the library walls are covered with shelves I actually have enough of Blair’s rail to use in the library!!!!!!!! If Blair were here right now I would kiss him!


All that you read above is the plan.

But…anybody who has read this blog, particularly the process of finishing the parlor, will appreciate this: PLANS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

So kids, fasten your seat-belts because the Library Thrill Ride is about to commence!




  1. Megan on October 8, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    I see that caterpillar medallion and can’t help but imagine it as a vintage moon phase chart, full in the middle with crescents as the outers… Certainly library appropriate, if not as fun as a champagne bubble frieze.

    • Mélissa ( from France) on October 9, 2018 at 8:27 am

      I like this idea !

  2. Annette on October 8, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Oh my, how exciting. I loved the parlour ride, it was so much fun! On a slightly different note the big wide bookshelf in the middle of the room gave me flashback to my childhood. The children’s section of the town library had a bookshelf like that which was filled with lots and lots of Dr Zeus books which I adored. The library was such a magical place and I adored Dr Zeus 😀

  3. Traci on October 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Hi Ross:
    I like how your shelves are white AND green. I’m going to take my library in that direction.

    An aside–how is the downstairs bathroom going?


    • Ross on October 9, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Hi, Traci!

      The shelved are white and orange.

      The poor first-floor bathroom has been ignored for too long!

      • Nancy from Georgia on October 15, 2018 at 8:58 pm

        I’m tapping my foot impatiently to see the serpent light fixture outside the telephone closet.

        I’m waiting…..

  4. Sandra Lee on October 8, 2018 at 10:17 pm


    Yay Blair! Perfection!

  5. Blair on October 8, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks Ross!
    I hope there is enough to get the job done!

    • Ross on October 9, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      There is, Blair!

  6. John on October 9, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Do you have plans for making the library shelving look more pretty during the finishing up of the library. They currently look like the basic ones at my local public library.

    • Ross on October 9, 2018 at 8:31 am

      I prefer non-pretty shelving.

  7. JET Texas on October 9, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Three items that make a house a home, in my opinion, are books, house plants, and photos (of family, friends, life). I’m so used to seeing houses with none of these that I’m slightly shocked when I do see them. Your library is beautiful and heartwarming. It’s nice to know there are a few bibliophiles still out there.

    • Ross on October 9, 2018 at 8:45 pm

      Every time I walk into the library I feel happy.

  8. Barb Sanford on October 9, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Ooh. Looking forward to seeing it all come together.

    I sincerely hope that none of your ideas requires the books to move out of the library. That would be quite a workout.

  9. Stewart McLean on October 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

    -As usual, it is such a treat to have you show us your thought processes. Also as usual, I have thoughts and questions about some of the things that you have written. These are all written to be food for thought. I do not have an agenda to impose my ideas on your design.
    – 1. Although you have decided to start over, I am wondering if you still plan to use the wallpaper that you chose in the library or maybe in another room.
    – 2. I am not sure what the “nightmare” of the dot stencil frieze is. I assume that you wonder how to cut it in around the trim so that it has the crisp look that you love. I believe that it could be done by taking off and then reapplying the trim, although that would create problems with crispness of its own when reapplied. From the number of original wallpaper samples that you have discovered behind trim in other areas of the house, I guess that wallpaper may have been hung that way in the 1890’s. It was from this blog that I learned that the picture rail was installed by the paperhangers after the paper.
    – 3. I do think that the idea of molded pieces is a really good one, but am unclear if they would be on the whole surface of the walls, or just in the area where a frieze would be appropriate, above the period gilded picture rail.
    – 4. Are you planning to put backs on the bookshelves or are the wall treatments going to be peaking through?
    – 5. Do you mind doing a post featuring the original plans of the library, showing Squires renderings of what he had intended for each wall to look like and the floor layout.
    – 6. I know that the door that you closed wasn’t original, but was the door opening that you created one that had been closed, yet on the original plans, or did you add it so that the room would flow well into another?
    = 7. Recently I have been, finally, getting organized in my wood shop so I can get my major power tools set up. I bought a lot of lockable casters to make a sort of dolly for each piece of furniture that I am using for storing my hardware and for work benches. That way I can rearrange them if I find that I would prefer that they be somewhere else. I was wondering if you had considered putting casters on your “island” shelf so that you could move it around for different occasions. For example, if you were having a party, you might want to move it near a wall or even into a different room temporarily, (maybe using it as a bar), thus creating a flow in the room that would work better for a large group.
    – 8. Are you thinking of creating a dramatic ceiling effect in every room?
    – I have been called a gadfly by more than one person, as they say in Al-Anon, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”

    • Dan Goodall-Williams on October 9, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      I love your comment Stewart. You asked, expressed some of my thoughts as well.

      • Stewart McLean on October 9, 2018 at 6:32 pm

        Thanks, I am grateful for the feedback.

    • Ross on October 9, 2018 at 8:44 pm

      Hi, Stewart!

      I will use the B&B wallpaper in some bathroom.

      I have absolutely no interest in removing all the window trim to do a stencil frieze.

      I plan to do molded pieces on the walls and frieze.

      The backs of the shelving will remain As Is.

      There are no extant original plans for the library.

      The library originally had two entrances: the double sliding doors from the parlor, and a single door from the entry hall on the north wall. The new door location is on the east wall.

      I considered adding wheels to the center island but the VERY low hanging lighting made me give up on the idea.

      Yes, every room will be dramatic, dahlink!

  10. Tara on October 9, 2018 at 11:52 am

    OH those lights!

  11. Kerri on October 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    That is a brilliant idea! I’m sure it will look great and will be so much easier to deal with than the wallpaper and stencil. Personally, I think I like the fleur-de-lis better, which means you should probably go with the other one!
    Just a couple of thoughts on the frieze…
    Maybe, a smaller version of the molded piece you choose or something that ties in with the picture rail? For example, I don’t know if there is a name for that ball-like thingy, but maybe something like that?
    What color will the molded pieces be? Anyway, I hope you can find a place for the wallpaper in one of your other gazillion rooms! I really like it.

  12. Dawn Rocco on October 9, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Three cheers for Blair! I love love love the south side of the house! So much detail but so much work. Next year 🙂

  13. Dan Goodall-Williams on October 9, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Those lights are killer!!

  14. Suzanne on October 9, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Have you considered which room of your house is the one you lounge in, comfortable chair, feet up, good book in hand and natural light over your shoulder so you can read without eye strain? For me that room would be the library; the soul of the house. I only put this out there because I can visualize a comfortable reading chair right infront of those library windows! Of course that would mean rethinking the floating bookcase and perhaps replacing with coffee table complete with coffee table books!

    • Ross on October 9, 2018 at 8:36 pm

      Hi, Suzanne!

      I plan to place two comfy chairs and a small table in front of the window. There is room.

      Although I only read in bed.

  15. Jp on October 10, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    Hey ross! I follow a couple other blogs, and one of them used Anaglypta in one of her rooms. Ever plan on using the stuff?

  16. Andrea on October 11, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Ross, I was catching up on your blog while eating my lunch, and I actually dropped my sandwich when I saw the first photo of your library. It’s lovely! And those lights!! Your future plans sound great, and I have no doubt that the end result will be gorgeous. 🙂

    I have a couple questions about your shelves, if you don’t mind – did you build all your shelving from scratch? How are they fastened to the wall? I have simple metal bracket and pine board shelving in my library currently, but after six years of holding my ever-growing book collection they’re a little worse for wear. I’m planning to put in something sturdier as my winter project, and I love the look of your shelves.

  17. Lisa on October 11, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    I so appreciate your sharing your process as you restore this grand old house. I always imagined people as creative and skilled as you are “just know” how to get to the finish line of a project. It’s gives me hope to know that you change up plans, or struggle to get a contractor to show up, or realize the idea in your head isn’t panning our, etc…. 🙂

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