AKJ Architects LLC

Transformation Series – #1 Home Library

When my husband and I bought this house back in 2003, we knew it was a good space. This mid-century modern home was built in 1953, designed by a Boeing engineer at the time. While the vintage charm was and continues to be a unique part of the building, we still wanted to bring in many updates and personalize the space so it felt like our own.

When my husband and I bought this house back in 2003, we knew it was a good space. This mid-century modern home was built in 1953, designed by a Boeing engineer at the time. While the vintage charm was and continues to be a unique part of the building, we still wanted to bring in many updates and personalize the space so it felt like our own.

In several of our upcoming blog posts, we’ll be taking a look at how we’ve transformed various areas of the home, sharing details of the process along with great before and after images. If you’re considering taking on a remodel or rebuild, this Transformation series will be a helpful reference for what goes into home renovation projects and the attention given to various phases and elements. Enjoy!

Home Library – First Things First

As it was, we spent around a year renovating the house prior to moving in. One of our first projects was installing new flooring. The area had sheet flooring installed, so we pulled that out and replaced it with a new mixed oak flooring which matched the wood in the rest of the house.

In the image below, you can see that this library space was previously set up as an office, separated from the dining area with a header above two folding doors. We chose to open the space up by removing the doors and the wall above.

This integration alone created a significant change in the feel of the room for a relatively small investment. Without adding to the building, we had an opportunity to connect two rooms and create a space that felt much bigger.

Planning Ahead

Before going deep into the adornment of the room, we considered what we’d be doing in the room and what resources would be required for that. We knew we would be adding a TV at some point and took the opportunity to bring data up into this room during a basement server-addition project. This was a great opportunity while the walls were opened up in the room below, allowing for easy wiring access.

This was also a good time to replace the 1956 single-paned windows with new energy-efficient, double-paned windows to minimize drafts and improve overall efficiency of the home.

We considered lighting for the room and determined that the original placement of the light fixture was in a good location. No effort there other than finding a fixture that fit the style of the new room.

New Furnishings

The main piece of the new library is the custom white oak book cabinet. We went through the typical custom cabinet design process where the architect (me in this case) obtains interior elevations and designs the piece to fit the space. That design then goes through a collaboration with a cabinet maker and painter for the finishes. A contractor then installs the piece. One of our favorite parts of this piece is the lighting we added, which wasn’t a quick find. In order to find lights of the right proportions to blend in with the furniture, it required some in-depth online hunting. The hunt paid off and was worth the wait as this accent lighting on the cabinet is quite helpful when you want to stand in front of the cabinet while perusing a book. It’s always great to have a little extra task lighting. Seattle Cabinet and Design and Elliott paint.

We took a mid-range approach to the new transitional-style furnishings. Rather than the completely custom furnishings I often help my clients create, we went to stores like Ethan Allan to sit test chairs we thought we’d like to read in and chose the fabric and leather to fit the library. We found ottomans that looked good with the chairs we chose and made the space welcoming with decorative pillows and throw blankets from Crate and Barrel.  

The TV cabinet took us longer to locate, but we finally came across the perfect size for the TV and equipment we wanted to see in front of the new windows.


A lot of thought went into the finishes for the new library. We started to think about artwork on the wall which was key. The colors and finishes also impacted the warmth of the room and made it feel comfortable for reading.

We got a screaming deal on the carpet for the room at Room and Board. This was a great fit for our little dog Harley who loved to spend time with us in the library. The drapery we chose softens the room while providing protection from the morning sun blasting in over the TV.

Another of the favorite features of the library is the artwork. A gift from my parents’ trip to Rome back in 1995, the 1748 Nolli Map represents Rome as the center for learning. Placing this artwork and the framing choice by Alison and Ross was key for the feel of this room.

Taking on a home renovation project requires time and effort. Besides planning and choosing finishes, you may find yourself up on a Saturday at 7:30 letting in the contractor after working your regular Monday through Friday job. You might be providing drinks while they’re working and sweeping up the dust after they leave. Being prepared for the details and phases of a project will help you keep your eyes on the prize and make your way through to project completion.

Arlene Kisiel-Jermann

Arlene brings over twenty-five years of design experience to her company. As a professional who strives to provide exceptional customer service, creative design skills, and an eye for detail, AKJA has the experience and training to lead your residential project from concept through completion.

Arlene received her Master in Architecture Degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her Master in Science in Interior Design from the University of Massachusetts and her Bachelor degree from Skidmore College with a major in Art & minor in Spanish. Arlene's combination of creative degrees in Architecture, Interior Design and Fine Art give her a holistic approach to residential design and enable her to quickly comprehend and efficiently collaborate with other professionals. At MIT, she coupled her studies with graduate courses at the MIT Center for Real Estate where she studied business. Since a young age, Arlene has had numerous academic opportunities to travel throughout America, Europe and Asia and learn about art and culture throughout the world.

Since 1987, Arlene has been privileged and trusted to work on residential and commercial projects with multi-million dollar budgets. She has managed all phases of residential design, architecture, and construction for well-established Seattle architecture firms such as Sullivan Conard Architects, NBBJ, and General Contractor Toth Construction, a Seattle based custom residential builder. Arlene launched her own firm in 2007 to design new and renovated homes, cabins and condominiums ranging in size from 500sf to 10,000sf. She brings passion, creativity, a commitment to succeed, and a powerful blend of skills, education and experience to every residential architecture project.

Stacey Lara

Stacey Lara has a wide range of experience specializing in efficiency and human wellness. She's a transformational coach with an administrative background in the medical, engineering, landscape architecture and architecture industries.

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