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Tuesday, March 2, 2021
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My Faux “Antique” Library Room

Want a (relatively) cheap "vintage" front room/library room? Here's mine. We gave our daughter and her friend the go-ahead to decorate our front foom however they liked. This is the outcome.

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Our front room needed a “touch up.” A small living room area with double doors, immediately visible 1 when you entered the front door to our home, it had gone from a room with a sofa, to an office, to temporary housing for my father-in-law, and back. Fortunately, my daughter, then in late high school was an avid decorator and Pinterest aficionado. She asked for the room — give her some $$ to buy stuff and full control and she’d fix it up. This post is everything you didn’t want to know about my faux Victorian library front room: costs, where things came from, etc. But it offers some ideas about cheap Victorian home decor or at least something inspired by it. And, often, I like looking at lists of ideas, so let’s go!

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I was up for having someone else do the work, and willing to contribute some budget to this project. But I’m not good at the “relinquishing control” part of the equation. I created my own Pinterest list titled “minimalist Zen room.” A new floor. Perhaps some sitting cushions and bamboo. Maybe with a neutral and light-green color scheme.

“OK, but I’m telling you, that’s NOT what you want,” said Miss Know-it-All. Amused, I decided to give her, and her good friend who would be her co-conspirator in this project, the benefit of the doubt. “All right. Go for it!”

And they went to work, locking us out of the room with zip-ties so we wouldn’t peek. We did once, and were caught — tripping one of the anti-peek traps they had set for us. We found we were discovered when we found a long, guilt-inducing, letter on the door 2saying starting, “We’re so sad…so so so sad…”

But they finished the project and the result has grown on me. For a while, the room was an office when my younger daughter had to do online schooling for a while, but eventually, I added to the space a fainting sofa, some new (used) chairs, and other things.

I wanted to write this post now, because we’re finally getting the floors done and I’m going to have to rip apart the room for a bit. Here’s how it looks right now:

Victorian Home Decor faux victorian library sitting room

This “look” with its cluttered shelves isn’t for everyone. But it’s grown on me, especially since the desk went and the fainting sofa came in. A friend of ours remarked, “it looks just like the lobby in a hotel we stayed at in Paris.” I don’t know about that, but it’s a nice little space to read or write.

The router sitting in the middle of the room kind of detracts from the appearance. It used to be covered up. However, my husband insists on having it there right now as he’s sometimes working from home.

Details about the faux Victorian home decor of the “Vintage” sitting room

When it comes down to it, the room wan’t all that cheap to redecorate as I added some furniture to the mix. But the initial decor was not too much, depening primarily on used items and hacks.

Initial Adds and Approximate Costs

Here are the items my “decorators” initially added to the room and an (estimated) cost breakdown. Some of these items aren’t in the room any longer and I’ve replaced them with other items.

The Paint

I cannot tell you what colors they used, as they can’t recall. They used two tones of gold paint, using a darker sponge painting over the top of the lighter underpaint to give a sort of “old wall” effect. If I ever want to repaint the room, this may be problematic and take some extra work.

Gross estimate of paint cost: $50, though I don’t recall exactly how much.

The Bookshelves

Three cheap five-shelf bookshelves comprise the room’s “bookshelf unit.” You could probably easily pick up used on Craigslist for cheap, or at Walmart for about $40 each shelf. Then they bought some trim at Home depot, trimmed all three shelves with the trim for decoration at the top and painted the resulting “unit.”

The result is fine and fits the room perfectly. However, I’ve sometimes been tempted to replace the shelves with a library unit with a ladder like this one from World Market:

World Market library bookshelf

I haven’t wanted to spend the money, though. The pair pictured about would cost $829.98 when not on sale. Also, I don’t know that shelving units with ladders would fit into this little room.

Estimated cost for bookshelves: $140

The Ceiling Light

Ceiling light Victorian Home Decor

She asked to purchase a new ceiling light for the project — she bought it at our Home Depot store. I couldn’t find this same light at Home Depot now, but it’s similar to this one.

The Rug

The original rug she put in this room was similar to this faux oriental rug by Savafieh she bought at Walmart. I eventually replaced it with the round rug in the picture. It was a LR Resources rug that’s no longer available at Home Depot.

I’ll write about this sometime in another post: be careful when you’re buying cheap throw rugs. I sent two rugs before this back due to odors and had to air this one out before using it. But I learned much about smelly throw rugs in the process.

Estimated cost for original rug: $75.

Replacement rug: $257.

The Chairs

Originally, I found a couple of faux leather chairs at Target for around $150 each; it seems that Target no longer sells these. I found chairs I liked more at Pier One Imports and World Market but the cost was higher and we were working with a limited budget during the initial room decoration.

Then we got cats. If you have cats, you’ll know that they are not only destructive to cloth furniture and carpets, but they’ll mess up your leather as well — especially, it turns out, faux leather.

The original chairs went the way of the dump, eventually, as nobody wanted them. I then found these two old Ethan Allen chairs on Facebook Marketplace for around $75. Not in perfect condition, but much more comfortable than the original chairs, more cat-friendly, and they fit with the room decor. I texted my daughter a photo and she approved!

Ethan allen used victorian chairs and victorian brocade ottoman Victorian Home Decor

Initial Chairs: Approximately $300

Replacement chairs: Approximately $75


While I wasn’t short on knicknacks, I was apparently short on the right knicknacks. They were going for a lovingly-cluttered library/study look. I supplied the girls with $100 and off they went to the thrift store.

They returned with a variety of items: candle snuffers, old books, an old model railroad car, an oil lamp, old cameras, old record sleeves. They then went to work on books I already owned, removing their dust jackets and arranging them in piles. Somewhere around here I have a box of dust jackets looking for a home.

And they pulled in a few other already-existing piceces of clutter: Harry Potter bookends from her room, a creepy (she thinks) bust of her head that she made in high school pottery class.

What’s your favorite thing that you’ve found secondhand?
What's your favorite thing that you've found secondhand?x

Things I Already Had

I already had a couple of things on hand (aside from the knickknacks mentioned above) that the girls pulled in:

The Vintage Typewriter Art

The typewriter art was from World Market. Unfortunately, World Market discontinued these prints. They had a matching vintage camera canvas that I wish I had purchased when it was available.

The Madame Talbot Absinthe Poster

The poster is visible above the bookshelves. And is there to stay…or at least until we repaint the room. I went to take it down and frame it, only to find that my husband had glued it to the wall!

“Why would you do that?” I asked him. He had no good answer.

But, anyway, it’s a poster I picked up at the wonderful Powell’s Books in Portland. Madame Talbot makes these vintage-looking posters, many of them wonderfully creepy. I have her Old Curiosity Shop poster as it was one of my favorite places in Seattle when I was growing up, but have yet to find a good place for it.

Industrial-Style Metal Drawer Chest

You can see this one in the photo of the fainting sofa below. This one is from World Market and has been around my house in many places: storage, side-table, or craft cart.

I also already had: the metal drawer organizers on the bookshelves (from World Market), the floor lamp, and the globe that’s atop the bookshelves.

Later Adds

As I mentioned, the room initially became an office. But, eventually, my younger daughter began using her room for more of her studies, my budget for decorating became larger (though still, of course, not unlimited), and I decided to convert the room into its original intended use: a sitting and reading room.

Over time, I’ve added more stuff:

The Fainting Sofa

A faux-Victorian room needs a fainting sofa! However, it had to fit into a very limited space. The only wall I could put a fainting sofa on wouldn’t fit a full-length one. I scoured the secondhand ads, but the ones I found either were too big, not the right color, or were actual antiques and outside of my budget.

However, I finally found this one on Wayfair that was pleasingly compact. You wouldn’t know it from looking at this room but red and brocade isn’t usually my “thing.” But, for some reason, I love this room and the fainting sofa makes it. I lounge here with a book frequently and the cat hasn’t seen fit to damage this (except for thinking it’s her sofa.)

Small Fainting Sofa Chaise lounge red with gold brocade Victorian Home Decor

Cost: $469.99

Storage Books

I found a bunch of storage books (boxes that look like books — some cardboard, some wood) at a local discount store for about $8.99/each. Arranging them both on a side table/drawer unit and on the shelves was a good way to hide the many papers and old photos I’m trying to organize. I kept a list of which things are in which box (i.e. childhood photos to organize/Paris box).

The Paris boxes on top of the bookcases are from the same store (Tuesday Morning) where I found the storage books.

Wood storage books and vintage looking knickknacks Victorian Home Decor
Yes, those are little wood boxes that look like old books. I have larger ones various places on the bookshelves mixed in with the real books. It makes the perfect small-storage solution for this room.

The Footstool

The footstool (see the photo of the room) is one I would never have purchased — except that I already had the perfect room for it. It’s the Yolanda Round Ottoman that you can find on Home Depot or some other websites, for somewhere in the $130 range, but I bought it in perfect shape from someone on Facebook Marketplace for $20.

The Absinthe

I had the absinthe poster, I had a small cheap art-deco style tray with an absinthe design that I had picked up at one of those riverside green carts in Paris. But I had no absinthe. I don’t actually drink absinthe…I just like art.

For a mix of the Pacific Northwest and absinthe, I picked up this Oregon Spirit absinthe in a holiday gift set complete with an absinthe spoon and arranged it with some glasses and sugar cubes.

Oregon Spirit absinthe an accessory for Victorian Home Decor

The “ring bell for service” pen holder is another World Market knicknack. The bell works. It could be dangerous in the wrong hands.

The Side Table Holding The Absinthe

The small, round side table holding the lamp and absinthe array between the chairs was a Craglist find: $20.

The Lamp on the Absinth Table

The antique-style lamp was another Facebook Marketplace find. I think I paid $10.

The Mirror Behind the Fainting Sofa

This was another Facebook Marketplace find. I splurged on this one. The price, I think, was $75, but the mirror was in perfect shape. If I bought the same thing new, I rationalized, I’d pay much more. I had intended a different location but found that wouldn’t work, so it ended up in this room behind the fainting sofa. The only thing I don’t like? I frequently sit in there for Zoom meetings now and if the overhead light is on, it reflects in the mirror and then creates glare.

The Side Table

The room needed a little table to hold a tea tray (or other things, I thought) but my husband was worried about space. So I found the oval table in the photo for $20 on Craigslist. The table isn’t perfect — originally, I intended to stain it a darker color — but it’s foldable and will collapse and fit into a nook if he doesn’t want to see it there.

Misc. Wall Art

For a long time, I lived in a house mostly devoid of wall art, and I’m trying to remedy that. For this room, I found a few things here and there that I thought fit:

The Chocolat Suchard poster I purchased from the same person who sold me the mirror. I think she was around $30. I found the Parpluie Revel at Goodwill for $10. The framed art is a print of The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard. It’s hard to say how much I spent on it — I don’t remember the cost. The piece, complete with its beautiful frame, was on closeout on the Nordstrom Rack website and my husband had received a huge gift card, among other things, from winning the raffle at a charity event. The last one is a framed tintype (an actual tintype but from 2018 instead of 1896). I splurged, spending $50 on the frame for this one.

Remaining things I’d like to do

We’re having our floors redone. This room might look better with a darker floor, but we’re going to have the entire lower floor done in the same color of laminate, so that’s not happening. Eventually, I’d like to get French doors here instead of the cheap double doors that currently exist and, perhaps, some different trim and better curtains. But, for now, this room makes a cozy reading space and is a room I use frequently for reading or sipping tea.

Here are some inexpensive ideas to fix up a faux Victorian reading room. Click to Tweet

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References and Footnotes
  1. unless the doors were closed[]
  2. I had a photo of this but cannot find it now[]
Cheryl is a former Occupational Therapist and WordPress enthusiast who became a writer in some parallel universe and occasionally, but infrequently, publishes things in this one. She writes two blogs (or is it three) which she won't quit because she knows that blogs, in her case, are like a hydra and if she cuts one off two more will take its place. When she's not doing that, she enjoys hiking, cycling, kayaking (formerly fast, now ebike), messing around with Adobe illustrator, making assorted things, meditating (though she wouldn't call that "like," and reading. She normally doesn't speak about herself in the third person, but she sometimes uses "we" in the royal sense while writing this blog. She lives in Poulsbo, WA with her spouse, her youngest adult daughter, a very old mutt, and a Siamese cat.
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