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My Plant Lined Reading Retreat Makeover

Updated on March 19, 2013
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Jeanne Grunert is a full-time freelance writer, novelist, and garden communicator. She lives and works on a 17-acre farm in Virginia.

From a Mess to a Book Lover's Retreat

When we built our house, I added a room onto the back that we originally called a Florida room, but quickly became known as the plant room. In the home where I grew up, my parents had turned an outdoor patio into a little sun room, and it was my favorite room in the house. My mother loved to take a mystery novel and a cup of tea into her sun room every afternoon for a bit of rest before embarking on her next round of housework or chores. I wanted the same thing in my home - a retreat, a place for quiet reflection, reading, and most of all for my plants. I love to grow house plants and have African violets, Christmas cactus, orchids, and a few other plants that all require low to medium light. We had an unusual corner in the back of the house and turned it into my plant room. Originally it had a faux stone floor and bare walls. My husband finished the walls with wainscoting of knotty pine and a textured paint called River Rock above that. Other than finishing the walls, the room was left unfinished. I had snack tables and a board suspended between two tables for my plants. An old, battered bookcase from a big box store and a badly sagging chair from my mother in law, recovered in an ugly brown fabric, stood in the corner, along with a rickety 1950s lamp that was held together with duct tape. Honestly, this room was about as far from a cozy nest as you could get. All of that was about to change with a little bit of pine boards, black paint, and carpentry magic....

Before: Bare Room

Room under construction
Room under construction

This is what the space looked like when it was under construction. It's a small room of approximately 8 feet by 10 feet, with a little bump out where the door leads into the family room. I included a door with glass window panes in it so that as much light as possible could flow through even if the door is closed. We rarely close the door, however. It's such a nice room we use it a lot and the cats love to snooze back there.

The floor is covered with tiles that looks like slate. They have a bumpy, uneven appearance, like real slates or rocks. I wanted the entire room to feel like it blended right into the natural landscape beyond the windows. We live and work on a 17 acre tree farm and are surrounded by pines, woods, and mountains, and I wanted the indoors and outdoors to blend if you looked outside of the windows.

The Next Stage

The next stage in the plant room's evolution was adding the knotty pine wainscoting and the textured paint above. My husband stained the wood paneling a warm, golden oak to blend in with the woodwork in our house. The paint chosen is called River Rock and was purchased from Lowe's Home Improvement Store. Like the floor, the textured green walls echo the outdoors, and make you feel as if you are outdoors when inside. The brass plant stands are poles that use springs to stand upright and have multiple places for pots. The furniture and plant stands are all recycled from items my in-laws were throwing out. I never liked them very much, but we made do with them until we could find the time to remake the plant room.

That time was in late 2012....

Final Transformation 2012

The final plant room has built in bookshelves.
The final plant room has built in bookshelves.

The final transformation didn't take long but it made a difference as far as the entire look and feel of the room. We removed the brass plant stands and put them in storage. Next, we removed the snack tables that I was using for plant tables. They weren't sturdy and every time we had guests over, I was scrambling to move plants so I could use the tables. We removed some of the hand me down furniture.

My husband built bookcases that surround two walls in an L shape. He made them by hand using plain 2 x 4 pine boards. They are just about the height of the windows and fit underneath them securely. We bought vinyl press-on tiles from a store going out of business in the neighborhood. The tiles have a very similar pattern to the floor, a faux rock finish, but are in a golden brown color. We cut these to size and added them to the top of the bookcase to protect it from stains and drips from watering the plants. My husband finished the top of the bookcase with trim that has a pattern of leaves and vines on it. He stained that a golden oak color to match the paneling. We painted the entire bookcase black to match the black bookcase purchased from a big box store that is on the opposite wall. I kept the old brown chair from my in-laws (too expensive to buy a new chair) but replaced the reading lamp from the 1950s that was held together with duct tape with an inexpensive lamp purchased from the same store that was going out of business. Lastly, I added a little braided rug from a catalog that has a pattern of green and birds on it - another echo of the outdoors.

The plants fit neatly on top of the bookcase. I do have a rule for them; every plant must have a saucer or cup underneath it to catch drips! The books, DVDs and CDs fit inside the bookcase with room to spare.

I love my little plant room and it is my favorite getaway at the end of a long day. It's comfortable, snug, and I'm surrounded by all of my favorite things. Everyone needs a retreat, and I love my cozy retreat made from recycled materials and inexpensive hand-crafted bookcases.

A Great Place to Grow Orchids

One of my orchids.
One of my orchids.

My plants also seem to like the new room...this is one of my orchids.

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    • profile image

      MaryeAudet LM 

      4 years ago

      Jeanne, I love this! I have a huge sunroom with south, west, and north window walls....I use it as a studio because of the great light but I think may be you have inspired me to add plants. :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      That is a very inviting space you've created there.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Those bookcases look very professional. Your husband is very clever. Love the new room.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I think the plants make all the difference in the setting. What a beautiful view you have from this room!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      5 years ago

      This is different in a good way.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice job! And a nice lens too. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Looks like a lovely place to spend some peaceful time!


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