Jo’s Library Tour


What we choose to surround ourselves with—the colors, the furniture, the art we hang on the walls—becomes a part of our daily rhythm. It can shape our thinking and our mood, whether consciously or not. When our creative team at Magnolia needed a space to meet and get inspired in, Joanna wanted to be intentional about the design and function of the conference room. A thoughtfully designed space can go a long way for inspiring creativity and imagination (especially so when it includes a pretty pink velvet couch!). Jo shares how this space was brought to life:

First, can you explain what this newly renovated space started out as?

Joanna: This space was a standard conference room here at our office in Waco, TX where a few of our weekly meetings are held, and there was one long table and a handful of chairs around it. Every time we’d meet in here, I couldn’t keep my mind from daydreaming about what it could look like—the things that might make this space come alive, and, in the process, make us all come alive during these meetings. I kept thinking to myself, We’re a creative company… but this room is anything but that. We needed a change and I could tell the weekly routine and daily grind met with a bland conference room wasn’t producing the kind of ideas and motivation our team needed.

There’s something about a long table and the typical conference set up that just didn’t feel like us here at Magnolia. For me it felt stuffy and formal, and what I wanted to create was a space that encouraged conversation and had a relaxed and inspiring vibe. Whether we’re discussing the magazine or talking about plans for the Market, we could do so in a way that felt like we were hanging out in a living room or a library type of setting. After several years of meeting in this room, I told Chip I was ready to change things up and, I have to tell you, this transformation was a fun one!

What was the intention for this new space?

Here’s what it came down to: If I wanted creative ideas to come out of our team’s meetings, then we needed an inspiring space where we felt encouraged to ideate and dream. For me, when I feel like I’m in a creative rut, the first thing I always do is examine the space around me and then decide if the environment stifles or stimulates creativity. I had decided that this room wasn’t a super inspiring space and we needed a change. Because it’s typically where we talk through ideas for the Market, the blog, and the magazine, it was important to me that we make the investment to thoughtfully create the kind of space where the team can choose how they want to connect—whether it’s working together around the table or bouncing ideas off one another in a comfortable setting.

Why a library/living room setting?

I think work is good for all of us, but work can also be hard, so I thought, why not do good, hard work in a space that will inspire community and creativity? I wanted this room to feel like a retreat from the day’s busyness, and be a place where the team could come and fill up creatively. My vision included plenty of seating and a couple different vignettes to sit and read or work. I left a long table in the room with eight chairs, added a sofa plus a few additional seating arrangements that would be comfortable. Since we finished renovations, it’s been encouraging to gather here for meetings because it never actually feels like work—it feels like we’re just hanging out in a cool space!

I also knew I wanted a ton of books in this room, so we trimmed out the back wall and added plenty of shelving. There’s something so cozy and transcendent about a library—being surrounded by books, old and new, that can transport you to just about anywhere. I wanted people to feel that way in this space. I wanted them to use it as a resource to learn more about topics ranging from home design and cooking to graphic design and business. A library seemed like a practical and pretty way to keep our team feeling inspired. We even have a system where people in the office can check out books and hold onto them for a few weeks! And to add to the library nostalgia a bit, there’s a due date note card in the back of each one to stamp when the book is checked out and returned.

Walk us through your process of choosing a paint color for this space.

I’m continuously amazed at how a can of paint can so drastically change the mood of a space. I chose a deep green tone for the room because I wanted the entire space to feel significant and dramatic right when you walked in. I went with a gloss finish for all the trim work and ceiling tiles, and then did a satin finish on the walls. I had thick moulding installed for the base and crown of the room and we also added custom trim on the windows to hide the existing metal support bars. With all the detail of the moulding, the bookshelf and the antique ceiling tiles, I didn’t want a break in the action—I wanted everything to be the same color so that the texture of each material could be highlighted in a subtle yet stunning way.

What was the process of collecting decor for this space?

I’m reminded time and time again in design not to rush the process of completing a space, but to wait for the right pieces to come along over time. It took a while to furnish this space, but I love the way it turned out. I chose furniture and decor based on the two design styles I wanted in the room: modern and eclectic. And as always, I incorporated a few antique furniture pieces, artwork, and ceiling tiles that brought in some character and added a few unique layers to the room’s story.

Do you have a favorite piece or design element in the room?

It’s so hard to pick just one favorite! I would say the antique easel with an old map on display is the thing that speaks to me the most in this room. The vintage New York City map was a birthday gift from a friend. The street crossings and area you see on the map is where I used to live in the city, around W 57th street. Every time I see it, I go back to those months I lived in New York City when I first felt the pull to open my own store, which makes it a fun piece of history for me. Oh, and I also love the library wall of books. Whenever I look at it, I instantly feel inspired.

How has this space changed your work days for the better?

For me as a designer, it’s all about creating spaces that meet a need. Some days, I need a blank slate to feel most productive, and others, I need a space that gives me a creative recharge. My office (right next to the library) is white and minimal— a very simple and clean palette. I crank out a lot of work there, but when it comes time for a change of scenery, the library is just the space. It’s the creative and fun atmosphere we’ve all been craving, and that right there is a huge win for our team.

Do you have advice for creating a room like this from scratch?

First, figure out the need. Then, find the right space—whether that be an empty corner in your house or a room that’s underused. After you have the need and the space carved out, just have fun with it and don’t rush the process. Define what you want the room to feel like and from there, create a mood board of images and pictures that speak to you. Let the intentionality of the space drive you to start the process and then, when you are finished, surround the room with the things that inspire you most!

S O U R C E B O O K

Here’s where you can find everything from Joanna’s Library:

Leonelle Sofa—Anthropologie
Ellipse Coffee Table—Magnolia Home Furniture
Rug—Lucca Rust Ivory Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines x Loloi Rugs
Black Accent Chairs next to couch—Pascal Home at Round Top Antiques Fair
Round Bistro Table—Restoration Hardware
Logan Dining Chair—Anthropologie
Table Lamps—Antique
Brass Bookcase Lights—Lighting New York
Ceiling Lights—Shades of Light
Ceiling Tile—Antique
Gleaming Primrose Mirror—Anthropologie
Long Wood Table—Custom made
Carlos Chair—Industry West
High Chair—Lobster
Field Lounge Chairs—Blu Dot
End Tables—Anthropologie
Cabinet Hardware—Schoolhouse Electric, Build.com
Easel + Accent Table + Stool—Eneby Home at Round Top Antiques Fair
Paint Color (similar)—1905 Green, Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines
(DISCLAIMER: Pictures are a great way to get inspired, but when it comes to paint, always sample first in your space because everyone’s lighting is different and the color will vary.)