Designing the Nerd Cave—The Reading Room

     It’s a cold rainy Monday afternoon in November and you’ve got the day off of work. You’ve spent the morning running errands or doing chores around the house.  Now it’s time to chill.  If you’re like me, the absolute number one way to spend the afternoon is to ensconce yourself in a comfy chair with a big fleece blanket and a pile of books, comics, magazines, or all of the above.

     When designing my dream nerd cave, my first priority was a comfortable place to read.  However, the room still needs to function as a guest bedroom.  The queen-sized bed that we had, while comfortable, took up way too much room.  Plus, I’ve had too many reading sessions in bed turn into nap sessions, so I’ve got to stay more or less vertical.

     An obvious option is the good old sofa sleeper. But, if you’ve ever actually slept on one, the first thing that jumps to mind is “metal bar…HARD metal bar…in my back.”   I figured there had to be something better out there, so I did some Web surfing, particularly on  We’d purchased most of our new furniture from Havertys after the fire and have been quite happy with all of it.  Plus I wanted to get something locally as I wasn’t looking to spend several hundred dollars to have a sofa drop-shipped to me.

     Before narrowing my options, I needed to decide on a style for the furniture I planned to put in the cave.  While I like traditional wood furniture, I quickly settled on a contemporary/modern vibe for the new room. I plan on featuring a bunch of science fiction inspired art and I think the metal construction and clean lines of contemporary furniture will look great.

      With that in mind, I soon found exactly what I needed: The full-sized Destin model from Havertys.  This sofa sleeper utilizes a polyurethane foam mattress that has no steel bar across the middle.  The look is clean and I think it fits in well with my concept.

Destin model Sofa Sleeper from Havertys

      I’m sitting on it as we speak and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s pretty comfortable.  As I am 6’ tall, it’s a bit short for a fully stretched out nap.  But of course if I’m really committed to the idea, I can just pop off the cushions and turn it into a bed in about 30 seconds. The mattress is a huge improvement over the traditional backbreaker. I’ve got a bad back myself and have slept on it a couple of times with no problem. There are no springs to squeak and more importantly, NO metal bar.  Is it a $5,000 TempurPedic?  No, but it serves a dual purpose and looks great doing it.

     Now that I had somewhere to sit and read, I needed a place to keep my steadily growing collection of books, trade paperbacks, and games. As an unapologetic bibliophile, I like looking at my books. A shelf full of books is just like a piece of art for me.  It’s a personal bar code–one scan of someone’s bookshelf and you can tell a whole lot about them.  Thus, I rarely get rid of books.  I’ve known people who’ll read a book then donate it, give it to a friend, or sell it at a garage sale.  Not this kid.  Unless a book is total crap, it goes on the shelf.

      After we’d gotten settled into our new home, I’d set about rebuilding my library.  By the time I was ready to move into the new nerd cave, I had acquired several hundred new & used books.  Plus, I had been able to salvage a few boxes of books from our old house.

      I’ve always found good bookcases hard to come by at furniture stores. My go-to source has usually been the local unfinished furniture store. I think we had about 14 or 15 bookcases from there in the old house.  I’d stained and finished all but one by myself, which was a good bit of work. While they functioned fine, I’ve always had a few peeves with them.  First, I never liked the way they don’t sit flush against the wall (because of the baseboard). They tend to be heavy, and I’d had problems with shelves sagging under the weight of hardcover books. I also knew the simple wood look wasn’t really a good fit for the modern style I’m going for.  Finally, I had no desire to stain and varnish three or four new bookcases.

          And then along came CB2 (a division of Crate & Barrel) to the rescue.  One night in our temporary apartment, after I’d gotten our new PC online, I spent about three hours surfing the Web ordering free catalogs.  As I planned the new cave, I came across CB2’s and BAM! it was love at first sight. In the end, except for the sofa, every piece of furniture that when in the cave came from CB2.

     I liked several models they carry but kept coming back to the Helix bookshelves. They’re modern, well designed with maximized storage space, function as built-ins, and extremely sturdy.

Helix Book Shelves From


     Each shelf has two attachment points where you bolt them into either a stud or dry wall anchor. Installation is pretty simple as long as you use a level (to make sure the support struts are plum aka straight up & down) and quality anchors. As you can see from the attached photo, I’ve got them packed to capacity with books and games without any sign of sagging.

       So there it is–I’ve got my reading room and it’s working great for me. If I only had more time to actually sit and read…

 Next time: So many Blu-Rays, so little time…