Built In Beauty


Yesterday I talked about books so I figured today would be the perfect day to talk about bookshelves, more specifically build ins. When we bought our Alabama house we also bought this lovely stone fireplace, and yes I am being very sarcastic when I say lovely. I think it was a 1983 DIY project gone bad. The stone stopped somewhere mid wall for no apparent reason and it included a big corner ledge for I don’t know what. I hated this thing! So when we decided to update the floor I was not about to work this monster into the scheme. Phase one demolition – We started with a hammer and chisel, moved up to a hammer drill and finally had to break down and rent a Jackhammer. Chuck looks very manly with that jack hammer. Oh yeah did I tell you we had some deadly brick stairs going down into this room too, so as long as we had a jackhammer….

149152_462335202267_3074998_nVoila! we now have a big whole in the wall. Okay, so I had to do a little drywall repair before moving on to the built ins and I had the electrician come and add two more outlets for the TV and other accessories.

I am handy and I am great at trim work but I had never done built ins before. I read several articles and books on the subject but some got way too involved with fancy joining techniques so I decided to improvise a bit. I knew I would be painting the shelves so I could hide any nail heads and screws with wood filler as needed so construction would be a little forgiving . I built these built ins using, the big saw at Lowes, my large miter saw, a drill, and a nail gun (optional if you can use a hammer). No routers or biscuit joiners, just the basics. .

I built three pretty basic shelves out of 3/4″ plywood sheets I had cut down into 12″ planks at Lowes. They say they charge for each additional cut but usually if you are nice they will do the cuts for free. You can cut the plywood down yourself if you have a table saw but I am a girl that doesn’t like to ask for help, so I like to get the wood down to manageable pieces before I leave the store. This also helps if you don’t have a large car.

To begin I screwed the shelves in from the sides setting any screws,or using the nail gun in areas that would show so I could fill them. (Only one side onfar left shelf is actually exposed.) I placed the first shelf up from the bottom so it would level with the top of my base trim and the top shelf down just enough to line up with the bottom of my upper trim (some pre-planning involved here.) If you have any specific items you would like to be housed by your built ins use them to determine your other shelf heights. I tried to line up as many shelves as possible to keep it looking neat. I used bead board for the backs to add stability. For the top I used the same 12″ plywood planks wrapped with a banding of finish quality 1x3s, along the front and exposed sides, mitered at the corner . This gives the illusion of a solid wood top and adds enough depth so that the top extends past the trim. All the trim other other then the moldings just below the top are basic, flat, finish quality 1xs added to the front of the shelves to give the allusion of thickness and as a baseboard. If you have more decorative baseboards already in your room you will wan to try to match them so your built ins look original. The mantel I framed in 2x4s and also covered in 1xs. Below is a photo of the shelves all roughed out.


Tip: Paint as many pieces as you can before installing that way the finished product just needs a touch up. It is easier to paint in the garage than be extra neat in the house.

I painted the walls (Olympic – Fisherman’s Net), tiled around the fireplace with slate mosaic tiles, and laid bamboo floor. Lots and lots of hard work later I finally get to the fun part. Putting the room back together again and accessorizing. The television and components fit perfectly no wires showing! All the books fit, and yes I followed my own advice and arranged them by color.  I would say the project was a success.  We have since moved to Germany and away from my beautiful built ins but we still own the house so with any luck we will meet again.IMG_4246


  1. What a project! What an improvement! Amazing, and brave, too!

  2. I loved your house in ‘Bama!

  3. Brittany says:

    Did you have any smoke leakage after you did this?

    • Hi Brittany, Sorry I did not respond to you comment earlier, I must have missed it.To answer your question, No I did not have any smoke leakage. The stones were a veneer on the wall and not in anyway connected to the chimney structure so no smoke issues caused by removing them.

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