DIY Built-ins

Let me preface this by saying, I love my house and can’t think of a better place to live. I love everything about the architecture of it, the arches, the high ceilings, even the crazy two front doors. But the one thing that almost made me not put an offer on the house (even though my husband thought I was crazy) were these silly indents, alcoves, whatever they are called on the sides of the fireplace. I hated them. It didn’t help that they aren’t the same size. I like symmetry and this totally was not symmetric. It hurt my eyes just to look at them.
Anyway. Luckily, this house had a lot more going for it than the one thing it didn’t have going for it a.k.a .the dumb asymmetric alcoves. So, as we moved in I had crazy visions of what to do with it.
  • create long bifold doors for it
  • hang long curtains from the left alcove and hang long curtains further on the right side of the right alcove as to make the illusion that they are the same size
  • Create bookshelves
  • just plain get rid of the alcove altogether with some dry wall and a little mud 
  • Or just ignore it, and pretend it didn’t exist
I pretty much did the last option. I arranged my furniture so it wasn’t a focal point by any means. I was fine with the left side alcove cuz we were able to fit a great entertainment center and tv in it.
But, I couldn’t leave the right side just empty. So I found a beautiful metal planter and put some curly willow branches in it. This stayed like this until January. But I was sick of always having my mantel décor compete with the branches. I couldn’t put half the stuff I wanted to up on the mantel because of the darn things.
So I moved out the branches and put a lamp in there instead. I loved this look because it made it look like there was another room or hall off to the side of the living room. It kind of made it look bigger and brighter and created great mood lighting when watching movies.

But I got so sick of it. First off…a lamp in an alcove??? That was odd.
And I guess that there's no second off....
So, my creative process was going like mad to figure out what to do with this space. Then a light went off in my head: How about I make a HUGE statement and fill the whole thing, top to bottom, with fire wood!!! I was so gitty with excitement until I realized that I would need like 30 bundles, at least, of fire wood to fill the thing. And at $3 a bundle, that was waaaaay out of my price range.

So, here comes the TOTALLY BIG FAIL, yes this does happen. I thought to myself, why don’t I just get a couple of bundles, cut the logs into thirds and secure them to some plywood and then balance the plywood in the alcove as to make an illusion that it is filled with firewood, but it totally isn’t? Well, I went at it with my miter saw. I successfully cut about 5 logs into thirds with it, until a piece of wood got stuck on the blade and wouldn’t come off. Scared the living crap out of me. So I stopped that quick.
Then I thought my jigsaw might work. Totally didn’t.
Now I was stuck with an eighth of plywood filled with wood and nothing to put on the other 7/8ths, a broken miter saw and a dull jigsaw blade.
It was getting pathetic, every wood pile I drove past, I was like….”maybe they’ll let me have some!” lol
Well, after immense frustration. Another light bulb went off in my head. This time, a brighter light. Why not just DO bookshelves? The only reason why I didn’t do it before was because I (and my husband) are scared to put holes in the wall. Pathetic, yes I know. But then I talked myself into it….we’ve lived here for two years now, its not like we can live here all our life without putting dumb holes in the wall.
So, first things first. Went to the good ol’ Home Depot – where my husband jokes that they know me by name now -and got a 4’x8’ piece of particle board, some 1x2s and some molding. Luckily, the nice guy at the wood cutting center cut all the particle board for me into the lengths that I needed. What a life saver! I was not looking forward to sending this stuff through the table saw at home especially after the miter saw incident.
I painted both sides of the particle board, painted the molding, and the 1x2s. Next, I connected the molding to the particle board with some wood glue. Worked like a charm! But left an ugly seam.
So, I took some white caulk and filled the seam up and then painted back over it.

Next, I measured where I wanted the shelves to be. I think this took the longest. I had to sit on the couch for a few hours staring at the blue tape (my imaginary shelves) making sure that’s where I wanted them. So, once I was happy with the location, I made a line with my level on each side of the wall where the shelf should be.

Then, I cut the 1x2s into lengths just shorter than the shelves and lined them up on the wall with the marked lines. Leveled them again just to make sure, and screwed them in!

I think this process gave my husband a heart attack. He didn’t want me to do this project in the first place. As I mentioned before, he’s fine leaving everything where it is for all eternity and beyond. So, even the mentioning of doing something this drastic I think scared him to death. And of course, I needed his help, so he was in charge of putting the screws in the wall. Lol. Poor guy.

Well. After all was said and done….Success!

I went and bought three décor pieces (yes! only 3)to put on the shelves and pulled everything else from around the house. The totally cost of shelf and accessories is under $40!!!

Heck ya!

I am completely elated with how it turned out!
Now it looks like we actually use the other half of our living room. It looks lived in and cozy. And totally makes the room look bigger. I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier.



Now, I can finally say that my living room is complete! Holy cow, three months of change, and finally its done (for now. Lol)

Have a great week!


  1. I'm a new reader to your blog and I have to tell you this looks awesome!
    I liked the twigs and light, but this is absolutely the best idea!

    have a happy day~ L

  2. I LOVE how this looks. You did a great job!
    Claudia @

  3. Heck Yeah! lol...{so cute} It looks amazing!

  4. NOOOOOO WAAAAAAYYYY! This is AMAZING! I actually have this weird alcove thing to the right of my fireplace and then one above it which drives me even crazier to fill since it goes up to my cathedral ceilings. My armoire is in the lower one but we got a new tv that does not fit in it so I wanted to do EXACTLY what you just did and now I know how. You are my new built in BFF. THANK you sooooo much! Such an inspiration. :)

  5. This looks AMAZING!!!!! Great job, LOVE IT!!!

  6. Great job - it looks fantastic!!! Definitely the best solution for that space.

  7. Love IT! Makes me wish I had a funny sized alcove too!

  8. Bet your hubby is happy with it now! And I think it's cute that you managed to get some of those wood pieces in there after all (=

  9. That seriously looks fantastic! Did your Hubby's opinion change after it was done?

  10. Looks the builts-in! Looks great!

  11. Amazing! My english is not good, sorry, it's the fist time I write in a different language, but I did! Because I love you works! I have read/see (I say, my english is not so good) your blog this evening for the fist time and I love it!
    You are great!
    Baci dall'Italia

  12. Pretty and much more useful than the lamp :)

  13. Congrats on your fix! It looks great! I have a similar problem with my fireplace so I can totally relate to your frustrations! Hope I can come up with something as clever and beautiful!

  14. Great solution - MUCH better than the alcove! Love it - and who doesn't love built-in bookshelves?

  15. I love, love, love this!!

    I have one of those "leave things as they are" husbands...he's slowing learning that my "crazy" ideas are for good and not evil. :P

  16. Wow! What a difference that makes! You did a wonderful job

  17. What an amazing difference! Great job. You made it look really easy.

  18. holy cow. the "after" looks terrific & custom. wow!


  19. I featured you this week at my Hookin Up with HoH link party!

    Feel free to stop by and grab a button if you'd like.

    ~Allison @ House of Hepworths

  20. Your new built-in is fabulous! What a great way to use that space. You've accessorized them beautifully, too! *Becca* (your newest follower)

  21. I love it. Cracked me up that you added the wood in there! Almost wishing I had an asymmetrical alcove thingy!

  22. That looks amazing!

    Lindsey Turner

  23. Brilliant. Now I am walking around my house looking for a "weirdo" alcove and feeling cheated because I don't have one. Think I could build one?!

  24. I love reading your stuff and it looks amazing :)

  25. I am totally in love with your "built-ins"!!! They look fantastic. I think you might have just inspired me to do something similar above our television, in a HUGE space where the TV fits, but above it is a large empty wall.

    It would really complete the space, and add some much needed character.

    Thank you!

  26. I love the before pictures but I loooooooooooooove the after picture, the built in looks fantastic, it should have always been there.

  27. I came across your blog last night and already I love reading the crafts you've done! Amazing!

  28. Wow!! While I thought the lamp worked the shelving is wonderful!!! And you decorated the entire thing very well! Looks great!

  29. Beautiful job - I liked the lamp too, but I can see how you would have tired of it after a while (I'm the same, I need to change things up every now and then!). The shelves look uh-maze-ing, and I love the results. You have such wonderful ideas - I love reading your blog :)

    Looking forward to more,

  30. I did this! thank you so much for the help!!! I DEFINITELY gave you credit


  31. the before and after is amazing! i hope i can accomplish something like this pretty soon!

  32. This is beautiful!!!!

  33. Beautiful! very. Creative.
    Love it!!

  34. This is fantastic! I have a funny alcove and a custom built-in is beyond our budget at this point. Did you anchor the 1x2s to the wall as well or just screw them in? Thanks!


happy DIYing! Alicia