Building A Built-In (And Making It Look Original)

Hey friends, today we’re diving a little deeper into my TV room. Why? Because that built-in bookcase and cabinet is my dream come true. It was one of the very first ideas I had when we started renovating the house, and seeing it come to fruition was WILD. But, while the idea was mine (and yes, it was genius), the actual bringing to life of this project was the result of the amazing design skills of Velinda Hellen and excellent construction by our contractor Ron.

So, I’m going to let Velinda take it from here . . .

Back in 2019 when Sara showed me her awkward corner she said, “so you can just… design something to stretch from one wall to the other that makes the shape of the  room feel more balanced and purposeful. Something with decent storage that feel like it belongs with the rest of the house and hides this weird corner.” Oh, okay Sara. I’ll just do that.

She handed off the sketch of the rough concept she had in mind, which I hope she still has and inserts here:

Did that work? Is there a picture above now? GREAT. So now you can now see what I was working with. (It was actually very helpful. You don’t have to be Picasso to try to communicate with your designer). I measured her existing space, took into consideration future millwork that didn’t yet exist (door trim) and got to drawing. 

This piece of the design took me about 7.5 hours from measuring to concept, through drawing and dimensioning. It then took me another hour of calls with the carpenter making sure the details were being executed just so. 

an overhead look at the design

So let’s look at those details. Due to the sharp angle of that wall, centering the lower storage (as Sara’s hunch had been) would have actually removed a great deal of what was usable about the space. The wall not housing the exterior door is flat and  provides an area to make a full box, unlike the sloped wall, which doesn’t permit shelves to be deep enough to be useful right along the wall. Still, why lose that handy, full box on the opposite side? 

straight on details

By dedicating that normal-shaped box to stand on its own as a high-functioning lower (ie. inserting pull-out drawers), but combining the remaining awkward space into one cabinet so that there was flexibility to maneuver around that awkward shape, I attempted to give Sara and Mac the game-storage they needed.

a look inside . . .

I also wanted to make sure electronics could be wired to hide in here since I knew the layout of the room wouldn’t allow for a legit media console. A shallow shelf was about the best we could get. 

What I liked about this design too is the stretch of evenly-sized cabinet doors would almost feel like millwork in the room… and millwork plus built-ins are something craftsman homes traditionally have a lot of. So to leave that millwork-inspired feel, I made the door open via a push latch, so no hardware is necessary.

The rest was easy; center some open shelving, throw in some beadboard detailing, finish it off trim to match the rest of the room and push it off on someone else to do the hard part (the building). 

When it came to actually building the bookcase, they hired an awesome contractor named Ron. First he built the lower and upper sections separately off site, and assembled them on site. Then he added drywall and plastered over everything. Finally he spray painted the whole thing with a color-matched lacquer.

Here’s what it looked like once it all came together. You an see the angled wall in the bottom cabinets that allowed us to keep more depth, while we flattened out the top half.

Once it was all said and done, this is what Sara and Mac ended up with – a stunning built-in that not only looks original to the room, but works super functionally for their lives:

Finding the right lights was the hardest part of this whole ordeal. I knew right away that I wanted to flank the design with sconces for that library-feel, but we the swing of the door meant finding ones the had barely any projection (max 7”).

After a lot of hunting or “sourcing” (not included in the 8.5 hours I spent designing this whole thing), these became the perfect solution. The brass pops against that moody, deep green and the shades provide an ambient, diffuse glow adequate to allow overheads to be killed at night. I’ve witnessed, this room gets seeeexxxxy in the evening.

Ok! That’s it for me, I’m going to hand it back over to Sara who’s going to share just a little bit more about how it’s holding up, now that they’ve been living with and using this for several months.

I’m BACK! So . . . now that the photoshoot is over and we’re actually living in this room, how are we using it? Well, it’s mostly game storage. The top shelf houses Mac’s PS4, our router, and our modem. My dad and Mac spent about two days drilling and configuring all the wires so that they all hook up to the TV by running under the floor. Then the two pull out drawers are used for card games and video games.

“But if everything is neatly wired under the floors, then what is that white cord hanging out of the top shelf?” you may be wondering. Haha, that’s a little peek at reality. It’s an ethernet cable that runs from our modem all the way to the front bedroom and plugs into Mac’s desktop. Since we’re both working from home, Mac needs he’s intense work set up to run super fast, and that means a hardwire to the internet. It’s chill.

And here’s what we’re storing on the inside of those cabinets. GAMES. Listen, I wasn’t kidding when I said we were big game people. And these cabinets manage to barely store ALL of our games. Plus, please see our “normal life” styling on the shelves above. Not too different from the photoshoot styling, but definitely more pops of Mac in there 🙂

And now the part I know you’ve all been waiting for . . . The final tally. What did this little project cost us. Well, very luckily for us, we didn’t actually have to pay Velinda for her 8.5 hours of designing on this project (if you want a closer look at the juicy details of how much it actually costs to work with a designer you can read that post here), BUT we did pay for all the materials and for Ron’s labor.

  • Cabinet materials (paint, wood, drywall, etc.) – $1200
  • Drawers and hardware – $67.46
  • Cabinet construction (including materials) and install – $2,350
  • Sconces – $129.98
  • Sconce shades – $30.99
  • ACTUAL GRAND TOTAL: $3,778.43
  • Velinda’s theoretical cost – $1,547
  • THEORETICAL GRAND TOTAL – $5,325.43

So, it’s wasn’t a budget project (even without Velinda’s theoretical design fee), but it was a great investment that really makes the whole room feel complete. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. HUGE thank you to Velinda for her brilliant design (hire her!), and to Ron for his beautiful execution (DM me on Insta if you’d like his contact info and you’re in the LA area!).

Has anyone else taken on a similar project? Or were you lucky enough to have an existing built-in (like we did in our living room on either side of our fireplace)? Let’s chat!

Fin Mark

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