The Junk Parlor

Built-ins Around The Fireplace

Our built-ins around the fireplace are done! One Room Challenge Week 7 is FINALLY happening THREE MONTHS late!

Don’t even get me started on the nightmare of our built-ins!! If you follow me on social media than you know I haven’t even been able to talk about it because I was just getting SO frustrated and on the verge of tears.  I cry when I’m angry which is equally annoying.  

Hubby and I didn’t talk about it either because we kept panicking that we were going to be out $$$$$.  And that would have been my fault because I’m too nice and trusting obviously.  So when the cabinets finally got finished, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders, hubby’s shoulders.

Hubby didn’t even want to do the built-ins.  Not only did he not see my vision for the space, but he didn’t want to pay for them either. Then as more and more time passed without the built-ins getting built, we figured we would never get built-ins even though we paid for them.  It was a lot of stress on us!

You see I’ve been looking at walls covered in paint swatches for months.  Every evening watching tv we would be staring at empty walls where the built-ins should be.  Our house is all open, so every day all day was a constant reminder of what was not getting built. I was irritable.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t decorate for Christmas.  I couldn’t decorate at all.  UGH!

But now.  They are done! Not perfect.  Not how we designed them.  But done.  

Unfinished fireplace built-ins.

Done is Better Than Pefect

When you wait forever for a project to get finished done is sometimes better than perfect. Originally I designed the built-ins to have the bottom shelf 18′ off the counter. The carpenter suggested putting that stationary shelf even with the mantle which would have been 24″ off the countertop. Note that it isn’t either of those. It is more like 14″ but I left it. I was too scared to have him take the cabinets home to fix and trust that they would be brought back and installed.

Note that the plywood backing on the far right is a different grain pattern than the rest of the pieces. I said something when we installed it, but the carpenter assured me it was the same kind of wood. Well, it didn’t look good, so he attempted to fix this error by adding a thin sheet of paneling over the top that would be a better match.

These are just a couple things that didn’t quite go as planned. In the course of 3 months my carpenter had 3 family members die, was in the hospital, his dad was in the hospital, and his garage was broken into with all the wood and his tools getting stolen. Some days he texted me that he would be there and then he wasn’t. He over booked, he needed a nap, blah, blah, blah. Do you see why I’m glad these actually got built?

Full shot of living room built-ins unfishinshed.
Finished built-ins without the adjustable shelving

Week 7 Staining the Built-ins

When I first designed the built-ins I knew that I wanted them to have the raw wood look like my dining room table.  I knew that this wood actually being new would finish differently than other pieces I have worked with.  Those older pieces have been stained, painted, lived long lives before I stripped and sanded them down.

All of the history in a piece and type of wood influences it’s look.

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Instead of staining or even sealing the built-ins, I decided to leave them bare.  I decided to go this route for a few reasons.

First, I like they way they look.  Anytime you add something to wood, it changes the look of the wood. 

Second, I watched a few HGTV shows while I was trying to make up my mind and many times they left pieces unfinished.  Doors, cabinets and shelving, etc.  I figured if they were doing it, then my idea of doing nothing wasn’ that strange.

My only caution is that the piece is more susceptible to water rings from drinks and plants.  An easy solution is to never have either of those on the built-ins, but I have already added a real plant.

I did take precautions…the pot is in a basket which is on a plate which is on a breadboard that is on a cutting board!

Ace water based filler neutral color, putty knife and sand paper

Filling Nail Holes

Even though I won’t be sealing or staining the built-ins any time soon, I did still have work to do.  The biggest task which was probably my carpenters job!!  Is to fill in nail holes.  I selected natural wood filler.

Even though I have filled numerous nail holes on furniture, walls, baseboards, etc. I watched about 5 YouTube videos for tips.  It was very interesting to hear their tips. Ultimately I decided to use a putty knife to fill the holes.  I used a small amount of putty and tried to scrap off as much excess as possible after the hole was filled.

The theory behind wiping off all of the access was to save myself time sanding AND make it look better.  Wood filler is always going to want to get into the grain of the wood.  My experience is that no amount of sanding by hand gets that out.

On spots where the wood was very light, the wood filler blends perfectly.  However there is a lot of variance in wood tones on the built-ins so where the wood is a little bit darker, the light colored filler is much more noticeable.

The less I use, the less noticeable it should be.

From my experience wood filler dries out quickly. So for this application I would put some filler on my putty knife and then put the lid back on the tub of filler. When the filler was getting dry on my putty knife I would take a damp paper towel and clean off the putty knife.

The carpenter had a lot of problems screwing into the plywood at center, so there were a lot of holes from that that needed to be filled.  He also didn’t make the upper cabinets tall enough so screws from their assembly needed filled.  There were also many places where trim split when he used the nail gun and even a broken trim piece. 

All of these mistakes meant I needed to use more nail filler which make these spots more noticeable.  My carpenter knew I wanted the raw wood look.  He knew these built-ins wouldn’t be getting painted.  When you paint something like this, it’s much easier to disguise flaws.  

After filling in the holes I went over all of the spots with sandpaper.  I used fine grit sandpaper by hand.  As I sanded nail holes I found more to fill that I missed the first time.  After sanding the ones with dry wood filler I went back over the holes I had missed.

Built-ins with wood filler in the nail holes before sanding
Built-ins with wood filler in the nail holes before sanding. A bench is leaning against one door because it is warped.
I have the bench there because the door is warped.

Once those had dried, I sanded those down as well.  Then I vacuumed up dust and used a damp cloth to remove more dust particles.

Sanding the nail holes made some areas of the darker wood lighter in color.  I felt the cabinet fronts were looking to “spotted” so on a whim I got out my orbital sander and hit all of the fronts with it.  Even where there wasn’t wood filler.

My sander has a bag on it, but of course using it inside put dust everywhere.  So I cleaned up the dust on the built-ins and proceeded to clean the entire house.  Windows, toilets, vacuumed couch cushions.  Everything got a deep cleaning.

orbital dewalt sander

For the built-ins I used a dust rag, vacuumed them, used a damp rag, vacuumed them.  I know there is still some dust from sanding to wipe up, but I will just dust and vacuum every time I rearrange my shelves. My first round of sanding and cleaning I didn’t have the adjustable shelves installed.  However, the second round I did, so dust seemed to get stuck in the cracks of the adjustable shelving.

Week 8 is all about adding decor.  As I decorated and rearranged the shelves, sanding dust fell out.

Finishing Touches

The entire reason I designed the bottom of the cabinets the way I did was so that we could have the functionality of doors with the look of drawers.  I planned on adding cup pulls to each faux drawer.

Being a vintage reseller I often find cup pulls and have actually bought and sold a ton to one particular customer.  So I really wanted to find some vintage ones, even if they didn’t perfectly match.

After my sister saw the built-ins though she said I shouldn’t add anything because it would make it too busy.  Hubby agreed, but I am still undecided.  I need 36 pulls, so once I have a few I’ll probably tape them on or something so that I can see what they are going to look like. Then I will make that decision.

Let me know in the comments what you think!

Left side view of finished built-ins with the adjustable shelving installed.
Right side of built-ins with adjustable shelving installed.

Should You Get Built-Ins?

This was a big debate in our household.  Hubby was content with how things were, but I saw the need for something around our fireplace.  To me, it was a mistake by the builder to not have some kind of feature on this wall that was already pumped out from the rest of the house.

We knew that we would be in this house for a minimum of 5 years.  Why 5 years?  Kash will graduate them.  Once that happens we have a lot of flexibility in where we live.

So do built-ins add value to your home? My research determined that the answer was yes.  That is a nice bonus to making the investment to add these to our home.  I was very conscientious that not only did I want something that would help our home sell when the time came, but I also wanted to do something that I would enjoy.

I pictured built-ins from the moment this home became ours.  So often as homeowners we put off doing projects and upgrades until we are ready to sell our homes.  We end up doing things that we never get to enjoy.  I think that is one of the reasons I pushed for this investment in our home just a few months after living here.

One Room Challenge

Want to see more participants in the One Room Challenge? Check it out HERE.

Living Room Makeover Game Plan

Week 1 – Create a Game Plan & Pick a Paint Color

Week 2 – Paint the Living Room

Week 3 – Tackle the Carpet & Transform the Window Treatment

Part 1 – Carpet Dent Removal

Part 2 – Trimming the Blinds

Week 4 – Install Peg Rack Wall / Board & Batten Wall

Week 5 – Picking Other Furniture for the Room

Week 6 – Built-Ins *these are finally done 3 months later!

No blog post for this specific week!

Week 7 – Staining the Built-Ins

This is what you are reading about now!

Week 8 – Adding Decor

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Week 1 Living Room Makeover

Week 2 Picking a Paint Color

Week 3 Part 1 Removing the Indentations in the Carpet

Week 3 Part 2 Transforming Blinds

Week 4 Board and Batten Wall

One Room Challenge Pinterest Pin of the unfinished board and batten wall.  Brooke Johnson | The Junk Parlor | Old stuff and cool junk for your home | Business Coach for Antique Dealers | thejunkparlor.com

Week 5 & 6 Selecting Furniture

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Pinterest pin. one room challenge. finishing the built-ins for week 7

4 thoughts on “Built-ins Around The Fireplace”

    1. Thank you! Seeing them we think so too! It was just a hard decision to make at first! I’m good at imagining things, but I was still nervous!!

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