Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Home Improvement: DIY Built-Ins & a Wall of Frames

Warning: This post contains no food, whatsoever. If you're here for dessert porn, just scroll on through and pretend this post never happened. But, if you're an HGTV addict like myself, I think you'll enjoy this brief segue into a little DIY home improvement. 

When we first made the leap from an apartment to a house, I promised to keep you updated on any progress! Well, it's been a few months and although we're not anywhere near being finished, we have made some progress! Begin slow clap now. The desire to have our home completed and combined with the demand of real life is a constant struggle. My time for fixing up the house is now delegated to my son's blissful nap hours. I now realize that I am not capable of moving into a "fixer-upper" as I would drive myself mad. I'll begin one project, get distracted and start another, completely forgetting about the first project altogether. That is, of course, until my 16 month old waddles over with a few screws in his hand, reminding me that 1.) Oh yeah! I forgot about that picture I was hanging, and 2.) I'm terrible at baby-proofing, thank you Nolan for not swallowing those. 

On the top of the everest-like mountain of projects that my husband and I want to tackle is our living room. This is not only our living room, it's our foyer, play room, TV room and my office. Having built-in shelves has always been a dream of mine. It's just what adults do--they have built-ins stocked with beautiful books. (Or, in my case, an abundance of cake stands and cookbooks.) Luckily, we have plenty of wall space and a perfect wall to attempt built-ins. The only hitch is that they cost a fortune and need to be installed by someone who knows what they are doing (i.e. not me.) So, we decided to DIY our own built-ins and my husband Tom transformed two Ikea bookcases into a couple of fancy pants faux built-ins. 

Here's how we completed our own Ikea hack:
1. We purchased two of these white Hemnes bookcases from Ikea for $149 each. 
2. We lived with them for about a month and was unimpressed by how small they looked in the space. While we brainstormed on how to upgrade our bookcases, I bought a simple white parsons desk from Target for $70 to fill in the space under the window. 
3. In one of our bi-weekly Home Depot trips, we stumbled across a set of basic white kitchen cabinets. We reluctantly bought them for $144 each, not really knowing how they would help us solve our built-in predicament. 
4. We decided to elevate the Ikea bookcases on top of the kitchen cabinets, raising them all the way to the ceiling and creating a new storage space below. Because these weren't base-cabinets they aren't designed to hold the weight of an entire bookcase and its contents, so Tom had to reinforce them. Basically, he nailed several strips of wood along the inside frame and created a strong platform for the Ikea bookcases to sit on. The Hemnes bookcases come with feet, so we had to saw those off and screw the bottom of the bookcase directly into the top of the kitchen cabinet. Just to be safe, we also secured the top of the bookcases into the wall. These suckers aren't going anywhere!

It should also be noted that we painted our walls grey which helps the white bookshelves and trim pop!

The photos aren't great, but you get the idea. What a difference elevating a couple bookcases makes! The track lighting was our solution to not having any overhead lighting in our living room. Seriously, we don't have one light! They were the cheapest track lighting options Home Depot had (about $30 each) and they now add a gorgeous glow to our living room. Also, we can now see all the dog hair that had accumulated. Eventually, we plan on adding a strip of wood molding to hide the track lighting a little better as I'm not crazy about how large they are. 

On another wall of our multi-pupose living room, I decided to hang a bunch of frames. Like, dozens, actually. This project was actually really fun for me because I love the chance to add a personal touch to our home and photos are just the trick. Now, if you don't plan accordingly, a wall of frames can quickly turn into a disaster. Uneven frames, too much symmetry, not enough symmetry, or running out of wall space can all lead to lots of holes in your wall. I learned how to map out a wall of frames from the blog Young House Love and although theirs was a much larger project than mine, using paper as a guide was incredibly helpful. A couple rules I tried to adhere to: Try to keep the largest frames in the middle of the cluster and get as varied as you can with sizes. Don't just frame photos, postcards and fabric swatches add lots of color. Think outside of the box frame and try hanging a metal letter or something that is meaningful to you. Here's how my wall came out. I'll probably add another dozen frames, but for now it does the trick. 


  1. as always Seton, it’s a great project. I really admire your creative ideas and great transformation effect!

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  2. Love this!! Great Work!! Also - love your books grouped by color!! and your cake stand collection!!

  3. Great work..The process of making it wonderful is really good..

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