A Peek at Our Bookcase Project Progress

I've teased some content on Instagram Stories but have yet to fully walk through our latest home project. This is a "2 year in the making" project. We knew from the moment we moved in that a wall of bookcases and a working fireplace in our living room would take our home from a basic living space to a cozy, charm-filled room.

Honestly this project is going to transform our downstairs. We've (and by we, I mean Lee) has been meticulously chugging along on the project for about 5 weeks now with only a few weeks until a likely completion date.

Let's take a little room tour, shall we?

Brick Fireplace renovation
Renovation of a brick fireplace
Frame TV 8

Back at the beginning of our home renovation (two years ago!!) the living room was divided by a monster brick hearth and floor to ceiling brick feature. The hearth and half the wall was demolished by our contractor right off the bat but we didn't know yet what we were doing to the rest of the wall.

Over the 2020 winter the plans started to come together for what we wanted to do and what the design should look like. We created a 3D rendering of the room and wall and from there started to gather materials and tools.

Bookshelves model

Of course, nothing in home renovation is quite that simple and straightforward. All credit to Lee though who has absolutely crushed this project – thinking through all the details and particularities of the project.

So What Are We Doing?

Y'all know we love books. We love reading and collecting and recommending books. So the long span of our living room is going to be turned into two giant bookcases. Twelve shelves in total with a 60" span each will leave us with an abundance of space to house (and buy!!) books. In the middle of the two built-in bookcases an electric fireplace (we bought this one) , mantle, and TV will add a bit of cozy functionality to the space.

Grey stone will encase the fireplace, a walnut mantle will float in between the tv and fireplace, and the bookcases will be deliciously dark and moody, painted in a deep dark green with brass library lights and accents.

We're keeping our current furniture - likely adding a new entryway table and some end tables but I'm so excited about the rug we purchased a while back from the Rifle Paper Co X Loloi collaboration.

Librrary 1
Librrary 3
Librrary 2

Our Current Status

We've managed to check off a lot of the unknowns off our list. From the start we weren't sure how the electrical was going to work for us. The fireplace is electric so it needs it's own situation and then we also decided to add outlets on the interior sides of the shelves for plugging in things like a record player, decor, etc. We also needed a light switch for the library lights and then outlets for the TV.

Last week we were able to get the electrical sorted out (which meant Lee had to spend a Saturday morning in our crawl space running new wires) but currently they're all ready to be fed into the new outlets and switches.

We were also finally able to get the rest of the red oak plywood for the shelves (buildings materials are scarce these days!) so over the weekend it was all about finishing the carcasses of the shelves while I started priming them.

Next steps include:

  • Finishing electrical work
  • Fitting in plugs and switches
  • Painting the shelves ( two coats of primer 1 coat of paint)
  • Finishing out the structure of the TV/fireplace wall
  • Choosing stone for the fireplace
  • Hanging drywall
  • Ordering the mantel and lights
  • Mounting the shelves
  • Facing the shelves
  • And a bunch of other small tasks / things I'm likely forgetting

So Why Not Just Use Everyone's Favorite IKEA Hack?

I've gotten this question a lot recently. Home DIYers LOVE a good IKEA billy bookcase hack and for good reason. They're inexpensive, very easy to customize, and pretty basic.

To be honest we did explore that route at the beginning of planning this project but a few things turned us away from them and toward the custom built route.

  1. They're sold out pretty much everywhere. Unless you have an IKEA trick to finding things in stock, you're likely to find these bookcases sold out of IKEA's nationwide. Shipping fees are super high at IKEA too so the likelihood of getting our hands on enough of these shelves was not super high.
  2. The wall we're customizing is huge. This is a personal preference, but we wanted the bookcases to be the star of the show instead of a massive TV. With that decision then, comes the awareness that the span of the bookcase shelves were about 5 feet long. On both sides of the TV wall. Billy Bookcases (or any prefab bookcase) just does not come in a span that large.
  3. We didn't want cubbies. I personally don't love the look of a large shelf of a bookcase divided into smaller sections for the sake of sturdiness. With the Billy bookcase we'd have to fit 3-4 along one wall just to take up the wall space meaning there would be lots of shelf divisions and cubbies, which didn't work for our particular design aesthetic.
  4. They can look good or they can look like poorly fitted pieces. Because they're so agile in their configuration they can look look like cheap bookcases. Of course you can do the work to build them in, face them, paint them, etc . but at that point you're not saving too much money.
  5. They weren't going to be that much cheaper.