Monday, May 4, 2020

The One with the Custom DIY Bookshelves: Part 1

We have this room upstairs. The floor plan classifies it as a loft; however, we have yet to formally utilize this room as for any purpose whatsoever in the 8+ years we've lived in our home. It eventually turned into a play area of sorts, if "play area" is defined as a dumping ground for all of our kids' stuff!

I eventually realized that BOOKS are one of the biggest culprits of clutter in our home, so I decided to add bookshelves for storage, thinking somehow this would magically clean up the space and make it functional.

Unfortunately, that was NOT the case.

For starters, I purchased cheap $30 bookshelves. They look cheaper than they cost. And the shelves didn't do such a great job at holding books--the ONE thing they were designed to do!--and eventually started sagging in the middle.

I also added two cube storage units, one of which I had the hubs hang on the wall, and it created a sort of "entertainment center" with all the books, toys, and the TV.

But y'all. It was a breeding ground for JANKY CLUTTER. And it drove. me. crazy.

About a month ago, I called a family meeting in this cluttered space and put everyone to work! We took EVERYTHING off the shelves, sorted through the books (lots to donate, and several that were falling apart we needed to toss), put all the game consoles away (we've had a glorious lockdown of zero electronics for the past several months--I highly recommend it!), threw out trash, organized DVDs, and basically anything and everything necessary to finally organize this space once and for all!

Don't just take my word for it, though. I've got PICTURES! Check out this "Before" photo of these messy bookshelves I speak of:


Awful, right? Told ya so!

It was SO bad. But wait! There's an "After" pic, too! Check it out:


That's better, isn't it?

Ugh. Not really.

It just still didn't look right.

Here's the deal. We're starting our 7th year of homeschooling. As such, we have a TON of books that need a home. And we will continually be adding more books to our collection. And they won't be going anywhere for the next 18+ years. So I decided I wanted a more permanent space to store our books.

Side note: We also needed a storage solution for the kids' games. They were stored behind the door in our laundry room. Not the most useful space/location, and also in need of an overhaul (exciting blog post coming soon!). Pardon my embarrassment at sharing the following image:


See what I mean? Lots of stuff in lots of places that all needed a permanent, organized home!

I scoured the interwebs and found exactly what I wanted to do with the loft space. Check out that link from Jeni at Roots & Wings Furniture! We needed a built-in bookshelf for the books, with cabinets for the games (and other stuff that needed hidden storage)! And this DIY link had the perfect step-by-step instructions to give me the confidence that hubs and I could knock this out ourselves. This would be the perfect, permanent solution! It would also help define this space upstairs (more on that later).

Now the fun begins!

We moved ALL of the books and games into our master bedroom, which basically emptied the entire wall. We removed the bookshelves and cube storage units.

Now, we had previously painted the entire downstairs Repose Gray by Sherwin-Williams. I LOVE this gray!


We always planned to paint the upstairs as well... it just hadn't happened yet.

Well, it was time! We knocked out the entire upstairs, which really was just a hallway and the loft. It went pretty quickly, and I LOVED how nice it looked with clean, freshly-painted walls. Here's a little mid-progress peek:


Once the walls were painted, it was time to start planning our new built-in bookshelves. We had 120" of space to work with. We had originally planned to do one cabinet in the center with shelves above it, and full shelves on either side. I really wanted the bookshelf storage. But because of the width of our space and the width of the cabinets and 100 other reasons, we ultimately decided to do cabinets along the entire width of the wall. Here is a mock-up of our design:


Jeni recommended Lowe's cabinets over Home Depot's, so I put together the world's hugest Lowe's order and set it up for truck delivery. On Saturday, April 25th, the Lowe's truck arrived and the nicest fella unloaded our goodies!


And we had a LOT of goodies! LOL!


Meanwhile, the loft was all kinds of ready for this exciting endeavor! Don't the painted walls look so pretty?


Up first? I wanted to prep and paint my cabinets. We purchased four 30" wall cabinets and I wanted to get them painted before installation. This worked out well considering I had hubs working hard on installing a pocket door in the laundry room (more on that later!). While he finished up that project, I was prepping for this one. I used Valspar 2000 semi-gloss high hide white interior paint. It worked like a charm! I made sure to add Flood Floetrol paint conditioner to help ensure the paint settled nicely without any brush or roller marks. And it did! :)


I wanted these to look NICE, so I sanded them with 120 grit sandpaper, cleaned them, painted them, sanded them with 180, cleaned them, painted them, sanded them with 220, and cleaned them. It was a lengthy process, but worth it in the end because they turned out lovely!

Here's a mid-progress pic after just one coat of paint:


I followed the same process with the doors. It was a lengthy process over several days. Eight cabinet doors times three coats of paint and three sandings and three cleanings... and that was just for the inside of the doors! I then repeated the same process with the outside. And let's all remember the fact that all of this is taking place while 31 weeks pregnant!

Here are a few pics of the progress with the doors over several days:




Look at that beautiful, semi-glossy sheen! I'm in LOVE!


I spent some time researching whether or not to put a top coat on the cabinets. Everything I read indicated that using polyurethane over bright white paint would cause the finish to yellow. I did NOT want that to happen! But in a house with 5 young kids, I was worried about the finish holding up over the years ahead. I spoke to a friend of mine with connections to a cabinetmaker, and she confirmed for me that as long as there is a smooth finish, the wood is protected. Honestly, I'm pretty confident it will hold up just fine! So no topcoat here!

Hubs finally got a break in his laundry room project, and was ready to join me in working on the bookshelves. YAY!

For starters, he removed the baseboard on the walls, and cut out the carpet and padding:



Next, he framed the base of the structure with 2x4s. This is because we chose wall cabinets, as they are only 12" deep, but they don't have a kick plate/base. We wanted to raise them off the floor, and also wanted to have room to put the baseboard back in front of the cabinets when we were done.


Next, hubs installed the cabinets by screwing them into the studs in the back wall and also into the next cabinet. He was super creative with this step, and managed to put the screws in places that would eventually be covered by other parts of the built-ins. He REALLY doesn't want anyone seeing any screws or nails, which will add to the overall beauty of the finished product!

Don't they look great all officially installed?


I should mention that we have an outlet on this wall, so hubs cut out the back panel of the third cabinet (seen in the photo above) to allow access to the outlet. Not sure if/when/how we'll need it, but it's there if we ever do.

Next up, it was time to prep the 1x12 and 1x2 that would be placed on top of the cabinets. I had some of the cutest helpers around with this step! (Note: These pics were taken before hubs installed the cabinets, which is why there isn't a cut-out for the outlet.)



Now it was time to install the shelf on the cabinets!

Again, hubs positioned the nails in places that will be hidden. Yay! We placed a 1x2 against the wall, and put a 1x12 next to it. This made a nice little lip to overhang the cabinets.




Next up? Time to put those beautiful doors in place! I added these simple cabinet door pulls and absolutely love them!


I’ll let hubs do all the tiny tweaks to ensure the individual cabinet doors are at the right height and have the right distance between them, but overall I think they look great!!

Since this post is already 12,000,000 words long, I’ll end this for now and write another one for the next step: adding the bookshelves! I love how well it’s coming together!

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