Create Modern Built-In’s for your Living Room

I have a serious color palette problem, it’s brown and it’s everywhere in my house.  For example, my recent dining room table project.  In my living room, there was a giant armoire and shelving set that needed to go.  Behind the armoire, was a decent sized cut in by the fireplace.  I had always thought about adding shelves to the space but had never really come up with exactly what I wanted.  My living room had really intimidated me for many years, with 19 foot ceilings and a lot of wall to fill.  I pretty much felt like I had never gotten it right.

Before Pic


After 15 years, it was time.  I used a tall ladder and extended rolling pole to paint within a couple of inches from the ceiling and then rented scaffolding to do the rest.  These high ceilings are a lot of work but SO worth it.  I chose a dark grey for the accent wall (fireplace/built in wall) and then painted the rest a light grey that will be on most of my other walls in the main areas.  I painted the fireplace white with some areas where I let the dark come through and added a slight little bit of grey to get a worn but white look.






















I did a lot of looking around online trying to figure out how we were going to make these built-in’s look modern and fresh.  Then Markus thought of adding butcher block style shelves.  To do actual butcher block wood shelves wood have been pricey, so we found the butcher block counter tops at Ikea for $100 each.  These are not solid butcher block and only have one top and the sides that look like butcher block finish but it works in my space (the cut edge is to the wall).

We started by trimming the butcher block counter tops to fit into the cut in space.  Then we used a circular saw to cut one inch pieces the same length as the sides that would serve as supports below each shelf.












The picture below shows the support piece being installed – make sure to use a level, then use 2.5 inch screws to attach the supports to the wall/studs.

level each shelf support














You will want to measure each side and each level in your built-in area.  Our house is 15 years old and has settled slightly, we had to make some allowances where the wall was not as square as the butcher block.  The picture below clearly shows how the supports were attached on all three sides.















The cords to the TV were run up behind the wall and the TV mounted to the wall with hardware that has an adjustable arm.  I added baskets for games, remotes, and movies.   I needed something else from a decor perspective, so I added a pouf for additional seating and foot rest.  After trying to sell the old furniture online (with no luck), we are using it as storage in the garage and I’m glad it didn’t sell.

After Pic














I really like the clean modern new look!


  • Valerie

    Your color choices are lovely. I think you did a fantastic job updating that the room. That area was crying out for exactly what you did to it. Love it!

  • Beth H Pierce

    I’m sorry, but your shelving is serviceable and that is all. Its looks bear no relation to the style of the mantle., nor does the shelving appear finished.
    Although the mantle is really quite beautiful, it was not made to fit the firebox. Here is what would really work: Remove the white mantle surround and sell it or keep it for another future home. Using matching wood, begin 10 or 12″ D shelving on the far left (looking at the picture) and continues straight across, turning and going into the niche (the shelf should appear to be all one continuous piece of wood, 10 or 12″ D on the large wall and the existing depth in niche). Two shelves each like this to match up with the top two shelves you have put in. The second shelf will skim above the firebox, so be sure to add a heat deflector hood below it.
    To make them appear finished, use 1×3’s across the front edge (the 3″ part will be hanging down facing you) to finish off the raw edge. It will look amatuer unless you do this part. (Splice sections together by cutting them on an angle, not by cutting them straight down.)
    I remodeled homes as part of my career as an interior decorator and truly believe this will give you a more cohesive, modern look.

  • chaosqueen

    Hello Beth, while I can appreciate your “professional” opinion, consider that the whole point of my website is to reduce waste, reuse and save money. If I had ripped out the fireplace, which is the original mantle/firebox that came standard with every home in my sub-division (so yes, they go together), I would have been looking at new flooring as well because of the base of the white mantle and the hardwood flooring installed around it. The butcher block counter top is 100% finished when you buy it so perhaps the picture does not reflect that? While I am sure every professional would prefer homeowners that rip and replace and spend many $$$$’s on remodels, my website is geared toward what you can do to avoid hiring a professional team/interior designer but I appreciate your feedback.

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