I've had a beautiful set of white built in shelving posted on our Gallery page for awhile now, but I was going through my photo archive recently and realized that I've never shared a "behind the scenes" blog post to show you how it was made.
The building process is the thing that sets our handmade bookshelves apart from the pre-fab stuff. Unlike pre-made furniture that's usually installed as separate units with seams in between, custom shelves can be created as one large unit, with no seams or gaps. That's because we personally install the shelves, so we're able to add the small touches that tie everything together.
Let's start with a picture of the finished bookcase with all the books in it, so you can see what we were working toward.
Next here's the empty room to compare it to. It's a bit of a visual surprise to see that this bookcase wasn't always there... it looks like it was built with the home, but of course it's quite new.
By the way, I learned something when we designed this piece. If you compare the "After" picture to the "Before" picture, you can see that without the bookcase, the room was dominated by the big fireplace, which seemed a little too large for the small space.
It's hard to get a sense of the size of the hearth from this photo because the ceilings are fairly tall, but that mantel is about six feet up! You can get a better idea of its height from the scale drawing which Faith made for the room.
Somehow the bookshelves made the room seem bigger, even though they actually reduced the floor space. The takeaway is that if you have a large element in a room and you can't easily change it, you can try balancing it with other large elements.
And these bookcases are definitely on the large side. The ceiling is nine feet up, a little higher than standard. This added some design challenges, because standard materials come in eight-foot lengths.
In the end I decided to build each of the three bookcases as two smaller units: a short section at the bottom with a taller section on top. (I could have built it another way, but I chose this option because it brought more structure and stability to the project, which is an important consideration on tall bookshelves like these.)
Once the cases were assembled, I cut out the individual shelves. I love projects like these, where there are lots of identical pieces. You can get into a nice rhythm of work and the time just flies right by.
Building the cases as smaller units also made the delivery and assembly run smoothly and efficiently, despite the narrow hallway I had to enter through.
You may notice that the sides of the bookcases seem fairly slender in this process photo. That's because I hadn't trimmed the unit out yet.
I covered the whole side of the unit with a long floor-to-ceiling board, and trimmed out the faces of the case with white painted wood. This gave the shelving a more substantial look, and it also added strength and solidity, which is very important when you're going to be putting hundreds of pounds of books on it!
Last but not least, I added crown and shoe molding to tie the unit in with the rest of the room. We went with a simple Shaker style to coordinate with the lines of the fireplace mantel.
The onsite installation of the trim is what makes the six parts look like one continuous piece... and since they're caulked together in place and the paint is touched up by hand, they'll always look that way.
It's a great technique for building a "big" bookcase in small pieces, and it's not something you typically get with pre-made bookshelves. Those almost always have visible seams between each bookcase.
I also cut out the baseboard behind the shelves so I could install them right up against the wall. Then I secured them to the wall for even more stability, and caulked the seam between the shelves and the wall.
That personal touch is what makes the shelving read as a continuous part of the room, as if it had always been there. And it helps that we custom painted everything to perfectly match the existing white trim.
The homeowners were so happy with the large unit that they had me come back and put in another, smaller shelf on the other side of the room.
I love the way they look with the books in them. There's something comfortable and warm about a home library.
If you want a cozy library of your own, give us a call. We can do white built in shelving, or freestanding wooden bookcases, or anything else you have in mind.
It's been a few weeks, but remember the mail organizer which I teased on my last post about the entryway cubby bench? It's finally done!
We were waiting for the countertop company to fabricate a piece of custom quartz for the top. And it was totally worth the wait. They did a great job. They even drilled a small hole to one side so that the desk doubles as a phone charging station.
Before we got started, this area was nothing much... just a little unused nook off the kitchen. It tended to collect gym bags and such.
However, it was centrally located in a high-traffic hallway between the front door & mudroom area, the kitchen, the coat closet (the door to the right), the master bedroom and the main floor bathroom.
Lots of homes have a spot like this near their kitchen. It's almost like the architect intended for it to be filled in with something. Well, that's what we're here for!
As I mentioned before, we had already built an entryway hutch to catch everyone's coats and shoes as they came in the front door.
However, the homeowner wanted a secondary place away from the door where everyone could safely stash things like phones, purses, mail and keys instead of piling them on the kitchen counter or breakfast bar.
I measured the nook and then had Faith draw up the design. I like the way she included a space in the middle for larger pieces of mail. There's always that one big envelope from the insurance company, that doesn't fit into your typical mail organizer.
Underneath we added a bulletin board which will serve as a rotating art display for the kids (or a place to keep restaurant take-out menus).
As usual I pre-assembled most of the pieces in my workshop. Our dog Silver was there to keep an eye on the proceedings.
We included a couple of extra semi-floating shelves high up on the wall to make the most use of the space. It might be a good spot for those papers that you can't throw away but will probably never need. (Or am I the only person that seems to collect that stuff?)
As I mentioned, this is right at the hub of the home, so you can get dressed in the morning, walk out of your bedroom, grab your keys and phone... and be ready for the day.
The little girl in the family was really excited about this project, because this area will also serve as her art desk. She left me some candy in the drawer as a "Thank you" present. Cute kid. Little things like this are why I love my job.
Any odd little kitchen nook can be turned into a multi-functional entryway mail organizer that keeps important little things from getting lost in the daily shuffle.
So give us a call to get organized!
Spring is here (at last) but as any long-time Asheville resident knows, it's not time to put away your coats and boots yet. By local tradition, we still have several "winters" to go until we hit the last "blackberry winter" in late April or early May.
I dropped by to see one of my customers, and she had still coats on the new entryway cubby bench which we recently installed for her.
Before, she only had a narrow space in her foyer for guests to take off their coats. There wasn't really even room to set down a chair. This is when fitted furniture is a great idea: you can turn a tight spot into a useful area.
This reminds me of a project I did years ago for an attorney who moved into an office that also had a narrow entryway. The previous lawyer had chairs in the vestibule, and clients were always tripping over one another's feet when they came in. The new bench was narrow, with no chair back to get in the way, so it made for more leg room.
Anyway, back to our current project...
Before I started work I had my wife, Faith, draw a model of the entryway cubby and bench so the homeowners could see what we planned to build for them.
This was helpful because it gave them a chance to visualize how high the various elements should be installed. The family ranged in height from little kids all the way up to a tall Dad, so we had to place the hooks where everyone could reach them.
On the other side of the entryway was the home office, which was separated from the rest of the house by a column.
We installed a pair of French doors with trim that coordinated with the existing door and crown molding. With these two projects done, the whole foyer was transformed. As the Mom said, it was surprising that a such large piece of furniture could make the room seem bigger.
This bench is mostly for guests. There's another coat closet near the kitchen which the family uses for coats and backpacks. So our next project will be to transform an empty niche nearby into a catch-all for mail, wallets, purses and keys.
(Plus an art desk for the little girl in the family. She's very excited!)
If your foyer seems "too small" to hold all the stuff it needs to hold, give us a call. We can turn even the slenderest space into an organized entryway... so you always have a place for your coat and keys.
I recently finished a built-in home office desk made from one of my favorite woods: Cherry. Look at that color!
While I was building it, I had ample time to contemplate the things that set custom-made furniture apart from pre-made pieces. One thing that makes this piece special is the care that I used when I was choosing each piece of wood.
Cherrywood has a LOT of variation, as you can see even in these unfinished boards.
The big left-hand board is fairly bland, while the one right next to it has an arrow-like pattern of ribboning. (This is another reason I love cherry... it can have a lot of depth and interest in the grain.)
As I added the first coats of poly, you could really see the difference.
When I built the drawers, I chose pieces that made a continuous wrap-around pattern, so they're as pretty on the inside as they are on the outside.
The sides of the desk also wrap around to match the header.
I got an especially pretty piece for the top. It's hard to get photos of wood grain, so you'll just have to use your imagination when I say that it had complex patterns that threw back gleams of light.
The desk really transformed the wall, which went from small and bland...
... to big and bold!
The cherrywood will darken over time and become redder as well, so this desk will just get better with age.
If your home office could use a little pizzazz, we can do that for you. And we'll pay attention to all the little details, too.
If your family loves to do paperwork (or homework) in the dining room, this is a great solution for keeping everything tidy.
At first glance it's a cozy built-in banquette... which is already really cool... but wait, there's more!
It opens up to reveal a hidden "secretary" desk where you can stash your papers and books.
We started by building the case in our studio. As you can see, the benches are also hollow, with flip-top lids to hide large objects. You could even hide a computer router in here, and stash the laptop behind the seat, to make a home office that's invisible when it's not in use.
The dining room we installed it in was fairly small...
...so the built-in banquette seating made efficient use of the space.
You may notice that there were a few changes to the design. For example, we added two doors to the back instead of one, and painted the bottom kick to match the baseboard. That's what sets custom furniture apart: the ability to customize it to your preferences.
With cushions and pillows, the built-in windowseat became a comfortable place to relax with a book and a mug of tea.
If you've got stuff all over the dining room table, this banquette could help you reclaim your eating area but still have a place to stash things out of site. Give us a call to get one for your home, so you can be beautifully organized.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!