You might have noticed that many of our product photos look as if an interior designer has been there. Which is often the case, like with this fireplace which we built for Leslie Huntley of Roost Interior Designs. (Leslie is great at filling in a room with all of the right touches.)
Pretty pictures like this are nice, but maybe you're wondering how a custom bookcase would look in an ordinary home, with "too many books" and "too many plants." (As if you can ever have too many books or plants... but I digress.)
So this post is for those of you who wonder how our shelves look in "real life."
If you've been following along for awhile, you probably remember how we fixed an ugly fireplace mantel to make a classic white hearth. Here's a before-and-after to refresh your memory:
Before, there was a weird mantel-shelf thing that jutted out about a foot into the room, and it just didn't look right. We took it down and replaced it with a new fireplace surround and a pair of bookcases, working around the existing tile:
Looks great, doesn't it?
Now, as you've probably guessed, there is a little bit of staging in this photo. Since we don't usually get to come back and see our bookshelves in use, we added a few props so you could see the shelves as they might look with books in them.
But staged photos aren't as interesting as the real thing, which is why we were thrilled when our customer sent us a photo of the shelves after she had filled them up with books.
You can see that they've also painted or replaced the old brown tile with a dark black color to make a more modern look. And added plants galore! These are my kind of people.
The customer's boyfriend is an English teacher, so of course they have a large collection of books. They actually had us build an extra shelf for each bookcase so they could take advantage of every inch of space. We left that out of our original photo because we couldn't imagine how they would use it... but as a matter of fact it looks really cool with the extra books laying on it.
Our customer left us a very kind review as well:
"My boyfriend and I had just purchased a home where a wall in the living room was lacking a lot of character. We had an idea for bookcases and a new mantle that we wanted to execute, and luckily found the best people for the job!
Arthur and Faith were not only extremely responsive and professional, they were also kind and excited about the project. They completed the entire project within 2 weeks and it looks like an absolute dream. We are so grateful for their hard work and would definitely recommend them to anyone seeking a local and lovely couple to handle their next project!"
- Rebecca Hill
Thank you, Rebecca! We feel lucky to have such generous clients.
If you wondering how bookshelves would look in your home, get in touch with us. Our cabinet designer Faith will help you preview your project with a custom 3D model...
...and then we'll match the model as closely as possible in real life. All you'll have to do is add "too many books" and maybe "too many plants."
by Faith Teel
This post is just for you "blue and white" fans! I'm one of you. I love the new trend of color sneaking in with all the gray and white we've been seeing, and blue is so easy to integrate with neutrals.
Speaking of gray, remember those blue-gray bookshelves that we installed at 55 South Market in downtown Asheville?
This is project is from the same apartment, where the blue theme is carried over into the next room. But when we first arrived on the scene, it was just a plain white box.
Of course, it was headed someplace a little more daring.
The homeowners planned to use this room as an office, and they needed a shallow set of shelves (since the room is fairly narrow) that would still hold their deep printer. We were brought in to add a custom bookcase with a special deep shelf.
That's our design for the shelves. We do lots of white bookcases (they're classic!) but this was the first time we put them up against a Navy-blue wall, and the effect was really nice even in the model.
We built them at the same time as the gray fireplace surround. And in addition to all of these bookcases, we built a pair of sliding Shaker-style doors which were destined for the office bathroom.
These would take up less floor space than an ordinary door, which would allow the homeowner to use more furniture in the small room.
Then the painters were brought in...
... and we got to work soon afterward.
I love this view of downtown Asheville. I could work in an office like this!
On the other side of the office, the sliding doors leave room for a comfy chair.
Classic white bookshelves like these look good in any room. Give us a call to get yours.
We just finished up a fantastic "before and after" transformation of a fireplace hearth. Let's start with the "before."
It all took place in a very nice living room with pale blue walls and white trim. But wait... what's that...?
Whoever built this house must have run out of time when he put the fireplace together. It's hard to see from our photos, but the existing mantel jutted out almost a foot into the room and looked rather out of place.
The homeowner was having trouble styling it to look right, and since her boyfriend is an English teacher, she also wanted to add bookcases on either side, but didn't know how to tie into that mantel.
They each had different ideas about the style of the fireplace. She prefers modern, and he prefers traditional. The existing style of the room could go either way, with a wide traditional baseboard but relatively simple window trim. With that in mind, we decided to go with a "transitional" style that walked the line between modern and old-fashioned.
Our first design was based on the dark gray mantel which we installed recently in downtown Asheville:
However, that mantel wouldn't work here. That style looks its best when it stands out in front of the bookcases, and due to fire code regulations our new mantel would have to be recessed behind the bookcases. This is rare because most fireplaces jut out into the room... and it was a real design challenge to incorporate deeper bookcases!
On our next try we were getting closer. We used an even simpler mantel design, but kept the traditional molding. However, this was a little too formal for the room.
Finally we settled on a corbeled-style mantel which went well with the simple square trim around the windows. The homeowner also chose an oak top which tied in nicely with the golden hardwood floors.
Once we settled on a design, I got busy in our studio. As usual, we did most of the painting and assembly offsite, which makes the homeowner's life much easier!
After the new mantel and shelves were ready, I went to work on that ugly fireplace, being careful not to mar the tile.
Speaking of tile, I originally thought the existing tile was a bit "blah." But when we put in the new mantel and shelves, the tile seemed to pop against the white wood, and it's much more appealing.
The new bookcases and fireplace look like they've always been a part of the room, which is our goal with built-in furniture.
The classic lines are easy to style - you could make it formal or casual. It even looks great with a simple black-and-white photo and a few colorful books.
If your living room has the "builder grade" blues, give us a call. We can bring in the "ooh and ah" factor that could make a big difference in your home value, for a relatively small investment.
You're not going to believe this transformation.
Here's the before: a perfectly fine room, but essentially a plain white box. A blank canvas, so to speak.
And here's the after...
(Brace yourself... it's going to be great.)
Yes, this is the same room! You can tell by the floor, which hasn't changed.
Of course, this seemingly magical transformation didn't all happen at once. Let's rewind a bit and tell the story of a once-boring condo living room that became the perfect cozy sanctuary thanks to an electric fireplace.
It all started in these new units at 55 South Market Street in downtown Asheville.
And when I say "downtown," I mean DOWNTOWN.
As in two blocks from tacos...
...and the place where all driving directions in Asheville started, back before GPS was a thing.
With a location like that, it's not hard to believe that these condos sold like hotcakes. (So much for my plans for a downtown pied-à-terre...)
And in keeping with the trendy location, the builder designed trendy interiors centered around simple Shaker-style white and gray kitchens, with plain white walls and white trim in all the other rooms.
However, our clients wanted a little more warmth and texture in their new home. They called in Leslie Huntley with Roost Interior Design... and Leslie called us in to help her add some bookshelves.
The homeowners had also requested an electric fireplace to bring in a little radiant heat during Asheville's chilly mountain winters. We collaborated with Leslie to design a hearth that would coordinate with the nearby kitchen.
She specified a deep violet-gray for the shelves, which was offset by the newly-painted taupe walls for a tone-on-tone effect.
Back at our studio, we built and painted the unit, then pre-assembled it to preview the effect.
Notice the poles getting in the way near the ceiling! Our workshop was built from a vintage tobacco barn, and we're too sentimental to take out the old poles. But you get the idea, anyway.
As you can see, the cabinets were fairly large and very heavy, so we enlisted Faith's dad to help load them up...
...and bring them onsite to install them.
Glenn is great to work with. He's the most meticulous carpenter I know.
The electrician and tile guy each came in soon afterward, and the final result was quite nice. The electric fireplace is surprisingly realistic. Instead of trying to fake a flame, the manufacturers made a glowing-log effect, as if the fire has died down a little bit.
It puts off a nice, warm wave of heat which will be great in a few weeks when the first frost hits.
By the way, check out that smooth finish. Leslie specified satin paint, which is a little bit unusual for trim and moldings like this. But it does have a very mellow effect.
Hopefully the French Broad Chocolate Lounge does local hot chocolate deliveries... it seems like this would be the perfect place to drink it on a cold winter night.
If you've got a "plain white box" room that you'd like to transform into a cozy retreat from the world, give us a call. We love this stuff!
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.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!