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 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.
... ESPECIALLY if you already love white rooms.
But before I show it off, allow me a quick comment. In the past decade or so we've seen a lot of people paint their furniture, especially those who prefer airy, contemporary rooms in a neutral palette. And don't get me wrong... I love painted furniture and some of my favorite projects have been painted plain white.
But dark, rich brown wood has its place in light-colored rooms. It makes a beautiful foil against the white walls, and it can have complex grains which bring texture and interest to what would otherwise be a bland space.
Walnut is one of my favorite dark woods. It's got a chocolatey purple undertone and a grain pattern which, while subtle compared to oak, can often include arched patterns that add an Art Deco touch.
Case in point: our latest project.
A custom built-in AV cabinet in a bright, contemporary living room.
Or do you like it better without doors?
It's really hard to capture the beauty of this wood in a photograph, because grain patterns move with the light. They glimmer and shimmer.
But here's my best attempt:
There's a satiny ribbon effect that really catches the eye.
By the way, the shelves are adjustable in height to allow you to store larger items like stereo equipment or a hidden TV. I love the versatility of this piece. It could be a pantry, a clothes closet, a display case... you name it.
And it's eight feet tall and four feet wide, so it's much more substantial in real life.
If you've got a modern room that needs a little architectural interest, give us a call. We'll help you design a piece that changes your space... and lets you store all your stuff out of sight... so you can live a clutter-free, stress-free life.
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.
Our latest project is perfect for when you've all been playing in the snow and you need a place to capture those wet boots and mittens.
Our customers have a goal of becoming a "no shoe" household to preserve their white carpets, but there was no place for people to sit down and take off their shoes.
As usual, we worked with them to create a 3D model. They weren't sure whether they wanted to use horizontal ship-lap or vertical V-groove panels, and this really helped them visualize it.
That's just the first draft; there were several rounds of revisions to add and remove features.
We eventually included a pair of figures in the model so we could put the hooks at the right height for kids to reach them, while making them high enough to be easy for Dad to use.
Models are always theoretical, and the customers and I made a few small tweaks while I was building the cubbies. We had hoped to build a bench with a single span from wall to wall, and I even tested several methods support it in the middle. But in the end we decided that there was still too much flex, especially since several people might be sitting on the bench together.
Speaking of the bench, the homeowners requested a hardwood seat. I used a beautiful piece of oak which I stained to coordinate with the floors.
The final piece turned out really well. One of the homeowners said that she was surprised that such a big piece of furniture would make a small room feel larger.
On the other side of the foyer is a pair of French doors which I also installed, so the whole space has that elegant feeling which traditional moldings bring to a room.
We can bring the same beautiful style to your home. Just shoot us an email with your ideas. We'll be glad to help.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!