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
Our latest project gives off those French Country vibes that Marie Antionette loved so much...
No, we didn't build that... it's Marie's famous watermill cottage at the Hameau de la Reine. We're just including it to set the tone. Because after all, it's the middle of winter, in the darkest days of the year, so why shouldn't we while away a little time looking at beautiful French Country and Tuscan houses in summertime?
It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.
Anyway, speaking of sunny Old-World style, we recently built a French Country banquette to match an elegant Asheville kitchen with European flair.
Well, most of the kitchen had flair. But this little dining nook wasn't quite big enough to suit the busy family that lives in this home. The floor plan didn't even allow for a fourth chair at the table, which was awkward since there were four family members.
Working with Elizabeth Rogers at Hannah Lowman Styling, we designed a cozy U-shaped banquette with a large bookshelf behind it to hold the homeowners' many cook books, as well as their wine racks and kitchen appliances.
The project would be faux finished with pin-striping to match the existing shelves and cabinets.
We started by building the benches, which were hollow, with flip-top lids to allow for lots of hidden storage. (This kitchen really needed more storage!)
Then we sourced custom trim pieces to match the trim on the cabinet doors. And tested out the cushion thickness... in case you're wondering, 3 inches is ideal for a seat cushion. Or two inches if you don't like a very smooshy banquette seat.
When we got to the site, we temporarily removed the window trim because the bookcase was such a tight fit. That's what makes the difference between custom and ready-made... a custom cabinet can be built to truly fit the room from wall to wall.
There was a ton of storage in these bench seats, and we included soft-close supports that really made them a pleasure to use.
And you can't see it in this photo, but the seat back on the right also folds down to allow access to the deep storage space under the shelves. That means there's lots of space for those rarely-used platters that you still want to be able to reach when you throw a party.
We found a beautiful flush-mount brass pull for the seat back. (It's these little details that count.) Here's a photo we snapped before the cabinet was finished. It's actually a bit weighty, almost like a door knocker.
The finished banquette looks like it was always a part of the kitchen. The homeowners are expecting to get the table and cushions in soon, and we can't wait to see how Elizabeth styled the room.
We've got lots more cool projects coming up in the New Year. If you saw our "Christmas card" email, you probably saw the blue bookshelves with the hidden door. But before we start that one, we're scheduled to build an elegant modern entertainment center with an electric fireplace... yet another project in the condos at 55 South Market Street in downtown Asheville.
So stay tuned, and don't touch that dial!
And if you've got an odd space in your kitchen that you don't quite know what to do with, give us a call. We'll turn it into an elegant space chock full of useful storage.
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.
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.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!