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."
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!
In my last post I showed off a work-in-progress in my shop: custom cabinets to house a ventless fireplace. The design was based on a hybrid of Craftsman and Shaker styles, in cherry and walnut wood.
They've been installed, and boy did they turn out well! But before I show them off, take a look at what they replaced.
The homeowners have great taste, and they'd assembled some really nice pieces. (I suspect that chair on the left was handmade, and I really like it!) However, they faced a common problem: they'd collected their furniture to go in other houses, and it didn't fit well in their new abode in West Asheville. The cabinet that housed the TV was made for an older model, and it was really too tall, narrow and deep to fit well into the room.
We worked with them to design a new hearth which was lower, wider and shallower... a perfect fit to balance the room.
I started by installing the three cabinets which I'd made offsite, with the hearth in the middle. The wall already had electrical outlets in place, so I cut holes in the backs of the cabinets to allow the homeowners to use the outlets.
Next up was the installation of those Craftsman tiles which we teased in our last post. These are from Pasadena Craftsman Tile, and they're incredible! They really picked up the colors in the homeowners' painting.
While the grout was setting, I put the doors on the AV cabinets. They've got heavy-duty hinges that open extra wide, so that when you want to watch TV the doors are well out of the way. Perfect for an entertainment center.
By the way, did I mention how incredible the wood grain is on these cabinets? I picked the wood by hand from Bee Tree Lumber in East Asheville, and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out. You mostly see the cherry in this photo, but check out that purple walnut in the lower corner of the pic! It's still one of my favorite woods.
Once the tile had set, it was time to install the ventless fireplace...
... and then caulk the piece in place so that it looks like a continuous part of the room.
The finished piece really brings the room together. It looks like it belongs there. Which of course, it does, since it was designed with this particular room in mind.
Every living room should have a hearth for people to gather around... and a place to hide the TV somewhere nearby. And nowadays you can have a fireplace even if you don't have a chimney. Give us a call to learn all about it.
Asheville is the kind of city where a fireplace is a delight to have. It's hard to remember it right now in summertime, but those cool mountain spring evenings and crisp autumn nights are perfect for a little fire to take the chill out of the air.
But what if your floor plan is too small to add a hearth, or you live in a condo and can't install a chimney? That's where the new trend of ventless fireplaces comes into play. There's a wide variety of them, including electric, gas, gel and ethanol. Someday maybe I'll devote a whole post to the various options, but today I want to show off a new cabinet we're building to house an ethanol fireplace.
I'll start with our 3D model:
Our customers had always wanted a hearth in their living room, not so much for the heat output, but more as a visual centerpiece. However, they didn't want the added complexity of putting up a chimney or getting a new outlet for an electric fireplace. Plus, the floor plan of their living room was fairly small, so they didn't have room for a big stone chimney.
We talked about various options, such as just making a nook for candles, but in the end we found an ethanol burning fireplace that was fairly shallow and wouldn't need a deep cabinet to house it.
Then it was time to discuss design features. The homeowners loved the Craftsman aesthetic, and already had little details throughout their home such as tile inset in the doorway trim. But they also wanted something a little lighter and more updated than the original Arts and Crafts style.
They also liked the combination of walnut and cherrywood... they even mentioned this free-standing entertainment center from our Lyrical Furniture Collection.
You really can't go wrong when you're putting walnut and cherry together, and that was the starting point for the design.
They had also sent us various inspiration photos of Craftsman-style fireplaces that they liked, including this one from Pasadena Tile. I love this tile! I was thrilled when my clients suggested using something like this around the fireplace opening.
There were also lots of little details to discuss. The cabinets around the fireplace will house their TV and audiovisual equipment, so they requested speaker holes on the cabinet as well. Faith, our cabinet designer, took inspiration from old-fashioned radios like this one.
We originally planned a somewhat more elaborate mantel with Craftsman-style brackets in walnut. However, our clients preferred a simpler, streamlined verson more in keeping with the Shaker-style cabinets in their kitchen.
Since the mantel would be much simpler, they suggested we add interest with ribboned wood grain. I called several Asheville lumber suppliers in search of the right pieces, and finally struck gold at Bee Tree Lumber.
Bee Tree has very personalized service, and an incredible selection of gorgeous hardwood lumber. The office manager took me on a personal tour of the lumber yard, and the owner came over to talk about the wood I was picking out.
He pointed to one board and said, "That sure is some fiery cherry you picked out." And he's right... the ribboning is like little flames licking up the board. It's perfect for a mantel, isn't it?
It looks incredible on the new fireplace!
But behind that beautiful facade is a very practical design. Although the fireplace manufacturer says it can be installed directly in a niche in the wall, I took no chances when building the fireplace surround. The fireplace will be set into a heat-resistant concrete-board niche which in turn is supported by metal studs.
Next I built the cabinets to go on either side of the fireplace, complete with the afore-mentioned speaker holes.
Notice the little detail of the curved feet... one of those nice touches that sets this apart from standard cabinetry.
The cherrywood cabinet boxes are assembled, and as I type this, the walnut doors are clamped up and the glue is drying. There are a few more details to finish, though. Including one very special feature which I'll talk about in my next post...
That beautiful handmade Craftsman tile!
Subscribe to our email list to get notified about the next post... and in the meantime, if you've always wanted a fireplace but weren't sure how to get one, give us a call. We'll make it happen.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!