Customizing bookshelves is the last thing Cammy Nolin had on her to-do list when she and her husband decided to replace the siding on their 1780’s home. It just goes to show you, that you never know what will happen when working on an old house.
Homeowner: Cammy Nolin, New Hampshire
Project: Customizing bookshelves
Cammy lives with her husband, two daughters, and a cadre of animals in a small, central New Hampshire town. They make their home in a 2,400 square foot, three and a half bedroom, two bath, antique cape-style farmhouse built in the late 1700’s.
From Siding Replacement to Customized Bookshelves
As you can imagine, renovation projects on an older house can sometimes be an adventure. For example, you might start out replacing exterior siding and end up removing a chimney and fireplace and replacing the entire exterior wall instead. Cammy tries to keep a positive attitude and make the best of the situation. “Once we removed the two existing built-in units on either side of the fireplace we set about customizing bookshelves to create more substantial pieces. We also added a new window to replace the hearth and double the amount of light entering the room.”
Challenges of Customized Bookshelves
Cammy was concerned about the budget and about the limited amount of finish carpentry experience between her and her husband. Most of the funds allotted to this project were spent on rebuilding the wall and adding the window. To save time and money, they decided to order stock unfinished units with book shelves on the top and cabinets on the bottom.
The next challenge was matching the new customized bookshelves to the scale of the room. Cammy wanted to be sure that the new bookcases and oversized window would be in proportion to each other. To accomplish this, she took a picture of the newly constructed wall with a digital camera and imported it into simple graphic design software. She overlaid basic sketches of the bookcases to get the correct scale, and used those dimensions to order the pieces from an unfinished furniture dealer.
The bookshelves they ordered were really basic, so to make them match the style of the room and an existing armoire housing the TV and cable receivers, they dressed up the bookcases with an overhanging top, crown and fascia molding, and bullnose trim on the bottom shelf. It’s an old house, so the room is not square and the floor has a slight pitch to it. The cabinets had to be shimmed to sit level; the shims were hidden by 3/4 round molding at the floor, which also gave the customized bookshelves the appearance of fully built-in furniture.
They further customized the bookshelves by painting the inside of the units a deep Moroccan red and the outside is a Navajo white to match the trim throughout the rest of the room. Be aware that a color like red requires tinted primer and at least three coats of color!
Cammy is very happy with the results. “The unexpected living room renovation came out beautiful! Freshly-painted walls, a new bright window, and two handsome bookcases filled with heirloom books and pictures really changed the tone of the room.” She also added new hand-sewn drapes and hardware in a dramatic scale to make the room feel substantial and coordinated. The style is traditional and comfortable and was largely inspired by her favorite home furnishing catalog (Pottery Barn).
Cammy recommends that before you begin any project (be it replacing a wall or adding customized bookshelves), you formulate a clear picture of your desired outcome. You can either sketch it out (on paper or with computer software) or try creating a collage featuring pictures of a similar space. If you need inspiration, look no further than your favorite magazines and catalogs, and source the products in a simpler, unfinished state and customize them to fit your needs. “It helps if you can take your time! Our project took 4 months start to finish, but we saved loads of money by doing it all ourselves.”
Have you ever customized bookshelves or any other furniture?
Cammy Nolin is a former technical writer who now splits her time between children, chickens, and freelance editing. She is in training with her best buddy to run a 5K, and aims to read all 100 classics on her “best books of all time” bucket list.