Monday, January 5, 2015

DIY Dining Room Built Ins

Long time, no see interweb-friends! We've been overwhelmingly busy with life and business and Airbnb, and Christmas and blblblulikfjslkdfj;askfj that I haven't had a minute to edit photos and post on here but believe you me, we've still been busy busy busy with house projects! 

Also, in blog news, 


Woo-hoo! Five years of barely knowing what the H E double hockey sticks we're doing and we've still got all of our fingers to show for it! Success!

So, one of our busy house projects over the past couple of months has been making over the dining room. It all started wen Conan's dad gave us a pair of particle board shelves. The rest, is history! 

DIY Built In Shelves

For the most part, the dining room has always been what I'll call "done enough". We painted it a shade of very light gray before the wedding and painted the doors black:

Before Dining Room

and since then I've acquired 8 thrift store chairs and re-finished our free table but it's still just...okay. 

But the recent acquisition of a BIG OL' pile of books from Conan's late mother as well as the shelves some of them sat on motivated me to get to work, making this room more than just an empty room with a table in it.

My idea was this: 
Put these particle board shelves Conan's dad gifted us on either side of the dining room windows a la the Living Room built ins. 

With my mom's help, I moved them into the dining room to see what we were working with. 

DIY Built In Shelves Particle Board

You can see from the one on the right that they were tall but not tall enough. They need to be lifted so they at least cleared the top of the windows. The one on the left is sitting on a pile of wood to simulate what we were going for. 

To get a permanent solution to the height problem, we cut some pieces of wood and notched out a place for the base shoe so they could fit snugly up against the baseboard and the wall. 

DIY Built In Shelves Raised

Here it is, floating magically in mid air! JK, it's actually sitting on the baseboard on the left side and we notched the back of the shelf to go around the window sill. That provided a surprising amount of staying power while we were finishing the box. 

DIY Built In Shelves Lifted

You can see that the side is sitting on top of the baseboard. That allowed it to fit back in the corner once we notched a space for the window sill to fit in on the backside of the shelf. 

Here it is all screwed together. 

DIY Built Ins Raised

Step two was to trim these guys out. This step would hopefully take them from clearly cheap shelves to built-in-esque. 

Here's the top of the shelf before: 

Particle Board Built Ins

And after trim: 

DIY Built Ins Crown Moulding

The top is a sheet of plywood with some leftover 1" strips we had from the Birdie Booth around the outside edge. We used 4" crown moulding under that and under it was a piece of 1x8 that the shelf was notched around. 

Speaking of those strips, they came in real handy again when we decided that the rounded front edges of the shelves were a dead giveaway for not built-in. Here's a close-up "after" pic to give you an idea of what I mean:

Particle Board Built Ins Front

We used a brad nailer to attach the 1" strips across the front of the shelves so that, should we ever want to pull them out and re-configure them, we can.

Now for the paint. As you may know, most primer is not wont to stick to fake wood so I thought I would give chalk paint a try since I had heard so much about how well it adheres to this fake wood...fwood.

Two things about chalk paint:
It does stick to fake wood really well
It does not cover fake wood very well. At least not when you're trying to cover it with white. 

Chalk Paint Built Ins

The above photo is after two of the small containers of chalk paint. Not great, right?

Like I mentioned, it does stick really well to the fake wood and it actually goes pretty far but it was still leaving streaks and I still had the shelves to prime so when I ran out of the little can I was using, I decided to make my own. Pinterest to the rescue! Turns out, if you use 1 Tbsp. of white, unsanded grout (which I have a lot leftover from the downstairs bathroom) and a cup of white paint, you're good to go. 
So, if you're looking for a REALLY serious primer for some fake wood, just make it yourself! 

I decided that I would just use the chalk paint as primer and cover it with the same trim paint that I had used for the other trim in the room. 
Here's after one coat of latex paint over the two coats of chalk paint/primer.

DIY Built Ins Chalk Paint

And here are the shelves from the front after two coats of latex paint. (the shelves were being primed on the back porch). 

DIY Dining Room Built Ins

And here it is with the shelves installed and painted. 

DIY Built In Shelves Dining Room

You can probably see that there is a giant spot on the wall/ceiling between the shelves. That was one of the other reasons this room was due for a makeover. A leaky air conditioner upstairs a couple of years ago had caused the sheetrock tape to fall off so I climbed up there, peeled it back, and mudded it.

Then, much like the "Accidental Kitchen Remodel" of yore, one thing led to another and the room was getting crown molding and paint.

We used the same molding from the top of the shelves (4") and we settled on a darker, warmer gray for the color of the walls: Olympic Stormy Weather.

My mom and dad very kindly put the crown molding up as my Christmas present this year and I loff it more than anything. As my mom says, every time we finish a room it's "my new favorite!"

So let's see the official "before and after" shall we?

Cheap Built Ins DIY

And now, for fun, just the after:

Olympic Stormy Weather

And from straight on:

Dining Room Built Ins

Also, you might have noticed the curtains and rod. The rod was just an old piece of conduit we had in the basement. Conan cut it down with a hacksaw, we spray painted it ORB (natch) and hung it with hardware from Lowe's. 

So there you have it, folks! Surprise dining room makeover complete! It really feels like a much more comfortable, cozy room now and we've already used it a lot this holiday season.

I have a couple more things to do, maybe a rug, hang Conan's paintings instead of just leaning them, and eventually FIND A BUFFET! But, for now it's perfect just the way it is.

Thanks for reading!

Keep Smiling


  1. I get so excited when I see a new post on my reader! Happy 5 years!

    1. Thanks for sticking with us! We're not consistent but we're still kickin' : )

  2. That is a rather stunning before and after! I always enjoy the updates around here, and hope you guys keep up with the blog for many more years!

    1. Thanks! The way I see it, they'll take blogger down before we'll run out of projects, lol. It's that pesky time/money thing that gets in the way of posting regularly ; )

  3. Loved looking back at this today. Any updates?


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