Our Blue Living Room Built-Ins

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When we first saw our house I knew that the two niches flanking the fireplace would be the perfect spot for built-ins one day.  Today I’m sharing all of the details on how we came up with the design, the storage and design problems we needed to solve, and the dimensions, in case you have a similar space that needs built-ins.  We have a lot of white in our kitchen and all of our walls are a creamy white, so my gut told me that we needed a fun (yet calming) pop of color for the fireplace built-ins.  I’m so glad we decided to think outside of the box and go for blue built-ins!  I hired Capitol Closet Design again (Pam has helped me with all of my projects), and they helped me turn my vision into reality!

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All the Details on the Blue Built-Ins in Our Living Room

Here’s what the living room looked like when we first moved in:

After 2 months of living here I was desperate for organization:

And now!

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dress c/o Sail to Sable (the perfect dress for fall and winter!) | shoes (comfy yet dressy mules!) | earrings

Built-In Design Choices

Cabinets

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Our children spend most of their time in the living room and that’s where the majority of their toys are, so storage was my first priority.  Closet cabinets were an absolute must, and I only wanted two doors on each cabinet and preferred that there be no divider so that I could have flexibility once it came time to fill the cabinets.  We have one adjustable shelf inside each cabinet.

Shelves

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Cabinets were the first priority, but I also needed a place to display my collections and design books…so shelves were a must as well.  I’ve dreamt of decorating built-in shelves for all of my adult life- so this was my chance to finally make it happen!  The small square windows posed a bit of a design challenge though, and I really struggled with making my decision on the design.  I decided to pause on this project for a few months to see how I felt living in the space and to mull all the options over before making a large financial commitment.  Traditional built-in bookcases were out of the question, and I also did not want a divider down the middle.  I just wanted long shelves, so floating shelves was the appropriate choice for us.  However, the niches weren’t perfectly square (not exact right angles) so that eliminated floating shelves that went end to end, due to the material I’d chosen.  We decided to back off an inch from each side, so there is an inch gap between the edge of the shelves and the perpendicular walls.  This choice kept me up at night for weeks- truly!  I was worried it might look silly or like a mistake…but I’m glad I trusted the designer from Capitol Closet Design (Pam), because it really does look work!  I think the gap takes it from being a little farmhouse-y (floating shelves are so big in farmhouse style these days) and makes it look more modern.

Drawers

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We don’t have very many drawers in the kitchen, which is directly adjacent to our living room.  I hate not having a junk drawer, or a place to stash those random things you use frequently that aren’t exactly kitchen things.  Rather than just doing lower cabinets I also decided to add one large drawer on each side, above the cabinets.  Let me just say, I am SO GLAD we added drawers.  I bought drawer organizers and now I have a place for those things like stamps, envelopes, pens and pencils, the thermometer, spare charging cords, etc.

Hardware

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As with the rest of our home, I ordered Amerock hardware through Lowe’s for these built-ins.  I randomly decided to give them a shot and I have been really impressed with Amerock’s quality, price, and speed of shipping.  I went with Amerock Revitalize Knobs in Champagne Bronze for the cabinets and Amerock Revitalize 5 1/16″ pulls in Champagne Bronze for the drawers.

Dimensions

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The cabinets are 36″ high and 19″ deep (the niches are 20″ deep).  The shelves are 12″ deep, with 14″ between the cabinet counter top and the first shelf, and 12″ between the 2 shelves.  The shelves themselves are 2 inches thick.  I wanted to make sure that I had enough height below the first shelf so that I could place a lamp on either side, so I measured my lamps and went off of that.  Both lamps are thrifted finds- that seems to be the best way to find small and unique lamps.  I always buy them when I come across them!

Grommet for Lighting

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There is an electrical outlet on the back wall of each niche, and I had the built-in installers cut holes inside the cabinets so that I could run a cord upwards for a lamp.  I ran the light cord back behind the drawer, and then they installed a grommet (a pre-made plastic piece that can be opened and closed) on the countertop.  I have the lamps in the far corners of both cabinets, so I had the grommet on the left side placed in the far left of the cabinet, but on the right one I had them place it in the center so that I can easily run a lamp to the right and when the time comes, run Christmas garland lighting to the left so that it can easily run to our mantel.  My grommets are currently white, but I had some paint color matched so I can paint the grommets the same color.

Toy Organization

living room toy storage solution

I like to keep toys sorted because that makes it easier for the kids to play with a full set.  Clear storage containers with lids are my favorite way to store toys because they can be stacked.  My son can read but my girls can’t yet, so I decided to created labels with both words and a picture, so that everyone knows where the toys go.  I printed them out, cut them to size and taped them on, and so far so good!  I got the images by taking screenshots of Amazon listings and then put it all together in Photoshop (you could also just do it on Instagram Stories).  Super easy and very satisfying!  I have all the labeled sets on one side and then have a larger bin on the other side as the catchall, for all the random things that end up in the living room.  It’s been a few weeks and this is still working like a charm!

Styling

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I have always been a collector, so I didn’t have to buy anything to fill these shelves, other than the tiny glass box holding the special shells we collected on the beach near our house in Hawaii.  I pulled my prettier books (regular books for reading are on an IKEA bookcase on our top floor), collected ceramics and pottery, small lamps, a few framed photos (favorite silver frame), plates placed on stands, rattan boxes, a piece of collected artwork, which I propped up, coral I’ve had for a decade, and a few other miscellaneous things.  I varied height and tried to stick with 2 or 3 main things per shelf, and switched it up so it didn’t look like a formula.  Small objects look best grouped in odd numbers, so that’s typically what I do.  It’s fall, so I added a few pumpkins.  Moving past the shelves, the rattan light on the ceiling is from Serena and Lily, the x benches were gifted by The Inside a few years back and I’m so glad the colors work in this space (the fabric is fully customizable with tons of choices), and the chair was recently reupholstered in this performance fabric (coastal blue for the chair and white for the piping).  The tv over the mantel is a 55″ Frame TV and I have the modern teak bezel around it.  The box is recessed into the wall behind it.  I have the beautiful sets of Frame TV artwork from Urban Garden Prints (STRIPES30 saves you 30%), but this photo seen here was purchased from Jordan Connelly’s site.  I love her work and they’re mostly coastal scenes in South Carolina, which is a place near and dear to my heart.

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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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This post contains affiliate links. If you shop after clicking a link I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

2 Comments

  1. Catherine
    October 25, 2022 / 10:06 am

    So lovely! Enjoyed this post and your amazing style! It must be a challenge with little ones. Look forward to seeing more of your beautiful home!

    • November 6, 2022 / 1:13 pm

      Thank you so much, Catherine! I really appreciate that and can’t wait to share more!

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