faking built-ins




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As we were getting our basement finished, we asked our contractors how much built in shelves would be on either side of the fireplace. They quoted $2000.
Yikes. No thank you. We are at the end of our budget.
A few days later, I was in Walmart, and saw these Better Homes and Gardens 5 shelf bookcases on clearance for $50 each.
 bhg bookcase blackbhg bookcase 





They were all gone, but the brown and black floor models were sitting there. I tracked someone down and asked if I could go ahead and just buy the floor models. They said yes, I ran home and measured, ran it by my husband, and then came back and picked them up that night, fully assembled.



Then, the wonderful Kate gave a tutorial on how she painted her laminate entertainment center white, and I knew we could pull this off.
Since they had to box out the fireplace anyway, we had them leave just enough room for the shelves to slide in so it could kinda look like built-ins. No extra money involved.march 2010 024 1
And since 460 of you said, “Girl, I don't care about giveaways! Just show us some more before and afters already!” in my giveaway poll here is your before:
basement before
And here it is today:
august 2010 028 1
It’s pretty much a sea of brown, but I’d like to eventually (when the prices are right) add a rug, some fabric, and color…the lamp is a start.
Oh, and yea…my family room is always this clean…my kids sit on the couch all day and watch Max&Ruby and don’t touch a thing…
(you can hear the sarcasm, right?? you never know in the virtual world…)
august 2010 029 1 My favorite part of these shelves are the globes. I’ve found them at thrift stores and I love that one lights up. It was all broken, we glued it together, put a new light in, and it’s all better. It doesn’t turn right, but it makes a perfect little night light.august 2010 024 1
Now, I have to tell you that I was a wicked monkey and did not follow Kate’s instructions exactly and I’m paying for it now. She’s like the one that builds a house of bricks that lasts forever and I’m like the one that slaps up a house of straw.
You’ve gotta use oil based primer.
I didn’t. It was a Saturday afternoon, boys were down for naps, girls and husband were gone, and it was a perfect time to prime the shelves, but I only had Zinsser latex primer. Because I am so patient, I went right ahead and primed it with what I had. If you scratch it too hard, the paint comes right off. I don’t have a great picture to share, but just trust me, I’m constantly having to touch it up. Use the oil based primer.
Okay, moving on.
august 2010 031 1
I am so on the ball, I have my fall pictures in the frames already! (ok, they haven’t been changed since 2 falls ago, but now they work!)august 2010 033 1
I don’t know, because y’all like to see what is on the shelves?? I think…
august 2010 038 1
august 2010 034 1
Still…lots to do,august 2010 041 1 and blank walls to fill, august 2010 040 1 but we’re on our way…
Moral of the story: $100 for bookcases, plus about $50 in paint and some accessories from thrift stores (most I already had) is better than $2000 for custom built-ins. They may not look as custom, but they work for us.
Happy Tuesday and holy long post.
Have you ever painted laminate and made it work? (and saved lots of $$$?)

57 comments:

  1. Good Morning Melissa Sweetie...
    Oh my gosh, they look beautiful. Once they are painted and in place, only the designer knows what they cost. You would never know that they weren't built by the contractors to look at them. I love them, and the price is the best part of all. I love it sweet friend. Thank you for the tour today. I love the suitcases and those Fall photos, PRICELESS. Great show.

    Have a beautiful day sweet friend.

    Country hugs and much love, Sherry

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  2. They look great! What a deal!!! And, if you wanted them to BE true built ins, really all you would have to do is get some inexpensive scribe molding from a big box store that is wide enough to cover the gaps. You would also need to change out the crown molding.

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  3. To be 100% honest I like this way more then contracted built ins. These are unique and such a clever idea!!

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  4. What a great deal!! They look great!

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  5. BEAUTIFUL, such an inspiration. thanks for sharing !!

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  6. Pam, that is a great idea. Thanks for adding another thing to our never-ending list :)

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  7. wow!!! Those look really great! no way I would pay $2000 either! The whole room looks wonderful!

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  8. Everything looks fantastic! Great job. Wishing my kids would sit nicely and watch Max and Ruby... wink wink!

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  9. Love that you shared this with us! Love the bookcases! For a little more you can add wide molding and you won't even see the gaps but they still look FAB!!!! Everything does! Amazing the transformation! Don't you just want to LIVE down there????!!

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  10. Holy cow, that is one heck of a before-and-after, woman! Amazing job!

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  11. great pictures. you always have such fun ideas!!

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  12. Looks better than the built ins if I say so myself...oh and yeah love the fall pics...ready to see all your cheap ideas for fall and halloween decor.

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  13. They look great, Melissa! That worked out finding those floor models! I will remember that about the oil based primer {especially since I don't have any oil based paint in my house} if I do paint this type of piece.

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  14. Wow! Your basement transformation looks wonderful. The bookcases were a brilliant idea. I love the vintage suitcases and globes on top, too. You change your photos for the seasons? I still have some frames that need photos ;) Enjoy your lovely new family space!

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  15. Elizabeth~I used to, I think when I had 2 kids and lots of ambition. Now, I've gotten a little smarter about it and learned that if you have one picture from each season, you're always good! I need to throw some winter, spring and summer in there! :)

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  16. Love the built ins! Are you going to paint over laminate?!?!?! I've heard it can be done, but never actually seen it. Your taste is so flawless I can't wait to see how you pull it off! (Let's be honest.. I can't wait to see how you do it so I can copy it!!)

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  17. shut the front door! those look amazing! you should be so proud of yourself. and the globes and suitcases are my fave!

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  18. They look great. Just as good as built-ins if you ask me. I like all of the accessories too.

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  19. wow, those look AMAZING!! and I love the way you accessorized them!

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  20. They look fantastic. I can't imagine paying that much for built-ins when you can get a great look for soooo much less. Looks like a cozy spot to hang out.

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  21. They look like built-ins from where I'm sitting... :)

    They fit beautifully. That mantle is gorgeous, too!

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  22. The shelves look great and so does the rest of the basement! Yes. We want to see ev.ery.thing. on those shelves because we are the biggest, nosiest copycats in the world!

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  23. Looks AMAZING!

    Can't wait to see what people say about painting laminate. I want to soooo bad to cover my tacky blue counter tops...but I'm afraid to. Can't be any worse than what I've already go though, right???

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  24. Yay for before and after! I love what you did, it looks great! love the globes! I have a love affair with globes!

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  25. Love love love!!! They look fabulous, Melissa. :) (And, yes, I do like to see what's on your shelves) We have so much in common. My kids also sit on the couch and watch Max and Ruby all day and don't touch a thing. (You could read that sarcasm, right??) ;)

    Job well done!

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  26. I think the "fake" built-ins would fool most people. I hear you about the cost of built in though, I tried to do a library effect in one of the guest bedrooms and it was like 1500. So I bought a $45 craigslist special and made it work! Good job !!!!

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  27. looks amazing. i love book shelves.

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  28. GREAT blog! I am so excited to have found you. You're right about the oil based primer, I learned this from painting wooden trays which get lots of touching and banging around if you will. Look forward to seeing your DIY's!

    Liz @ Shorelychic.blogspot.com

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  29. Beautiful! I found your blog about a week ago and literally sat up 3 nights in a row reading every single post...I love everything you do! What did I do on Monday but hit up the Goodwill stores in my area for the first time! I have a little collection starting in the garage of things to play with once my daughter starts school in 2 weeks. Oh and yes...we do love to see what is on the shelves (at least I do!)

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  30. It really looks great, you did a really nice job displaying on the shelves!

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  31. wow what a great deal ...love how they look now.

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  32. I can't wait to see the rest of your home! What does your upstairs living area look like? Do your kids actually stay down stairs and keep their toys in the toy room or family room?

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  33. Melisa,
    What is the paint color that you used on your basement?
    What a fab before and after! Amazing.
    I just hired someone to paint my living room that has very high vaulted ceilings and don't like how the color turned out. It beige but somehow has a pink/purple undertone to it. I'm sick about it and feel like I just wasted a bunch of $$$. Do the pros like yourself ever make a decorating blunder? Tell me I'm not alone with my pinkish living room mistake. :)
    Love your blog!!

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  34. Melissa, they look perfect and what an awesome deal!!!! I might head to Walmart today and look around. ;)

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  35. Great job!!! The book cases look perfect!! And the entire room looks fantastic! I love a good before and after :)

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  36. Melissa. I mean, really. This is WONDERFUL! What a great use of your money! Okay, I suppose you should have used the right primer, but otherwise this is just about perfect, I'd say! Good for you!! And THANK YOU for the before-and-after. I voted!!

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  37. I bet everyone loves spending time in this room. I am a "corner cutter" as well so appreciate the painting advice. Charming make over ~ thanks for sharing.

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  38. YES! Thank you for the close ups of the shelves. I always want to "snoop" and so many people DON'T show what's there. I, too, love the suitcases, boxes, and your "Cherish the simple things." sign.

    Thanks for such a consistently interesting and real blog!

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  39. Hi Melissa, I so enjoy your blog!! Couldn't help but chuckle about the primer on the bookcases. You see we did the very same bookcases for a spot we had in a hallway that we had always intended to build in bookcases for. When we found these, the size was nearly perfect and the price was right, so we began. Our mistake was that we did not sand them down enough before starting with the oil base primer! The pain just peeled right off. Would you believe that I peeled and scraped every bit of paint off of the bookcase and started over, yes I did, muttering not nice words about my husband who had done the initial sanding, priming and painting!! Well, it payed off, they are beautiful and fit so well in the spot! But, caution is the word, you really have to sand the daylight out of these things before starting the painting process! Thanks for a great blog, always a blessing!

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  40. I love your 'built-ins'! Your blog is so awesome. I love that your projects are fun and use upcycled materials. Mich

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  41. They turned out great Melissa! I just finished redoing some yardsale cases and yes they were a nightmare. They look good from afar but please do not look at them up close! I had no idea what I was doing nor did the previous owners but I managed to pull it off I think. They sat in the garage forever after being painted because they were tacky to the touch and anything that touched them would make the paint come off. Needless to say they almost ended up at the curb. It is good to know next time what primer I need to use!

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  42. For what it is worth...I am a huge fan of appliance spray paint. Not a lot of choices in terms of colors, but man that stuff will adhere to ANYTHING! And best of all kid tolerant.

    sambainsac
    talesfromthebigtomato.blogspot.com

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  43. It looks fantastic!!! I'm sure you are just loving all the new space!

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  44. Amazing transformation indeed! Your basement looks warm and cozy because of the brown scheme. And the overall look, beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

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  45. This is a fabulous space for family time. Nicely done!

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  46. I love how you display the globes (I did a post on globe decor a while ago)..., now I want one that lights up..., I can see how great that looks at night!

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  47. I think the bookshelves look awesome...built in or not!!! :)

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  48. Stunning as always! Here's a tip on rugs. I like to check the rug section at Lowes. I've scored 4 different rugs for SEVEN bucks each! That's right 7!!! I love clearance!

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  49. Karlye~ too many to even count! The paint color is Kilim Beige by Sherwin Williams, but we colormatched it at H.Depot.

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  50. Desires of the Heart~ *great* advice on the sanding!

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  51. What a timely post! I ran across it shortly before my mother was in the midst of this project: The Bookcases . I was happy to encourage her with how much money she was saving!

    Enjoying all the pretty pictures you post,

    T.W.

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  52. Wow.  Old blog post.  Sorry.  Do you still read these???? Yes, I've painted laminate... or press board... or whatever those prefab things are... and it worked.  But you are right, you have to use oil base.  Been there, done that with the latex.  Sad results.  Have you done diy countertops? Paint, laminate over laminate? anything?

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  53. Debi Perkins1/18/14, 9:33 AM

    I love a fellow cheapie!  I am searching for the three different size bookcases to do fake built ins in my sewing room.  Fun thing is, it has slooped ceilings.  Thanks for the tips, keep up the good work.

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  54. melissa*320 sycamore1/18/14, 1:18 PM

    Yes, they still come to my email! I've never painted laminate countertops, but I'm a believer in oil base primer now :)

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