Laura’s home already had wonderful, historic bones, but the living space could use a bit more character. Laura wanted bookshelves, and while we had talked about something clean and modern, I really encouraged her to stick with the period of the house and create something that looked original. Custom built-ins aren’t cheap, and we knew this would need to be on a budget. Hacking the Ikea Billy has been done before (my friend, Kristin, did a beautiful version) but with this being an older home, we had several obstacles to overcome.
One, we didn’t want to have to rip out any of the existing woodwork. Usually you cut away the base trim when you want something flush against a wall, but Laura wanted to keep the over-100-year-old trim in tact, in case the built-in was ever removed. And two, nothing is level. A lot of settling has certainly happened over the decades, and while it’s not really noticeable to the average looker, it’s a problem when you’re trying to get things level. To get a truly built-in look, this was going to take someone who knew what they were doing.
Laura and Craig brought in a good friend to make our ideas reality. Axel is a carpenter, and while he specializes in more rustic, modern decor (his arrows have been a huge hit at West Elm) he has all of the knowledge to tackle something like this. I figured instead of me telling you about the process, I would let him. Take it away Axel.
As a side note: none of the original molding or trim was removed from the walls. The new trim was cut to fit around the existing trim so that if the homeowner wanted to remove the bookcase it could be converted back to its original condition.
To continue that custom look Laura filled in all of the unused shelf holes (Kristin goes into detail on that) and took a shelf to get color-matched at the paint store, ensuring the best match. The beautiful library ladder has a twin and I can’t wait to do a similar version of these built-ins in our house for her to glide on someday.