Build and Create Home

DIY Fireplace Surround and Built in Bookshelves

Today I’m so excited to share my mantel and DIY built in bookshelf makeover. This has been such a long process, and we’ve still got some work to do, but I wanted to give an update of the project.
I know this next pic is amazing. You’ll love everything about it. The grainy, unfocused photography. The awesome printed brown carpet. The ugly tile and weird little cove with no actual mantel. And can we just add a note that there’s even a fireplace in Hawaii?? What were they thinking?  Oh, well. This is from the listing when we purchased the home, and I’ve hated it since day 1.

We removed the carpet and put down laminate flooring right after moving in almost 7 years ago. With the island humidity and a few years of wear and tear by us and by renters with pets (while we lived in Italy), the flooring was in pretty bad shape. So we tore out the laminate floors before moving back in last summer and decided tile would be a better option.

But before the new tile could be laid, I was super excited to remove the tile around the fireplace!

We made sure to check local codes, and our black surround was large enough and deep enough that we could put the new wood surround right up to it. I don’t think we’ll ever use the fireplace because…Hawaii…but I still like to make sure we’re doing things the right way.

Once that stuff was all settled, I got to the fun part of designing the space.

We have vaulted ceilings in this room, and it’s a little awkward with the window on one side. I wasn’t sure I’d like having the built-ins on only one side, but I really wanted to utilize that space. Once it was sketched, it really started to grow on me.

So then it was time to design the mantel.

My husband had a couple days off, so we took a break from the mantel work to do the flooring. I knew I could do the all the woodwork myself, but I’d never laid floor tile. It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and help you get a project started. We chose 6×36″ wood-look tile from Home Depot called Dovewood. I’m not gonna lie, they are not easy to install. It took us quite a bit of trial and error to get in a good groove. We bought 4 pallets since we’ll eventually be tiling over 1000 sq ft with it.

We finished about 1/2 of the room together, and then I did the rest of the room myself.

Since every house is slightly different, there wasn’t a perfect tutorial out there that told me exactly how and what to build. But there were a couple that really gave me some good inspiration and tips. One is Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick. She’s always amazing. And we share the same birthday, so she’s my bloggy idol. πŸ˜‰

Thrifty Decor Chick

And the other one is this gorgeous faux white mantel by Layla of The Lettered Cottage.

I primed all my plywood before putting it up. I really hate painting… Ha!

The small alcove on the left is only 6″ deep, and I wanted it to be flush with the fireplace, so I just used 1x6s. I wanted the shelves to be strong, but I didn’t want the holes from a jig to show since some of the shelves are above head height and will be visible from below. I decided to notch out slots to slide the shelves into as the edges would all be covered by the trim.

And here it is all trimmed out.  We ran cables through the hollow posts down to all the electronics on the bottom shelves that would be hidden by the cabinet doors.

I decided to take a break since it was the second week in December, and I was really itching to get my Christmas decorations up. No cabinet doors to cover our ugly electronics, but I was really excited to have the room mostly together!

After Christmas, I had had enough of the ugly cords and cables, so I busted out the miter saw and built the cabinet doors.

I made the mistake of using cheap hardware the first time, and it was garbage. I decided to switch to some H-brackets, but I had to mortise the hinges to recess them into the doors.

Since the H-brackets are set on the outside of the door, I didn’t need to worry about my previous holes causing problems.

I like the look of these much more.

And I used Sarah’s brilliant idea of using the radiator cover in the panel, so our remotes work to our electronics in the cabinet.

I’m still planning to do some shiplap up the back of the fireplace, and I’m building drawers for the small shelf above the cabinet doors. We’ll hide the remotes in there.



Remodelaholic – (Friday)
Chic on a Shoestring – (Friday)
Sweet Pea – Best of the Weekend

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6 thoughts on “DIY Fireplace Surround and Built in Bookshelves

    1. I know, right?! It was probably a builder from the mainland who was too lazy to change the plans, so they just left the fireplace in. Everyone on our street has them! πŸ™‚

      Aloha and thanks for visiting,

  1. This is so beautiful Charlee! I love it so much! Congrats on winning the Home Decor Reader Challenge, and thanks for linking up! Enjoy your Homeright prizes!!

  2. You know, I thought the same about our fireplace until Sno-vid occurred this winter. Boy, oh boy! Was I ever glad to have a fireplace in Texas!

  3. Looks amazing! Did you use a paint sprayer to spray the paint on the finished cabinets? We are starting a similar project in our basement!