Feature Project – Part 3

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May 22, 2017

Finishing Your Remodeling Project


The hearth, cabinets, and window seats in our carpentry project are actually part of a greater scheme – the makeover of the entire living/family room. Changing the one end wall so dramatically changed the entire atmosphere of the room. Now, at the finish and decorate stage, we tie the new and the old together.

The final color and finish of the new cabinetry was part of the original design that we imagined. However, that didn’t mean it was fixed in stone. As the cabinet units were fastened in place, and particularly as the hearth tiles were laid, the imagined décor became more real, and our original vision changed. Luckily, changing minds at this point was relatively easy to do.

Changing the Paint above the Mantel


The original vision called for the highest gloss white on all of the units. This would match the baseboard, window, and door trim throughout the room. It would also compliment any colors used in the rugs, drapes, and furnishings, so they could be replaced at any time, completing the makeover without having to repaint the woodwork. All of the units had been made of cabinet grade plywood, which has the perfect surface veneer for taking paint.

The only exception was the surface of the faux chimney above the mantle. It was made of rough, barn boards, which had been sanded lightly to smooth away splinters but leave plenty of texture to show through the paint.



The tiles we chose for the hearth were a blend of neutral colors – creams, grays, and browns. They, too, would compliment just about any color scheme, but they were lively. The mantle, on the other hand, was made of a solid, square beam stained very dark brown. We realized the combination of the tile, the dark beam, and the multi color and texture of the barn boards, intensified by the different colors, would be too busy.

The solution turned out to be relatively easy. The primer was given a brisk scrubbing with alcohol-soaked rags which gave the effect of a whitewash on the barn boards. It left lots of texture but softened the effect had we left it natural.


What about Stain and Varnish?

Stained and varnished woods can be very beautiful, but they had several disadvantages in our project. First, hardwood veneer plywood – in woods like oak, walnut, mahogany, and so on – is much more expensive, and that goes in spades for solid wood boards. Second, there’s more work involved in the cabinetry, because even the tiniest flaws will show through a clear finish. Third, stained wood would have been much darker than we wanted, and the grain pattern and colors of the wood would have clashed with some of the colors in the rugs and furniture. Keep these considerations in mind when you plan your own projects.

Using Molding to Add a Panel Effect

We created a paneled door effect on the cabinet doors and the fronts of the window seats using pre-formed molding. Molding of this sort is relatively inexpensive and comes in a variety of profiles, so you have lots of options for the look of your “panels.” We chose a very plain molding that didn’t require cutting 45-degrees miters at the ends – they fit together cleanly with simple butt joints. Raised above the surface of the doors, they create a very pleasant 3-D look, rather than an unbroken flat surface.

We chose hinges and door pulls to go with the panels and light fixtures, providing even more visual interest to the end wall without being too flashy.

Matching the Drapes with Roman Shades

As part of the makeover, we replaced the drapes on all of the windows. For the two windows in the end wall, which are framed by the cabinets and the faux chimney and now have window seats beneath them, we made roman shades from the same white fabric as the drapes. We could have used other types of ready-made shades, but we liked the perfect match in the fabric and the classy look of the roman shades.


Lingering over the Final Touches

We’ll also custom make the cushions for the window seats, using readily available foam blocks for padding. And then there are the shelves to fill!

We have books to put on some of the shelves, of course, but these units were also built to hold mementoes, interesting souvenirs, found items like seashells, pottery, small sculptural pieces – in other words, those cool things everyone finds along the way that seem just right to fill a certain spot in a room.

We might even leave a fairly tall space between two shelves and hang a small picture or painting in the opening, set deep against the back or held out by spacer blocks so that it seems to hang in space within the cabinet. The possibilities are almost endless, and that’s what makes this project so special!

Enjoy some additional photos below.  We are thrilled with the finished product!

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