I Painted My Built-Ins

By Kate Riley March 11, 2012

My sister came to visit this past weekend and she only comes to visit a few times a year but when she does, great things happen.  Mostly she makes me do what I need to do more of these days and that is take a break from the computer to watch movies and eat cookies on the couch – she’s a good influence.  My sister and I love to watch television or movies together and to the program we always add our commentary based on our strange sense of humor. We are known to bust out in random monologues about things that are completely nonsensical to others but make perfect sense in our little world.

This information is irrelevant to today’s post but I thought I’d share anyway because what’s true is if I hadn’t finished painting the family room built-in cabinets I wrote about a few weeks ago then I’d have absolutely nothing to say to you today other than the marathon session of Downton Abbey Season Two spent with my sister this past weekend was as the kids say “epic” and as the Crawleys might say “splendid” and I’m counting the minutes until Season Three. 

Back to those cabinets. You may recall I desperately wanted to paint the built-ins white because there are no windows in this room and it felt like a cave but a certain person I’m married to was hesitant to do so. Then you faithful readers came rallying to my defense and I was emboldened and so I went ahead, trusting my instincts, and painted them white.  And here’s the best part – my mate who didn’t want to paint them at all at first, actually likes them much better now. I think you will too.

Here’s a glance at the behemoths before I pulled off the doors and painted them.

family room cabinets before

And today.

cg family room white built ins

Much improved I must say.  The cabinets were primed with Zinsser oil based Cover Stain last week.


zinsser cover stain


Then I painted them with two coats of a warm white – Benjamin Moore’s Advance formula in ‘Linen White’ to be exact.

ben moore linen white


Just the paint wasn’t enough – the two inner shelves looked disproportionate to the top shelf so I cut two pieces of pre primed 2 ½” trim (the same we used on these bookshelves) and attached them with a brad nailer to create the illusion of thicker shelves. This is an easy trick for giving your shelving units greater thickness and the shelves are still moveable since the trim is only attached to the front.

brad nailer


You can see the difference below…

thin to thick shelves

I was sad to see the cabinet doors go because I could hide all sorts of games and photo albums behind them, but taking them off forced me to weed through everything we didn’t use and find new places for what was left.  Now I’m loving all that white space surrounding the objects on the shelf – I feel like I can relax and breathe in here now.

cg white built ins left side


And yes those picture frames are empty for now, soon to be filled with family favorites.  I’m also adjusting to the television out in the open too.  I know I was among the minority who hid their TV behind closed doors, but then I realized an exposed TV is more common than not these days so I’ve adjusted to the difference. 

cg family room


Meanwhile, it’s just nice to relax in a calm space that feels a bit more coastal in style and less like the cave it felt like before the cabinets were painted and the doors removed.   

cg family room kids on sofa


Slipcovered sofas are Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams from the Pottery Barn Basic collection (blue slate slipcovers no longer available) – we’ve had them for several years and they are extremely comfortable.  The three Grand Palais mirrors are from Ballard Designs (I painted them white a few years ago); the striped chair was a floor sample on clearance from Macy’s furniture store last year, Silsila pillows from Z Gallerie, baskets from the Container Store, bronze bicycle from Pier One, glass bottles and other collectibles from various sources.

It never ceases to amaze me what a fresh coat or two of white paint can do!




  1. Oh.My.God.

    I Just did the exact same thing in my living room.. Right down to adding those strips to the thin plywood shelves. I finished it last night! I had to trim out my built ins and I added corbels to the fireplace mantle, but i swear it looks almost EXACTLY like yours. TV on one side, shelves on the other, fireplace in the middle. Mine were horrific oak! (You actually had a nicer starting point.)

    I had a brass fireplace surround I had to paint as well. I only have a teaser on my blog so far.. but I can’t wait to post my reveal, since yours is evidence of how much better they can look!


  2. Love the new shelves! Painting them really gave the whole wall a nice look!

    The Curtain Lady

    P.S. Our family does the same thing- about the weird sense of humor and how we relate everything to weird things no one else thinks of- but makes perfect sense to us- oh and laughing till you are crying! lol!

  3. I love how open and clean and just over all lovely it looks! Great job on these!!! I am also jealous that you are through season 2 of Downton Abbey! We debated downloading the entire season to itunes tonight cause we are holding out for netflix but I’m afraid we can’t wait very long.

  4. Man! You do not mess around with those big projects!! I need to get myself in gear and finish the painting I’ve been needing to do for over a year now. You are always an inspiration–this space looked great before but now it is magazine worthy. I LOVE this room and the color scheme. I have peacock blues, aquas, greys and whites all over my house now thanks to you.

  5. Wow! What a HUGE difference, they look beautiful. I, too, have a “cave”. We have windows but it never seems to be bright enough. I have been treating to paint our fireplace white and this was the inspiration I needed…..so have you ever painted brick? Also, I love the slip cover. I’ve never actually used one and my couch (and our living room) would benefit from one. Is it difficult to get one to fit? My couch is enormous and having it done professionally would be too costly. Thanks for any tips or ideas….Again, you shelves look gorgeous!

  6. They look amazing Kate! What a dramatic difference! People are often so afraid to paint over wood tones but you make such a strong (and beautiful!) case for it, who could resist after seeing this?! :) So inspired!

  7. It’s really beautiful! It made a world of difference, so glad to see you followed your vision:0) Looks so awesome!

  8. The tv cabinet I am sure was open most of the time anyways right? So what does it matter if you don’t have an open cabinet door all the time now. Looks fantastic Kate, it really does feel more fresh and bright and welcoming {well at least from my point of view in front of the computer} Sisters are the BEST! I just used mine to help me with some of my DIY as well LOL “used” sounds funny, but you know what I mean. Great job you two.

  9. what an amazing change! looks fabulous – and adding the extra trim on the shelves was a billiant idea.
    love the changes.
    cheryl xox.

  10. I have a similar set up with built-ins flanking my fireplace, yours looks so good now I want to do mine. I’ll just add it to the list.
    Thanks for sharing,

  11. I can understand the hesitation. It’s a huge area to get wrong – but you didn’t get it wrong and it looks GREAT. What a difference! I have two pine cabinets either side of my fireplace in my breakfast room that I’ve wanted to paint white/cream but have been putting it off. You may have encouraged me to go ahead. xx

  12. Lovely! I did the same thing this week — except for our builtins were just built. I’ve been dreaming of a wall of white shelves for quite a while, and I’m in love. Yours look terrific!!

  13. Well now, you’ve finally let those babies become what they were destined to be! :) Beautiful reno job! Like I’m taking 500% step up in appearance, warmth it adds to the room, and functionality (even tho you removed the doors and limited “storage space” I think it adds so much more!

    Love it!

  14. A nice side-effect of adding the strip to the shelves is that it is less likely to sag.

  15. Ok, you’ve totally inspired me! I’ve been “saying” that I’m going to paint my bookshelves/cabinets white for over a year now. It’s that or remove them all together and add windows to lighten up the room. After seeing your makeover, I think just painting will give me what I’m looking for! Thank you!

  16. Fan-flipping-tactic! I’ve been jonsing to paint our horrible oak built-ins but my mister is gun-shy. So did you sand at all? It just straight to the oil-based zinsser primer? It all that’s holding me back…thinking about how the heck to sand and not create a giant mess.

  17. I just made some pillows out of essentially the same fabric. Well, same pattern, different color. Love them in my room and I love them in yours. Looks great.

  18. Wow what a breath of fresh air just in time for Spring! It turned out just beautiful!

  19. I follow you faithfully and am dazzled by your transformations. I have a question for you:
    What is on the opposite side of the room from the fireplace? Could you “float” the couch in the center of the room facing the fireplace and the TV? Just wondering. Thank you!

    • Hi Cathy, there is another loveseat there that faces the fireplace so the two sofas form and “L” shape – I should post a picture of it so you can see!

  20. Wow, it is gorgeous. You must be so pleased. It looks fresh and bright. You are right what a difference a little bit of paint makes. Enjoy.

    Letters from the Shore

  21. The built ins look amazing. Great tip in the shelving. I have wanted to paint my ugly oak corner built in for years. I don’t think I could remove the top doors as the go way back to the corner. Maybe I could get an insert built just to make it look like a shelf and not a deep corner. I was thinking of the Annie Sloan paint, but now I am really liking what you did. Maybe I should rethink my plan.

  22. Great job Kate. So fresh and coastal looking. Do you know what your wall colour is please?

  23. Absolutely beautiful Kate! They came out awesome! I’ve taken a brief break from doing things around the house, but you and the 70 degree weather here today on the east coast just inspired me to get going again! Thank you!

  24. awesome! you did a beautiful job! you should be very proud. what a great thing to do with your sister. I should call up mine. i am going to visit her for a week during easter, maybe she’s got something we could do? You go girl!

  25. They look really good! I was just wondering if you did any sanding before applying the primer? I have a built-in as well that could use a paint job–I am actually thinking of going with a mossy green to contrast against our caramel walls and I haven’t done it yet because I didn’t want to sand that huge amount of wood!

  26. I love it! I take doors off of rooms a lot and find that it really changes a space! It does the same thing in this case with your built-ins. The change in color brightens up the whole room. You have taken an otherwise closed in space and really opened it up and made it feel welcoming. I think sometimes even if you feel like things look fine you still have to make changes that work for your family. I need your help with my fireplace built-in re-do. It’s a whopper! Lesley

  27. Beautiful! The white allows your aqua accents to pop so nicely. If you get tired of the tv showing, you could maybe add a shorter door on that side to cover it.

  28. Nice job!! So, I’m guessing your hubby broke down and gave into your request to paint them. ;) Does he love them too? They look beautiful like they have always been white!!

  29. Wow! Huge improvement. Thanks for the tip about the trim on the front of the .

  30. Fabulous transformation! I love how light and bright the space feels now and the white will serve as a great backdrop to add seasonal pops of color. I can already image the space during Christmas. Fabulous job.

  31. Just started following your blog and love your DIYs! I actually just bought my very first property and am already planning some projects. I want to paint our honey-colored kitchen cabinets white and was wondering if the primer and paint you used on this project would be a good choice for cabinetry? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommended process, thanks so much!

    • Yes Julia, I recommend both this primer and this paint for cabinetry, but grab some Penetrol (conditioner) for the primer for the smoothest finish, especially on kitchen cabinets.

  32. Looks so great – like a different room! The addition to the front of the shelf is great too. So love the Ballard mirrors in white also! I actually have that same bike (Pier 1 a bit ago?) that I pulled out yesterday and(I am actually attempting to paint it today, we will see how it goes!). But knowing the size of the bike puts the cabinet size in perspective – I am sure that was a lot of work, but so worth it!

    Take care, Laura

  33. Looks awesome. I love your accents and pinned them on Pinterest. THank you for telling me where you got the little bicycle. I must go find one, pronto!

  34. Ohh my! What a huge difference! It looks like something straight out of a model home! It went from a bit manly to coastal without screaming BEACH! I love it!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Excellent! I just did something similar in our LR, too. I have a question about your shelves not going to the ceiling. Does a lot of dust accumulate on the top of the shelves, or does being so close to the ceiling keep the dust out. That may be a solution for an issue I have with another remodel, so I’d be interested in hearing your reply. Thanks!

  36. I love everything that you’ve done… but this I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!!! Looks so amazing!! Yay to painting wood white!! And doesn’t it make your fireplace really stand out!! Great job as usual!!

  37. Looks fabulous Kate! I am with you on the “hide the TV” feeling. I like being able to close it up behind doors…but the open white shelves look so good now you dont have to!

  38. I knew it! They look absolutely amazing! Great idea to “beef up” the shelves…and wow, taking off the doors! I think it looks amazing…..Great job!

  39. It looks great. We just bought a house on Cape Cod and it already has white built ins around the fireplace. We debated whether to put the tv over the mantel or in the space to the right – as yours is. We opted for the same arrangement that you have. My son didn’t agree. I think he wanted it to look like a sports bar with a HUGE tv, but he didn’t win.

    Thanks to your inspiration, I am busy painting furniture finds from Craigs list, etc. While we were finalizing our kitchen cabinet order this weekend, the designer said she would order a quart of paint for touch ups. Who knew. It never occurred to me that we could do that. I was so excited as I was worried about doing the kitchen chairs in just the right color. Now, they will be a match to the cabinets.

    Thanks for the inspiration and great information.

  40. It occurred to me to do this to my built ins a couple weeks ago. Did your have a varnish too? You just primed and didn’t need to sand? Looks like I’ll be doing this soon!!

  41. I love how they turned out!!! I especially love the aqua accents. That’s the color I’m doing in my girls room and I’m obsessed!!!

  42. I absolutely love this!! If we owned a house that had built ins I would probably paint them white too. Well once my youngest was a least four(he’s still has yet to make his debut. In about a month or so he’ll grace us with his presence). Dirty hands are hard to get rid of even after using soap and water. But I love your space. I love the brightness of the room. Right now my husband is building me all new furniture. I’m opting for a Red Mahogany color so that I can do everything else super light. I love contrast so much!! But again I think this room is divine!!

  43. These look absolutely amazing–what is it with husbands and the look of natural, unpainted wood!? My husband just finished building a few built in shelves for my kitchen desk space. I pieced together foam core to create a snug fit, wrapped them in fabric and placed them in the back of the shelves. No wallpaper, no commitment (plus I can always reuse the fabric to make pillows or curtain trim). It might be an idea to consider if you’re feeling like changing things up down the road. I love how ours turned out!!

  44. Only you could take something that’s already awesome and make it spectacular! Just beautiful!


  45. Wow, it looks beautiful!! But more importantly, can you believe we have to wait a YEAR to see season 3 of Downton Abbey!!!!! I don’t know what I will do????!!!

  46. OMG. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. What a difference. I have so much golden oak in my house that I would love to paint. DH is very hesitant. Well, I went ahead and did one small bath room cabinet and it turned out great, and he liked (note, I did not say loved) it. So, maybe I will tackle something else when I can find the time.

  47. I freaking LOVE it! We recently bought a house built in 1980. The family room fireplace wall is ALL brick. While I can’t bring myself to paint the brick, it makes the room so very dark. Someday, when we redo our kitchen, we’re planning on having built-ins made on each side with open shelving on top to keep some of the brick but to lighten/brighten it and create some storage on the bottom with doors. I’m dying to do it!

  48. I love the transformation! They look fabulous! Its hard to tell from the pictures, but does the linen white match the crown molding, etc. color in the rest of the room? I am wanting to paint some built ins and my living room and am wondering if the whites need to be the same as the other trim in the room? I would love your thoughts on this! Love, love, love what you have done with yours!

  49. Splendid! The change is truly wonderful…you are so creative and have such talent. Thanks for sharing it with those of us that are never quite sure!

  50. Thanks to you I discovered the Zinsser Primer and I LOVE IT! I had an ugly green laminate built-in in my living room but it is now white with espresso bean detailing and I no longer hate it :D

    Awesome job on the cabinets by the way :)

  51. I love it! You’re fireplace is now the star attraction and not the dark cabinets anymore. I love how the tile pops now, much more of a wow factor. Hubby’s should always listen to their wifey’s, we know what we’re doing. :)

    • Hi Courtney, the paint on the opposite walls is Ben Moore’s ‘Camouflage’ – I like their Ben formula, blue can, covers in 1 coat!

  52. My family was horrified when I wanted to paint our kitchen cabinets and oak hutch white. However, they LOVE the new kitchen look and hopefully I can paint the hutch one of these days… I love how you also painted the tanish/greenish(?) colored wall between the cabinets, it really does connect everything and give the illusion of a bigger room.

  53. What a difference Kate..The whole room looks brighter..amazing what white paint can do..white is what I am planning for my kitchen soon..Love it!!

  54. Thank you for this post. I will now have something to show my husband who refuses to let me paint the horrendous wall paneling in our living room.

  55. Wow, seriously beautiful! You have a gift with white paint :) Love the Zinsser products as well, and never would have found them without your recommendation!

  56. The difference is wonderful, you made a great decision. It is fantastic.

  57. Whoa! It is absolutely beautiful now! That is a beautiful white, as well. I am about to be shopping for a good clean, warm white and I think I may have just found it.

  58. It looks so clean and crisp and I simply adore it! Wondering…what type of wood are the shelves? I would love to paint a few things around my house but I’m dealing with maple and wasn’t sure how well it would cover.

  59. It looks fantastic!! So much more open without the doors on it. I keep “my” TV in an armoire still, but the one in the living room is out on the wall. It took some getting used to, but I like it now. :) I love how you styled everything!

  60. Out of curiosity why didn’t you use Chalk Paint? Is it a durability issue? I love the look and plan to paint my built-ins as well.

  61. Ahhh, Kate- so lovely…. and I know exactly what you went through on the hubby side… wood is just sort of “je ne sais pas” to them!

    Thanks for the tips re; types of primer and the recent article in which you explained the degrees of difference in paint- therefore, i better understand your choice of the Advance, B. Moore.

    May I dare to suggest to the previous commenter, Ilene, that the total coverage on a built in(making it look like the original idea) was at least a part of your choice to forego chalk paint. I also love chalk paint, but it would have given a very diffenrent effect to the bookcase, than that of looking part of a cohesive whole…. which I think is very successful in this room- still love the mirrors too and the light they add to your look!!

    glad you had a great visit with your sister!~

  62. I love them! What a change in the room. My sis has built ins similar to yours in dark oak, and she’s scared to paint them. She’s not going to be after she sees yours!

  63. Beautiful!! Would you ever consider mounting the TV above the fireplace? That’s common these days and it would place it in a more ergonomic spot. : ) Still, a gorgeous room!

  64. Looks good; my husband is also reluctant to paint over wood. I have a question about your ceiling fan, is there a light between the fan blades and the ceiling? Do you remember where you found it or what brand it is? I’ve been on the hunt for a fan like that.

    • Hi Kellie, I’m not usually a ceiling fan person, but in this space it really works because the rich wood is a nice contrast, also this is where we hang out a lot on hot summer days so it’s functional too. That particular fan does have a light but we rarely use it, we use the recessed lighting and sconces instead. As best as I can recall, we bought it at either HD or Lowes but that was six years ago!

  65. I love the changes with the paint, gives me inspiration to do this now! The room looks so relaxing and inviting, makes me want to come over and visit! Great Job!

  66. My husband is the same about painting wood, however, we are likely moving into an historic home…some molding is white which i like but most of it is dark wood. My debate is whether or not to paint it white…my husband, like yours, is hesitant and I wonder about it as well because the home is historic…any advice?

    • Hi Kate R, I hesitate to paint classic wood detailing in any historic home, unless absolutely everything is wood, then in those circumstances, a little contrast actually enhances the wood details.

  67. Wow. It really does look so much better. Did you sand the cabinets before priming them? I know exactly what you mean about sisters. I spent Saturday with mine getting our nails done and shopping. She won’t let me talk about my blog for long so I have to come up with other things to talk about. :)

    • Hi Lisa, I didn’t sand the cabinets, this particular primer doesn’t require it, bonus!

  68. What a huge difference! Love it!

    My family room was originally all dark paneling, dark beam ceilings, and a really big used brick fireplace and hearth. Much to the horror and gasps of others, we painted the whole thing white. Best decision ever! It is a wonderful, warm inviting room and still has architectural interest and texture.

    Hurray for you and white paint!

  69. Your built-ins look amazing!!! What a difference! And too funny about your empty picture frames. I still have a few of those in my house :) I really should fill them up with photos of my kids. But boy is it hard to get a good photo of all 5 of them!

  70. It looks great. I’d love to paint the wood in our great room. It won’t happen, though. The husband loves it too much.
    But, I can enjoy yours.
    Good job.

  71. Wow! I must say, when I saw the picture of the original wood, I thought “What beautiful cabinets! Who would want to paint that lovely wood?” (You must understand, though, that I come from a home with truly horrid, old, nasty cabinetry). BUT – you convinced me. The white paint looks fabulous! What a great transformation. :)

  72. I’m loving this makeover. And in this instance, I’m all for painting the wood. Its dramatically improved.

    I did notice the kids watching the TV on an odd angle, do you find it at all awkward (the way the couch and the TV are not facing each other)? Or would you just sit on the other side of the sectional?

  73. I probably win the creeper of the year award, but I had to mention I have the same exact bronze bicycle which happened to make an appearance in your BOTB series back in January! My boyfriend thought I was crazy when I picked it up, at Ross of all places. Thank you for noting where you found yours! I’m tempted to pick up the metal motorbike in gold….

    PS – Built-ins look stunning in white!

  74. Leave the fan alone! I get it! We have one in our kitchen over our table. Very new style that everyone comments on. The fact is that it gets HOT in here especially in the summer and I am all for functionality and really, it does look good too. I do like your fan too. Very tasteful. I was thinking that some beadboard would look good inside the built-ins on the back wall and sides too. Just an idea. They are very pretty, although I truly was a fan of the dark wood.

  75. Wow! They look great. I am a huge fan of white paint. I like the shelves more open, although I understand your feeling about the TV. Ours is over the mantle so there’s no hiding it…

  76. Hi Kate,

    I am a relatively new fan of yours. I just bought a house that needs A LOT of work so I am inspiring myself in your work. Thank you for sharing. One curiosity I have on your post is: those mirrors above the sofa. Did you made them yourself? If so, could you share how? I would love to do something similar on a wall I have in the living room. Thanks!

    • Hi Mariella, those mirrors are the Palais from Ballard Designs, there is a link at the bottom of the post.

  77. I love the new look! The whole room looks lighter now.

    Kim @ mylifeincolorblog.com

  78. Gorgeous! You definitely made the right decision in painting them white. They brighten up the room and now you have all your pretties out on display!

  79. What a difference a little white paint can make! Looks amazing and I also love tv marathons!! Seriously – there’s nothing better!

  80. My Lord, what a difference. I’m one who has a little bit of a tough time painting nice wood furniture, but this is a classic case of “yes, go for it!” LOvE It! (and I liked it before you painted!)

  81. Loving your blog!! Found you through Pinterest, and keep coming back to your site time and again for your gorgeous projects! You are definitely an inspiration for the makeovers I have planned for our home – thanks for all you do!
    (P.S. I do custom Facebook pages if you need help – all Pages are converting to the new Timeline format on 30 March).

  82. Looks great, has a nice “crisp” feel to it. I have a hugh pine entertainment center
    that I want to paint, but I’m stumped as to what color. It is against olive green walls.
    Tan sofa’s, 2 green chairs. Accent color is cranberry red….Any ideas??? I would certainly
    welcome any suggestions.

  83. Gorgeous, bright and comfortable – great job! We are in the middle of a living room transformation. Our walls were a darkish red when we bought our house and I hate the dark cave effect they give off. The walls are primed and now its decision time when it comes to the color of the walls and built ins. We’re looking for something light and neutral, though not pure or off-white. What color are these walls? Are they the same color as in the before photo? I may add it to the pool of contenders. Thanks in advance, and congrats on such a beautiful transformation!

  84. Three Cheers for you that your hubby saw the white, that is the light. I hate to say how many times I’ve backed down from painting because it was “nice wood”! And like you I knew it wood } be better. I like that you explain what you’re doing and how you do it. That’s why I voted for you in the AT DIY contest!
    Your weekend sounded like a blast. I don’t have a Sis like you do that I can do stuff with, but I am blessed with a great friend like that and those kinds of people are treasure.

  85. What a lovely makeover! I’m impressed with how calm the room is even with the open shelving. You must have done a great job going through everything behind those doors. Beautiful!

  86. WOW! LOVE the what white paint can do. I’m a BIG fan of white cabinets in a space like this. A friend had beautiful wood cabinets like yours & the same type wood on all 4 walls in her large, family room. Talked her into having it all painted. It’s such a stunning room now, bright and light & still cozy. Love your “new” family room.

  87. Great transformation…congrats on a beautiful job! My question is about the throw pillows in your “before” photo, I have seen then in a couple of posts over the last months and I love them. I have a red sofa in my living room and they would look great on it. Do you remember where you found them?

  88. This makes the whole space brighter – love it! I have built in bookcases that I really want to paint – but I’ve been put off by all the little holes in the sides that are there for adjusting the shelves. I see that your built ins have them as well – how did you paint without having the holes get painted over or just have extra paint in them? I’ve never seen any tutorial that addresses this and would love some advice! Thanks!

    • Hi Susan, I use a roller and really light coats, that seems to avoid any paint filling in the holes!

  89. Oh I love the change! You’re right – the room is so much more breathable now!

    We have our TV out in the open, too. I kind of prefer it that way because I don’t like bulky storage units. I think the TV looks great right where you have it – it fits perfectly and kind of just blends away now with everything else going on. Besides, the fireplace is the main focal point of that area anyway. Great job!

  90. I love everything about your room. What a wonderful transformation! And a great story about your relationship with your sister. So fun.

  91. Absolutely love this. What a transformation! And you’ve inspired me: our fireplace has built-in bookshelves on one side and blank wall on the other. It always looked a little lopsided to me. Now I’m envisioning built-ins (to the ceiling) on both sides of the fireplace.

  92. Those are very well edited bookshelves, bravo! And the trim on the skinny shelves was a fantastic idea.

    So does anyone know when season 3 of Dowton Abby airs? I’m dying of anticipation!

  93. oh my goodness Kate, this is fabulous! It opens/brightens and compliments the room so much! Lucky you to have such a wonderful sister!

  94. Looks fresh and fabulous! You’re DIY projects are so inspiring. I love your blog.

  95. I had to giggle at the part where the hubs was hesitant but now loves them. That’s the story of our DIY life here. :)

    I am so excited for you that you were able to do this! I have two painting projects sitting here that I have been wanting to do and you have completed like at least 5+ and I still haven’t started… I think it’s time to open some windows and start priming!


  96. Great remodel – love all the white and the openness, less formal, more family. Glad to see you left the hearth warm wood….not only looks great but will be a lot easier to keep clean. Love the pale blue/aqua….I’m always amazed how a little color goes a long way. It’s always hard to re-do a room that actually looks fine s is, but if you know it can be so much better, go for it! Kids adorable too!

  97. Thank you! Thank you! This just pushed my husband into the agreeble zone. We have been at odds for months over our cabinets.

  98. P.S. This is the first time I’ve used the mobile version of your site, and I love it! I’m on an Android phone, and the navigation within the page is really easy, especially the comments. Definitely worth the time you put into it!

  99. Wow! That made the world of a difference. It’s so great to know you can completely transform a space with some elbow grease and a bucket of paint!

    • Hi Meers, the wall color is ‘Camouflage’ by Benjamin Moore, it’s in my kitchen and dining room too!

  100. Oh wow Kate, what a beautiful difference! Great job girlie! I have almost the exact same set up as you and have been begging my husband for two years to let me do it and he thinks I have lost my mind. I’m going to make him read your post and show him the difference. I think when he see’s it, he will love it more as well!


  101. The bookcases are stunning!

    But I hafta admit that I liked the “Camouflage” color on the wall around the fireplace better than the white. I like the way the bright white crown molding pops off that color on the side walls.

  102. OMG! I thought the wood actually looked pretty great. BUTTTTT now I see the light! The white looks stunning. I have ulgy golden oak builtins and I going to paint them also. I cant decide on white or grey to match the wall color. My trim is not white in the rest of my house, it was golden oak, but i have painted it choc. brown and i love it. Great job, im am in awe of you.

  103. i just paid someone to paint a used china cabinet i bought. i had him paint it in white but it’s too bright. of course right after i painted it i found all sorts of posts with people listing great whites. can i just paint the front of it in the linen white? the painter was supposed to use a satin finish but it came out very shiny, more like a gloss finish. any helpful ideas? i would like to send a picture but i don’t know how to attach something to a comment.


    • Hi Donna, find out exactly what kind of paint the painter used (water or oil based) and if the painter used a protective coat o top of that paint before you do anythign and let me know – you can’t layer latex paint on top of oil based paint, you need a layer of primer in between. Another alternative is Annie Sloan’s ‘Old White’ it’s a lovely soft white and you don’t need to prime with that.

  104. Hi- I love this post because I’m looking to do the exact same thing and it’s my first DIY (starting big… ack!). I noted you said you didn’t sand because you used oil-based primer. Did you put your Penetrol (mentioned in other posts) in this?

    I have some really tight spaces (i.e., between where the mantle juts out and overlaps the outside wall of one built-in) that I have no clue how to get into so I want to maximize my chances for success here. I want a semi-gloss, white finish if that helps answer the question.

    I’ll try to post a pic of that tricky situation too to see if you have any ideas but otherwise, thanks for any input. I’m guessing the steps would be 1. clean, 2. prime x 2 (with Penetrol?) 3. paint (several coats) based on what I read in the post and comments section but any additional pointers for a true novice are much appreciated!

    • No Penetrol this time RGA, and I think semi gloss white will work for you. Yes, your steps are correct, clean, prime (Penetrol optional), paint two coats!

  105. How did you like the Advance paint? Do you think it would hold up in a kitchen or should I stick with oil based on the island?

  106. Your painted bookcases look great! I am going to paint mine. Took 9 years but I have finally convince my husband that they will look good. Just wondering how long it took you and if you had to caulk any of the corners?



    • Hi Julie, I finished it over the course of three days, priming the first, then a coat of paint on the second and then third day. No caulking!

  107. Wow! You are fast. I have been looking at mine kinda like I look at 7 loads of dirty laundry after vacation. Ugh. I know it will look great when it is done, but I am procrastinating. I also need to paint the mantle, the crown moulding and the baseboards and a really large window (12′ x 8′). But thank you again for showing me how great it will look when it’s done. Just one last question (I promise), did you have any problem with brush marks? I plan on rolling on the primer and the paint too ( I think) but will need a brush for the fluted moulding and crown and of course any tight spots. Did you post any super close up pics?

  108. I’ll apologize to begin because I don’t have any questions about painting the cabinets – your site is extremely helpful and I plan on using your method in the upcoming weeks! What I’m interested in is the pillow fabric. I love it! Any chance you can provide the name? Thank you!

    • Hi Kate, those pillows came from Z Gallerie, I think they still have them!

  109. Hi Kate, I’m curious if your built-ins have held up with the Benjamin Moore Advance paint. Have you noticed any problems with the flat surfaces scratching when you take things off the shelves? I just finished painting our entertainment center with this paint and wonder if it’s durable enough to leave it as is, or if I should apply a top coat. I did Zinsser Cover Stain, with 2-3 coats of Simply White in Satin. This is also where the kids’ toys go, so there would be some traffic. If I did apply a top coat, would you recommend a clear poly or clear wax? I saw that you are using wax over white paint now instead of poly. I really don’t want it to yellow since I put so much time into it. Any help would be great! Thank you!

  110. You may have very well just saved my living room…and my sanity! I REALLY didn’t want to have to sand down the shelves just to paint them. I didn’t know they made a primer like the one you used. I am hoping to get some soon and hopefully get started on our massive, dark shelves! Thank you for this post!

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lately on Instagram (@centsationalstyle)