Add tons of storage with built in bookcases

July 10, 2013

Today I’m back in the dining room – or is it the library? This room is a little confused right now. :) Last year we decided to do away with our dining room (that we used twice in seven years?) and make it into a more functional space for us. 

I shared the idea to turn our dining room into a library couple years ago and then the final wall of bookcases made with kitchen cabinets. The “book” part of the library is done…but we still need a cozy place to sit.

I love the built ins for so many different reasons, but one of the BIGGIES is all of the glorious storage they provide:

DIY built ins cabinets as bases

I chose to use upper kitchen cabinets as the bases, which I’ve done a couple times elsewhere in the house. They aren’t nearly as deep as a regular cabinet base (12 inches instead of 24), but I knew they would still provide plenty of storage.

I use this area for most of our serving stuff – the items we don’t use every day or even every week, but I like to have it all for special occasions/holidays/parties. You know – all that pretty stuff you hardly use but still need (want)?

When I finished the built ins I was so excited I just shoved everything back into the cabinets and called it done. For a long time now I’ve been wanting to clean them out, purge some of the stuff and pretty it up just a tad.

I started by pulling every single item out of the cabinets. You know, the whole it gets worse before it gets better thing? Yeah:


Well the dog wasn’t in the cabinets, of course. He just has to be in front of the camera every. single. time.

And this is another reason the room is still in limbo – the table and chairs from the kitchen were moved in here temporarily and have stayed. Hubby sits here to work most days lately instead of the basement so we’ve kept it for now. I’m itching to get those comfy chairs in here though. :)

So I cleaned them out and then cleaned them out – vacuumed all the leftover sawdust (nice) and wiped them down:

Side note – no I don’t paint the insides of the doors. SOMEONE (me) doesn’t have the patience for that.

I pulled out the top shelf in each one to cover them with some cute contact paper I had picked up for this project a year ago:

contact paper on shelves

But I ran out of it before I could do the bottom shelves. I was just going to leave them as is but it looked wonky. Sooooo I quickly taped them off and did one coat of the color I used on the backs of the built ins – Storm Cloud (I think it’s Sherwin Williams?):

label cabinet doors before painting

Do you see that little piece of Frogtape on the back of the door? That’s been there all this time – I used those to number the doors when I took them off to paint them. I highly recommend doing that because otherwise you’ll have to do a lot of adjusting to get the doors just right again.

Anyhoo, did I need to paint the inside the cabinets no one but me will ever see? (I mean, obviously I have no life.) No. But there’s something to be said for having an organized space look pretty too. It only took me five minutes for each one, so it wasn’t too bad.

storm cloud gray

I only had to do one coat each too – which totally surprised me. The paint is the SW Duration kind and it covered great.

After it was dry I did a super quick purge and then loaded everything back in. I have a cabinet for holiday stuff:

organizing holiday dining items

One for vases/pitchers/birthday party supplies (there’s no rhyme or reason to this as you can see):

organizing serving ware

One for random serving stuff, with room to spare:

organizing serving dishes

I have more in the kitchen that will fill that space, don’t you worry. ;)

And finally, one dedicated to dishes. My vintage glass plates (from Goodwill) for showers and small get togethers, our white dishes for big meals and some serving plates and linens as well:

organizing serving dishes

And, I gotta say, it doesn’t ever get any less weird that I share the insides of our drawers and cabinets with you, even after five years. ;)

It is SO GREAT to have a spot for all of this stuff! Most of it was in the basement before – now I like having it close by in a pretty spot:

DIY built ins using cabinets as basesI still LOVE how this all came together. So very much.

We’ve lived here for nine years and I feel like I am on the cusp of having a good spot for everything – it’s taken that long. If you’ve been around for awhile you know I have to live with things for some time before making them right for us – the same goes for how I (try to) organize the STUFF in our house.

How do you organize all the dining stuff you rarely use but want to keep? :) Or do you use them often? I think I need to throw a party.

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  1. Hello! I've been purging a bunch of my stuff so I'm left with my FiestaWare collection (stored in my china cabinet's base), our wedding China (never used in over 7 years, huge waste), and the rest is either white, silver or clear. I got rid of everything else. I'm not one that entertains much so it keeps me from buying seasonal items and too much stuff. It also helps me save money and keeps everything in our kitchen, pantry (Tupperware and stuff) or our dining room. I ave the base of my china cabinet and then a large buffet from my grandma's house. There are a few random pieces needing to be purged and they are in my basement waiting for my garage sale or donation pile.

  2. Love this!! I would love it if you would link up to my new Work it Wednesday linky party!!


  3. Oh, Sarah. This post, like so many others, makes me so excited to meet you at Haven! You just crack me up. I'm totally the freak who paints the inside of cabinets, too. Or, in reality, I'm the freak who obsesses over how ugly the 1970s mismatched contact paper in all her kitchen cabinets is, but can't change them because she's a renter. [shakes fist at the heavens] Looking forward to chatting in person, kindred spirit! :)

  4. I am still in love with that room. I wish we had added lighting to our library shelves. Our formal living room turned library has NO overhead lighting and it can get quite dark since we have a front porch as well.

  5. This is great. I am in the process of redoing some corner cabinets for our dining room. I can't wait to have the space in my kitchen back that awkward things like serving platters, punch bowels etc. take up. And yes, you are right...I too NEED them :-)

  6. Love your built ins! They look awesome and what a fantastic idea to use upper cabinets on the bottoms.

  7. Gosh, I love your dining room. Your wall cabinets are dreamy!

  8. I'm envious that you have such great storage! Love it!

    Christy @ Creating a Beautiful Life

  9. You have done such a beautiful job transforming your unused dining room into this cool space! Wow!

  10. I love your library. I hope to do this someday. Just a thought - you could take the cue from your husband about how best to use this space- if he likes to set up his work there or whatever maybe you could leave the table in there, push it up under the window with one chair? I mean every study has a desk/table, right? Thanks for sharing all your fabulous ideas with us!

  11. I totally understand the "living with things before you make decisions" idea. We have lived in our new house for almost a year now and I'm just starting to feel settled into a rhythm of home maintenance. Thanks for sharing, I love your style and your library project is one of my favorites so far!

  12. It's just a fact that the minute you go to take a pic the family pet MUST try to get into the pic! Love the organization!

  13. Now its pretty inside and out!!!!

  14. Love the finished units and especially the lighting - perfect combination.

  15. My bookshelves in the office? Still not finished. I feel I have to tell you this each time you post anything about these built-ins.

    Why am I too lazy to caulk and paint? Whyyyy?

  16. I love this. I want to stop working and go find a cabinet to purge and pretty up.

  17. Storage, glorious storage- how I dream of you with longing in my heart.... Oh, and Sarah, I can't wait to see you at Haven! :D

  18. I am waiting to move into my house...and my first project ( I hope ) Will be making my own built ins in our living room. I am so excited to try and I am so happy I came across your blog! Thank you for sharing all of your beautiful projects!!! :)

  19. You are sooo cute! I've been with you all along and didn't even realize you hadn't organized the lower cabinets :0.

    Years ago I went to all white dishes because everytime the kids broke something it was easier to find a replacement. My larger serving bowls and platter are displayed above my dark wood cabinets with hidden rope lighting. That way I don't have to find a place for them - just grab a chair, take them down and wash them when the holidays come around and I need one or two.

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  21. I love your cabinets and it is so inspiring for me since I need to do the shelves in my home office. I already did the shelves in a cabinet that I have with thrift store wall paper, but it's taking me a while to get up the energy to tackle a new project. Thanks for the inspiration!

    One question: why did you not cover the front edge of the top shelf with the shelf paper so it could be seen also? Or paint it with the same blue paint from the bottom? Not sure if you had a reason, but I guess that's something I would do. Anyway, looks great!

  22. Storage is one of my all time pet hates. I had a big purge a couple of weeks ago. Somethings I had purged I thought 'What was I thinking'. I am now going to purge every spring and autumn!!! I do want to say what a good idea it is to stand some platters/plates/dishes vertical. You can see what you want in an instant and grab it and put it away without having to pull the rest of the cupboard apart.

  23. So glad you shared the "9 years" info...that's how long we've been in our home and I feel the same way! I'm just starting to organize where it "makes sense"...does that make sense? Example...we have a pool and with that we have tons of dishes and platters to use outside. I used to keep our summer dishes in the basement on a shelf and I wold empty out a section of our kitchen cabinets every year to make room for the summer items. The last couple of years I've gotten lazy and only brought up what we needed because I dreaded the swap. This year I got smart...we have a ton of storage in our kitchen and 2 pantries. One is like a broom closet in the eating area. **ding** I moved the food items from 2 shelves back into the main kitchen area and brought up all the summer dishes and put them in the closet. IT WORKS! (why did it take me so long to figure this out?)

  24. So jealous of that great storage for your dishes! I still drool when I see those built ins. I turned my dining room into our office a couple years back but just purchased some Ballard shelves from the outlet here in Atlanta. And plopped everything on them. And it has sat that way for 2 years. Ugh. Your styling is perfect!

  25. I totally get what you (& Amy) are saying about
    being in your house a lot of years. We had our
    house built a lot of years ago. I was a pregnant
    busy Mom of little ones when we moved in & I chose
    the closet designations & such, which tend to stick. I
    am currently rethinking some things. Some of
    that is due to reading your blog, I'm sure.

    I still don't have much storage; got some metro
    shelves from a pottery barn outlet & have them
    set up in the basement for stuff. Probably kind of
    like your old system. I am trying to pare down
    some too--I always keep an eventual move in
    the back of my brain.

    I've been looking at some areas of my house with
    new eyes--as though I would have just moved in.
    If that were the case, things would be different. You
    know how ya customize a house to be the way you
    want things before you move in...ironic in this case
    since we DID choose this house.
    One example is a large utility sink in laundry that
    I seldom use. Should I move that to garage to give
    me more space in laundry room.....of course some
    of these rethinking projects require some $$. Some
    do not.
    I kind of agree that if hubby is using kitchen table,
    maybe it could stay in library. It's a cute little set;
    does it take up too much room?

  26. LOVE this post:) your blog Is always so inspiring in every way.

    If you want to see some cute blue colored decor...Check out my blog:)

    Have a wonderful day dear

    LOVE Maria at

  27. Hi Sarah - I realize this is a little off-topic, but could you pretty pretty please let me know the source of that rug in your dining room? I've been wanting one with that pattern for quite awhile, and while I originally wanted it in flat-weave, I'm now taking what I can get! Sorry if you answered this elsewhere - I did search your dining room posts, but I couldn't find it.

  28. Hey there! I *adore* your style and this is the second time this summer I have come across your blog! I would love to recreate these bookshelves. Do you have a tutorial somewhere? I know this is an old post, but if you could share your method, our dining/homeschool room would be much more functional!


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THANKS so much for reading!