Wall Unit Hack (Repurposed Into A Fireplace Mantel And Flanking Bookcases) | The Interior Frugalista: Wall Unit Hack (Repurposed Into A Fireplace Mantel And Flanking Bookcases)
Wall Unit Hack (Repurposed Into A Fireplace Mantel And Flanking Bookcases) | The Interior Frugalista

November 29, 2012

Wall Unit Hack (Repurposed Into A Fireplace Mantel And Flanking Bookcases)

Since moving into this house, I had envisioned a fireplace flanked by bookcases in our living room. One Sunday morning while sipping a cup of Starbucks and feeling frustrated by our unsuccessful attempts at finding a fireplace and bookcases that fit within our budget, I sat staring at that elephant in the room (and not the white one on the ottoman).

Then a light bulb went off in my head, "why the heck can't we transform what we already have"? I couldn't get my graph paper out fast enough to come up with a drawing of what I was envisioning.

80's wall unit repurposed into a fireplace with flanking bookcases

This is Miss 80's in all her glory.  She was a beauty when we bought her in 1986, our first major furniture purchase.

Wall Unit Hack Before

Then the fun began...

How To Repurpose A Dated Wall Unit Into A Fireplace Mantel and Flanking Bookcases

Step 1: Dismantling The Wall Unit

We removed the middle unit and dismantled it piece-by-piece as most of it was going to be salvaged and repurposed for the bookcases. The vertical sticks of wood are holding freshly glued trim that was salvaged from the door fronts. They fit perfectly across the top of each bookcase without the need to cut - love when that happens!

Dismantling the wall unit

Step 2: Building The Fireplace Box

Then we (as in Mr. Frugalista) built a plywood box to house the electric fireplace that was formerly on the left side of the wall unit (originally there was a fold down bar in that spot). Next he installed 3" crown moulding and 1 1/4" decorative trim to the top of each bookcase and the fireplace box. 4" medallions were added to the top corners of the fireplace box along with decorative trim that echoes the trim of our interior doors and windows.

Building a DIY fireplace box

Step 3: Tiling The Fireplace Box

We laid slate subway tiles around the fireplace that match the slate floors in our front entry. My personal slave Mr. Frugalista, wasn't too pleased that I snapped a picture of him.

Adding slate subway tiles to the DIY fireplace

Step 4: Adding Crown Moulding and Beadboard To The Bookcases

We put Martha Stewart Living paintable beadboard wallpaper on the backs of the bookcases.

Wallpapering the backs of the bookcases with paintable wallpaper

Step 5: Priming the Bookcases

A fresh coat of Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer was applied followed by three coats of Behr Satin Interior paint using a short nap roller. Afterwards, three coats of satin polycrylic were added to protect the finish.

Painting the bookcases

Step 6: Mounting Bookcases to the wall

The bookcases were mounted to the wall with L-brackets to give them a custom built-in appearance. Trim was added along the bottom of all three pieces to unify them. The shelves were salvaged from the side panels of the middle unit that we removed. The new hardware matches our dining room built-ins.

Dated wall unit to fireplace flanked by bookcases

So there you have it, a piece of furniture spared from the landfill and repurposed into a very pretty focal point in our living room! Mr. Frugalista and I feel such a sense of satisfaction when we do that. We're very proud of what we accomplished at a fraction of the cost.

Recently the paintable wallpapered backs were painted green and now everything just pops!

A big Thank You to the following for featuring this project:

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