80s Wall Unit Hack Built-In Bookcases With Fireplace

How to repurpose an old entertainment center into a living room feature wall with built-in bookcases and a DIY fireplace. Since moving into this house, I have envisioned a feature wall in our living room with a fireplace flanked by matching bookcases.



One morning while feeling frustrated by our unsuccessful attempts at finding a large electric fireplace within our budget, a light bulb went off in my head. Why not repurpose what we already have? I couldn't get pen to paper fast enough to draw up a plan for how to hack our 80s wall unit into a gorgeous built-in feature wall for our living room.



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

80s Wall Unit Repurposed Into A Custom Built-In Fireplace

If you still have one of these old wall units kicking around, this is a great furniture hack idea and budget-friendly alternative for custom built-in design.



The dated wall unit was one of our first furniture purchases in the late 80s. It has moved with us from home to home, city to city, and province-to-province. This is what it looked like before, decked out for the holidays.



Originally the left unit had a drop down minibar that we modified with an electric fireplace insert in the late 90s. My apologies for the poor-quality photo, it was taken with a point and shoot camera before my camera upgrade.



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

A big difference between the before and after, right? We are thrilled with the transformation and take great pride in the fact that we were able to breathe new life into our old entertainment center.



Finally I got that gorgeous fireplace with flanking bookcases that I had been dreaming about for a fraction of what it would have cost to have a custom feature wall built.



Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to make the furniture hack, almost all of the DIY projects shared here at Interior Frugalista have step-by-step tutorials so why not get your budget DIY on and subscribe. You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.



I should mention that we are self-taught DIYers and not trained professionals. This step-by-step tutorial is based on our building knowledge only. However, if you are a do-it-yourselfer like us, you'll find these steps helpful if you plan on making a version of our built-in electric fireplace.



How To Reuse An Old Entertainment Center

Many of the old entertainment centers popular in the 80s and 90s were separate units that you simply butt together. They have excellent potential for being reused either as separate pieces or together as a custom feature wall like we did.


Ours is a large three piece entertainment center with two larger units and a small unit in the middle. The two larger end units could be used as bookcases and the small center unit as narrow space-saving shelving in a kitchen, kid's bedroom, craft room, etc.



An Old 80s Wall Unit Hack

However, we decided the two larger pieces could easily be adapted into custom built-in bookcases and salvage the middle unit pieces to incorporate into a living room feature wall with DIY fireplace. I'll show you how we did it in the steps below.



Step 1 - Dismantling Old Wall Unit

We removed the middle unit and dismantled it piece-by-piece as most of it was going to be salvaged for the bookcases. The vertical sticks of wood you see in the photo below are holding re-purposed trim salvaged from the original door fronts that were glued and waiting to cure. The trim fit perfectly across the top of each bookcase without cutting - love when that happens!



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

Step 2 - Building DIY Fireplace Box

Mr. Frugalista built a plywood box to house the electric fireplace insert. He added 3-inch crown molding and 1 1/4-inch decorative trim to the top of each bookcase as well as the fireplace box. Four-inch decorative medallions and decorative trim are added to each side of the fireplace box that echoe the trim throughout our home.




Step 3 - Tiling DIY Fireplace Box

Slate subway tiles that match the ones in our front entry are installed around the fireplace opening.



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

Step 4 - Adding Bead Board To Bookcases

The back of each bookcase is lined with paintable beadboard wallpaper which will be painted later to look like the real thing.



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

Step 5 - Priming Repurposed Bookcases

First, the wood on the old bookcases is lightly sanded with an 80-grit sanding block to give the paint some bite. Then the bookcases are primed with Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Primer. Next, all the built-ins are painted with three coats of Behr pure white satin paint using a short nap roller.



Once the paint dried over 24-hours it is protected with three coats of non-yellowing interior Varathane Diamond Wood Finish.



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

Step 6 - Mounting Bookcases To Wall

The bookcases are mounted to the wall with L-brackets to give them that built-in appearance. The extra shelves on the bookcases are salvaged from the side panels of the middle unit we dismantled. Matching baseboard trim is wrapped along the bottom of all three pieces for a custom look. New hardware that matches our built-in dining room china cabinet are installed.



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

The photo above was taken after we finished this project. You can see in the photo below that we've since updated the room with lighter and brighter colors and a pop of green.



How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget!

After living with the green color, we decided to paint the walls in this room light grey and the back of the built-in bookcases dark gray with another living room makeover. We also added a board and batten feature wall flanking the fireplace and into the adjoining dining room.



Some of you have asked about the large ottoman in the photos and I share a tutorial on how to build an DIY Upholstered Ottoman.



I hope what you take away from this project is that when the budget is tight OR you can't find just the right piece of furniture, take a look at what you already have. Look at it through a different lens and see the potential in what it could become by breathing new life into it.



Thanks for stopping by the Interior Frugalista today! I hope you were inspired by this furniture hack. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below or the Contact Me tab at the top to drop me an email. I love hearing from you!



If you enjoyed this DIY Custom Feature Wall project, I'd be so thankful if you shared it with a friend and pinned it to your Repurposed Furniture Ideas or DIY Fireplaces board on Pinterest.




How to repurpose an 80s wall unit into a beautiful built-in custom DIY fireplace with flanking bookcases, a living room feature wall idea on a budget! #furniturehack #repurposedfurniture #fireplacediy

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Comments

  1. Fantastic 'reimagination', Marie! It was a pleasure meeting you today ...looking forward to more great chats. ~Leanne

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    1. Thank you so much, Lynda! We couldn't be more thrilled with our DIY custom feature wall.

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  3. Wow! What a beautiful transformation Marie! Your projects always amaze me! I had a similar wall unit but it didn't make the cut when we moved to this house. I'm sorry I let it go now! Gorgeous! Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Thank you, Denise, I'm glad you like our furniture hack! Our wall unit almost didn't make the cut when we moved to this house as well. I'm so glad we decided to haul it a province over to repurpose it for this home. We love our living room feature wall.

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  4. That looks amazing, Marie! Wow, it's just beautiful. I'm featuring it at Thursday Favorite Things. Thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Pam, I'm glad you like it and thrilled you'll be featuring it today! xo

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  5. Amazing transformation! You always share some great projects. I have an old entertainment center just sitting in my basement because it needs a new purpose too. Thanks for giving me something to think about. This post will be one of the features this week. #HomeMattersParty

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    1. I'm so glad this provided some inspiration for your old entertainment center. I'm thrilled to have ours featured, thank you so much! xo

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