A homebody that can’t get enough of making my house a home with every DIY project! You can find me snuggling with our furbabes, baking cookies, working in the garage on a project or hiking some awesome trails here in the Carolinas.
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Being a born and raised Florida girl means you don’t have a fireplace in your house. Growing up we lived in a lot of different houses and none ever had a fireplace. I always dreamed of a cold and white Christmas in front of the fireplace. So, when we moved to SC where it can get cold and sometimes snow. I knew I wanted to do a fireplace in our home. But, the house we bought didn’t have one. So, it was to the drawing board to design an electric fireplace with built-in bookshelves.
After our first Christmas in the new house I told myself, by the next Christmas we would have a fireplace. I started brainstorming what kind of fireplace we wanted…gas or electric? Since we already had gas appliances in the house, a gas fireplace would be my first choice. Quickly we realized the cost to hire someone to run a new gas line was not worth it to us.
Back to the drawing board. Now we had our eyes on electric fireplaces. At first I was bummed about an electric fireplace instead of the gas I had originally wanted. I just didn’t feel that they looked and felt authentic. There were literally hundreds of options to choose from though. We finally decided on one from Amazon that had good reviews and had the look and functions we were wanting. We wanted to be able to run it with or without heat and also be able to change the flame color and intensity.
The other thing we wanted to keep in mind is the cost of the unit. You can really go crazy and spend thousands of dollars. If we were willing to spend that much, we would have just gone with the natural gas route and paid for an authentic fireplace. But, we were doing this build on a budget and spending thousands of dollars was out of the question. Let’s also remember this was during the height of the pandemic when building materials, especially plywood, were insanely more expensive than it ever had been. Our choice of an electric fireplace was a good one to cut costs where we could.
We decided that our budget would be between $200-$400. This price range gave us many options with all the functions and sizes we were looking for. The unit we chose ended up being $250. It was the perfect size and included everything we wanted. We found the Electric FIreplace on Amazon which made the ordering and receiving easier, delivered right to our door.
We also wanted built-in cabinetry towering on both sides of the modern fireplace. I have a love of raw materials such as concrete. Incorporating all of these things into the design was important to me. Getting started on measuring and drawing the wall space and design was step number one. Quickly realizing that with our 9 ft. high ceilings and almost 12 ft wide wall, the bookcase built-ins were going to be huge.
I built the cabinet boxes from scratch with plywood cut to the custom size I needed. You could also use pre-built cabinet boxes if you don’t need or want a custom cabinet size. Using pre-built cabinet boxes would definitely save you a lot of building time. Also, keep in mind that if building cabinets makes you nervous, you could definitely still make this project happen in your home using pre-built boxes. I always want to make sure I encourage you and give you options to tackle your projects the best way to fit your skills and budget.
Once I had all the cabinet boxes built, I was able to dry fit them to make sure I got my measurements correct. They fit just right!. I was now able to move onto building the fireplace mount structure out of 2×4’s. The structure for the fireplace was installed in between the cabinets and anchored into the wall. I designed the structure sturdy enough to support the weight of the massive ash mantle. There is a large enough opening between the cabinets for the fireplace and the tv to hang above it. I decided on the 70” tv size to be perfect for the space. We went to stores where tv’s are sold. I could get the dimensions and a real life view of what the actual dimensions of the tv would be. I did leave extra space in case a larger tv is installed in the future.
Sometimes the hardest part of our DIY projects is just thinking through what we would like but also what would future buyers like. We know we won’t live in this house forever and resale is always a huge part of our decision making. It is important to find that balance of designing and creating a home you love while also adding value that others will love one day too. Now, if you know you are already in your forever home, then you just need to do what will make you happy and make your home function best for your lifestyle.
Ok, back to the project. Installing these cabinets was a lot easier than you may think. Once you know your measurements are correct and everything is dry fitting like you want it, it’s time to install. Now, everyone will have their own preference on this step. Some will paint cabinets before install and others will install first and then paint their cabinets. I prefer to paint first and then install the cabinets. Sometimes it also depends on the application of the cabinets and how or where they are being installed that will determine which you do first. I chose to paint the cabinets my favorite go-to black Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black color.
When it comes to choosing a color, that can be the most stressful part of a project. It can also get expensive and require many trips to and from the hardware store. Samplize is a paintless sticker sample that is delivered directly to your door overnight. These are a great option to help you in choosing a color and avoiding the many trips to the store and the mess of painting sample patches on a wall.
The entire electric fireplace with built-in bookshelves project really started to come together very quickly once the cabinets were painted and ready to install. Finding the studs ahead of time is key in making the cabinet installation process easy and seamless. Keep in mind these cabinets were huge and we didn’t want to have to keep lifting them up and down in order to anchor them to the studs. We located the studs and pre-measured the screw holes on the cabinets to make this part easy on us and our bodies. We put the cabinets in place and were quickly able to drill our 3” anchor screws into place quickly. They were installed and secure.
I remember just stepping back at this point and being in awe of what I just made come to life. It took me days for it to finally sink in to realize. I made that entire thing happen from just an idea in my brain. My favorite part of building and DIY is being able to really appreciate all the time and sweat you put into making your project happen.
Now that we were in the home stretch, it was smooth sailing from here. The hardest part was done and now it was the finishing detail work. I added the 2×4 stud support for the fireplace in between the cabinets and anchored that into place. A faux concrete fireplace is the look I knew I wanted. I installed a piece of drywall to cover the 2×4 support. The DIY faux concrete schmear was made from leftover black paint and drywall compound. I will link the blog post here so you can go read exactly how I did it with step-by-step instructions.
The mantle, shelves, doors and finishing trim work was all that was left to complete the project. I found a gorgeous piece of solid ash that measured 10” deep and 4” tall for the mantle. I got this piece kiln dried but unmilled. The wood was not smooth so I still needed to do some work to it to make it pretty. The reason I got it unmilled is because it was only $125 which is a steal. I knew I could do the finishing work myself. This would have cost us another $100-$200 if we hired someone else to do the work. My brother in law had a planer we used to get the mantle the same thickness throughout. Then I sanded and sealed the mantle before installing it.
Ok, let’s get this electric fireplace with built-in bookshelves project wrapped up. I finished installing the doors, shelves, trim around the top and base cabinets. Last but not least, I installed the fireplace unit, the tv and this electric fireplace built-in bookshelves project was finished! This truly was a labor of love and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. When we started, I was nervous because this was by far the biggest project I had done to date. My only advice with big projects like this is. Take your time, have patience, and just take it one step at a time until you finish.
“Honor The Vision, Trust The Process” is what I always tell myself when I hit those moments of doubt or get overwhelmed. This works for me and this project was a huge success!
I always love hearing what you make and your thoughts. Leave any comments you have below! Also, don’t forget to head over to my social platforms to see the videos of the building process!