Built-Ins - Fake It 'Til You Make It

 Hey!  I wish I was sitting here typing up a big kitchen update but alas, I'm not.  I'll blame it on fully enjoying our summer and I'm not mad about it in the least.  Actually, the drier fall air and milder temps will serve us better anyway when it comes to painting cabinet doors outside so you could even say that our lack of kitchen progress this summer is a blessing in disguise, paving the road for efficiency later.  Orrrr maybe that's just wishful thinking...  ;)

Anyway, I'm not here to talk about what we haven't done but something we did do.  It was a little project that only took a few hours one lazy Saturday afternoon.  Not only was it quick but it also itched that scratch that not doing anything creative for a few weeks can create.

It all happened in the reading room (music room?  library?  study?  We're not sure what to call it.)  We've known for at least a year that we want to line the back wall with bookshelves atop cabinets but that's a back burner project as we focus on other things.  For awhile, we improvised with a built-in we moved in from the living room (when we removed the wall between that and the kitchen, this built-in had to be moved) and an old secondhand shelf but that left a bare corner that we just used to store stuff like the vent hood that had to go up in the kitchen.

Not very aesthetically pleasing.  But then time marched on and I found chairs, the vent hood went out and up, supplies were relocated, I moved  in a small bookshelf from the kids' room, and topped it all off with some DIY art in a thrifted frame (tutorial here).

This set-up served us well enough for awhile until Anthony changed jobs this summer and had to bring all of his books from his work office home - probably about 70 books.  We needed more bookshelves.

I checked out shipping some in from IKEA, cheap ones from Target* and Walmart*, and kept my eyes peeled on FB Marketplace.  I really had my hopes set on finding some wood shelves in a similar wood tone as the ones we already had just to keep things cohesive.  With built-ins in the future, I also didn't want to spend a fortune on a temporary solution.  The funny thing is, the bookshelves at IKEA, Walmart, and Tarjay are more expensive in the faux wood tone vs. plain white.  Who knew?  I would have thought the opposite!  Welp, it took a few weeks but I finally spotted some posted online at a local thrift store (Mission of Hope if you're local to Mobile - awesome thrift store - awesome mission).

They were asking $100 for the pair and they were solid wood.  Bingo.  

(Hey look!  Here they are on eBay for $800!  😲)  They're not exactly our style but they are an almost perfect wood tone match and slid into the space with only a couple of inches to spare.  Heaven sent?  Maybe.

So, our storage dilemma was solved with a few mismatched bookshelves set against a wall and that happen to almost perfectly fit along said wall.  Great.  But then I took it one step further just to make things look a little more cohesive and...







added this wallpaper* to the backs of them...

aaaaand the rest of the wall.

Oh, and new gold hardware to all of the cabinet doors (spray-painted knobs (old) for the new bookcases and these acrylic beauties* to the tall ones) but the wallpaper steals the show so who really cares about that, right?

So the bookshelves aren't built-ins per say but at least at this point they look much more intentional.  Mismatched ain't no big thing all of a sudden.  

The real built-ins will still happen eventually but it does feel good to be able to live with something as-is and be happy with how that as-is looks.  It looks even better when you compare it to the complete blank slate we started with:

Let's break down that budget, shall we?  That's always fun.  The tall bookshelf we moved in was obviously free.  It's solid wood like the rest of the cabinetry in our house and ceiling height so a fun thing to be able to re-purpose.  The bookshelf to the right of it is a hand-me-down we've had for a good long while and is MDF, so it pales in comparison to it's solid wood neighbor and I keep having to flip the shelves every several months because the weight of books on them (which isn't out of the ordinary for a BOOKshelf) makes them bow.  Needless to say, with those, we're still sitting at $0.  The new bookshelves were $100, both incredible quality, and I found two rolls of the wallpaper* on Amazon Warehouse for $12 each and the other on Amazon during a crazy two-day sale for $15.  It's a fantastic pattern in that you could line each panel up perfectly with the repeating pattern or you could do what I did and not line anything up at all.  The dashes are so forgiving and all over the place that you can't even tell the panels don't line up.  It's perfect for a beginner.  I actually bought four rolls instead of three until I realized I only needed the three (plus have enough leftover to line some drawers somewhere!) and was thanking Amazon for their awesome return policies.  Grand total (not including the books and decor of course - 75% of which is probably secondhand) is $139 for this big wall of built-in wannabes.  Considering I'll probably be able to make that money back by selling these bookshelves when we go for the actual built-ins, we're looking pretty good.

I don't have time to go into the rest of the room but fun fact: not a single piece of furniture you see was purchased full-price.  The piano was an estate sale find, the chairs are these* but I found them at Dirt Cheap for a major steal (if I told you the price of each, you might fall over...it's in the teens), the mid-century chair barely visible in the corner was found at the same thrift store as the bookshelves, and the rug is the best quality rug we've owned (we've had it for eight years now and it still looks new), found at Old Time Pottery on sale for $75.  

It's a pretty good music room/reading room/library/study on a pretty good *low* budget.  You know how we do.  ;)

Moral of the post:  Lining the backs of bookshelves with removable wallpaper packs a punch.  You should do it.  👊

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*These links are affiliate links which means that, if you click over and/or make a purchase through the link, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  I am an Amazon affiliate and also use other sources to link to products.  All of these links will lead you to things we actually paid for or that are similar to the item we paid for in case ours is thrifted/sold out/secondhand.  This extra money helps us with the costs of running the blog and buying paint.  Thank you for your support and for fueling our love to share all things DIY!


  1. Woah! What a difference that wallpaper made! You are awesome!

    1. Crazy, right? So much better and more fun. ;) Thanks Colleen!

  2. Those look so gorgeous.