When you live in a smaller home, one of the biggest challenges is finding practical storage solutions. Living room storage can be especially tricky, and even moreso with small kiddos. Kiddo things can take over living room storage in a hurry! We love our home to feel cozy and inviting, and that means that our decorating style doesn’t try to hide the fact that we have small kiddos. BUT to make our home more functional for us, we needed to solve a big living room storage dilemma.
The Living Room Storage Dilemma
Our home is on the smaller side. We live in a ranch style home and the main level is about 1500 square feet. Within that space we have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, our kitchen and our living room. Needless to say: most of our time is spent in our living room.
For our young family, we really wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that the physical size of our space literally translates into the physical closeness of our family. I love how Little Vintage Nest describes the coziness she was after in her home search, and her sign that sums up that cozy feeling perfectly:
Psst! No time to read the full post? No problem! Pin this to your home decor board and come back later.
Let’s talk again in ten years though – we’ll have teenagers and I have a feeling not ALL family members will feel the same way about our forced “closeness”. Teehee.
Back to our dilemma. We were lacking practical storage in our living room and desperately needed somewhere to put all of our “things”. When we first purchased our home, we dreamed of a set of built in bookcases around our fireplace, but didn’t have the budget for it.
So instead we lived with a workaround for almost two years: the cubby storage units that lived in our previous house’s toy room. There’s a sneak peak of how our fireplace looked before we remodeled over on the DIY adoption countdown garland post (don’t worry – I’ll post more before photos with the big reveal). Notice how the cubbies are, conicidentally, left out of this beautiful picture of the garland. Muahaha.
Ok, I’ll stop teasing. Here’s a pic with the original mantle and cubbies. We took this pic to memorialize the look of one tile option.
The main issue with these cubbies? The bins are easily pulled down and dumped out, sat in, taken for rides…you name it. They are just a bit too easy to access for our main living room space. On top of that, the cubbies are short enough for little hands to reach the top. Because of this, we also lacked a place to display our books and nick nacks.
Remember our dream to have built ins? The big problem with built ins was the cost: they can easily run anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 to have professionally finished. This was definitely no bueno for our pocket book, as we undertook two bathroom remodels (including our master bath) shortly after buying our home.
We toyed with the idea of making our own built ins and were inspired by a few awesome DIY bloggers, including:
Young House Love’s built ins around their living room entry
With Heart’s built in tutorial:
Our Vintage Nest’s gorgeous built ins with rounded detail:
Building the Fireplace Built Ins
So how did we pull off our own DIY built ins? Slowly over time, we built up the skills and tools necessary to do the job. And by we I mean: not me. My husband. Leading up to this project, he completed seven built in projects (and at least three other minor carpentry projects) in our home including:
- our closet-turned-mini-office
- bench and cubby storage in our garage (we have no mud room)
- storage shelves in our basement
- many other storage related projects
It took a bit of planning, a lot of patience, and TONS of paint, caulk and grout. Here’s how we planned it to look:
We love the look of fresh, clean spaces. Incorporating greys and dark wood helped us give more of a cohesive feel to our home. We knew we wanted white cabinetry to brighten up the room. We were inspired by Bless This Nest’s Pottery Barn’s mantle:
When it came to the fireplace tile, we looked at a few options before narrowing it down to a marble and grey option.
So what did we choose? Ultimately, the grey tile won out. Since this was our first tiling project, we thought the grey tile would be a little bit more forgiving to us newbies. We also liked how the grey tile gave a bit more contrast to the white cabinetry.
Check out the final reveal of our built in bookshelves here. There you’ll get the whole scoop on how the building process unfolded, what the final project cost was, and how we styled our new bookcases and mantle!
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