Living Room Built-ins

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Project by WoodRivWW posted 03-31-2008 06:28 PM 1693 views 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The house had been sitting on the market for over two years when we bought it. We were living in Connecticut at the time and coming to Hailey for the summers. Although the living room was one of the better looking spaces in the house, the 70’s character was not to our taste and the small doorway to the next room (see before pic) made both spaces feel cramped. We thought that opening up the wall would provide a more spacious feel for both the living room and the next room (we haven’t tackled that room yet, and aren’t sure what to make of it). We love Arts and Crafts style so the idea for the built-in was born.

I used quarter-sawn red oak. I followed Jeff Jewitt’s “Safe and Simple Arts and Crafts Finish,” FWW #157, pp. 42-45, recipe of applying a water-based dye (I used Transtint “honey-amber”) followed by an oil-based stain (I used MinWax “golden oak”). For my top coat I used Garret Hack’s “Oil-Varnish Mixture is Easy to Apply,” FWW, Jan./Feb. 1997. This calls for a mixture of equal parts marine spar varnish, turpentine and linseed oil that is wiped on and then wiped off for three to four coats. This was followed by Hack’s favorite wax coat (same article) consisting of beeswax, linseed oil, and turpentine. This mixture is prepared in a double boiler achieving a consistency of warm butter. The wax mixture is rubbed on with 0000 steel wool and buffed to a soft sheen with a cloth.

The trickiest parts of the project were fitting the cabinets and beams to the existing structure (anyone who’s worked with an old house knows that nothing is plumb, square, or level), and making the tapered pillars. The pillars are four-sided, 8” square at the base and 6” square at the top. Each of the eight panels (for the two pillars) had to be tapered and beveled on both sides. Also, I didn’t find enough wide boards at my wood store for all eight sides so I needed to resaw the four pieces I had. After resawing, of course, the panels bowed like this “(” making them impossible to work with for my pillars. I decided to plane the eight panels down to 1/4” and glue them to some 3/4 MDF and then cut them to shape. This worked great.

This was my first major woodworking project. I must confess, I was totally over my head, but I took my time and learned a lot.

P.S. When you compare the before and after pics you’ll notice the windows, ceiling, walls and floor are all redone. As I mentioned in my profile my wife and I have been working on our place for seven years. We think we’ll actually complete the renovation within the next 12 months!!

-- Hailey, ID

10 comments so far

View Earle Wright's profile

Earle Wright

121 posts in 3746 days

#1 posted 03-31-2008 06:38 PM

Great room divider! Adds a lot to the rooms.

-- Earle Wright, Lenoir City, Tennessee

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4187 days

#2 posted 03-31-2008 06:56 PM

oooh I love it. Yes, opens the rooms up and is gorgeous display areas.. NICE job

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3848 days

#3 posted 03-31-2008 07:18 PM

This is a wonderful divider. I really like the design of the piece as well.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3800 days

#4 posted 03-31-2008 09:28 PM

Great looking divider. You did a beautiful job on it. Thank you for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4014 days

#5 posted 03-31-2008 09:30 PM

Great way to divide a room. Great job!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3900 days

#6 posted 04-01-2008 12:46 AM

That really makes a nice feel to the juncture of the rooms. Losing the dark paneling is a good thing.

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4023 days

#7 posted 04-01-2008 06:07 PM

I can appreciate the work that went into that! I liked your idea of laminating the 1/4” veneer to mdf to keep things stable. The tapered columns were the way to go… Nice job on this!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4340 days

#8 posted 04-02-2008 05:00 PM

Great addition to the house. Beautiful work.

View blackdogwoodshop's profile


72 posts in 3754 days

#9 posted 04-08-2008 10:33 PM

I have been considering doing something similiar to these builts and your new fireplace post in my house. Your pics may help sell my wife on the idea! Thanks!

-- Daniel, Southern Indiana -- "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." --

View WoodRivWW's profile


32 posts in 3736 days

#10 posted 04-08-2008 11:37 PM

Let me know if you have any questions about any of the details.

R. Lonning

-- Hailey, ID

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