Towards the end of the summer, James and I were pretty much flat out working on our snug. I’ll be sharing all the snaps of the nearly finished room next week but for the moment I thought I’d share the bookshelves. A friend was quoted the best part of a grand to create something similar so I thought you might be interested in how we achieved a more budget option for our built-ins spending around £300 instead.

I apologise this is a very practical post, however I’ve thrown in a few styling tricks at the bottom for all of you who’ve stopped by for a spot of prettiness.
Inspired by a trip to designer Abigail Ahern’s house last year I was keen to try out some dark decorating in this room to really give it a snug, gentlemen’s club kind of vibe. We wanted storage, a TV cabinet and interesting shelving cubbies for all my coffee table books and all on a budget. I don’t ask for much.

  • As a base we started with a bespoke Jali cupboard (which we also used in our main living room). To be honest given the effort we went to for the other shelving we could have built this ourselves from scratch, however we wanted a sturdy, well finished base as a foundation. If you’re not familiar with Jali they offer MDF flatpack furniture bespoke to your specifications. For this project we spent just over £200 on a simple built-in cupboard with one inner shelf and four slim doors adding twist latch catch door knobs from eBay.
  • Armed with a back-of-a-fag-packet style drawing with some pretty precise measuring we toddled off to B&Q and bought what seemed like the largest sheet of MDF in the world for about £25.
  • Thanks to their free in-store fancy cutting machine we came home with all the shelving and partitions to construct nine cubbies as well as various edging strips to cover the rough cuts.
  • After we fitted the base unit we fixed batons of small strips of wood to the wall for the shelves to sit on. Once the shelves were in place we measured and cut the edging trim to go around the shelves and partitions (to make painting easier we didn’t fix the trim in place until after the shelves were painted). We then screwed the upright partitions in place.
  • As you can see from the progress pictures we painted the bottom half of the cupboard when it was first built. The whole thing was primed and then James used a mini roller (the kind for behind a radiator) to apply two coats of Valspar Charcoal Sketch which was mixed at B&Q. We painted the whole area including the back all to give the illusion the entire piece is made of wood. I left this to cure for a few days before I put anything in place on the shelving.
  • A few days later we added Ikea Dioder LED lighting strips under the three larger cubbies.

Then it was time for the fun stuff; arranging all my books and all the associated faffing. A few things I bear in mind when embracing the shelfie

  • Stack your books in varying ways; lay some horizontal rather than vertical. You could even go wild and turn out the cover to add interest and a focal area to your shelf
  • Mix in your personality with an eclectic mix of mementoes and treasures. I’ve never smoked in my life but the typography of the ‘tobacco and cigars’ sign from an antique shop really appealed to me.
  • Don’t go for the obvious. My disco ball collection is a bit unexpected and I love how it contrasts against the dark background
  • Add in florals, foliage or organic elements to soften the harder edges of the books
  • Create mini vignettes with varied objects in differing heights to show off your wares.

Don’t get me wrong, we saved some cash here but oh my word it took flipping ages. I can see why a chippie would charge so much to do something similar. However I’m pretty proud of what we achieved and it ticks all my boxes so in the long run it was worth all the effort. See you next week with the rest of the reveal.


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