As soon as we started seriously considering buying this house, of course my mind went to filling it up – how to make it work hard for our family, how to make it look like “us”, and how to address any challenges that came as part of the package. One of those challenges was the alcoves in our living room and dining room.
The living room built-ins look like they might have been meant to serve as an entertainment center, but I can’t be sure because it’s across from the front door and in a strange spot for that. Regardless, it felt a little awkward for us. We don’t have large family portrait or artwork big enough to fill up the space on top, and sticking something there just to fill it up would have felt forced. An “on purpose” look is important to me, so that would never have sat well.
Right away, I decided to make a shelf to break up the larger section of the living room built-in. It solves the problem of the too-large space to fill, and also gave me an opportunity to warm up the wall with a thick chunk of wood.
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2×12 board, cut to fit alcove recess
2×4 board, cut to fit alcove recess
Two 1×2 pieces, cut to 14 3/4″ (measurement of the 2×12 and 2×4 when next to each other)
The recess of the built-ins is 15″ deep, so I made my shelves using a 2×12 and a 2×4. Combined, they measure 14 3/4″. They’re not flush with the wall, but since there is a bullnose (rounded edge) it works better anyway.
To start, I cut two 1×2 pieces at 14 3/4″ to act as braces for the shelf. To attach them to both sides of the alcove, you’ll first need to decide on the height of your shelf and mark the placement for the braces on the wall. To do this, I held up my 2.4 piece with a level on it, then marked where I would need the brace to be mounted. This would have been a lot easier with a lovely assistant, but I managed fine on my own so I’m sure you could too.
After you know where the braces need to be, you’ll need to find the studs in your walls and mark their placement on the 1×2 pieces. Pre-drill small holes in the 1x2s so they don’t split, then screw them directly into the wall studs. I used 3″ screws for this.
Since I used 2″ thick wood for my shelf, these simple braces were all I needed. I put the 2×4 in place to double check that my shelf was level, then added the 2×12.
You could screw the boards to the braces, but they’re so sturdy that I didn’t feel the need.
By putting the 2×4 in the back, I disguised the fact that it’s two boards. You can’t tell unless you stick your head underneath the shelf – and if you’re willing to do that, you deserve to know about my deception.
Adding the shelf in the top alcove and the crates in the lower one woke up the entire wall. It kept me from decorating in a forced way and gave me some purposeful storage as well.
More on those crates and their jobs next week…