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Do It Yourself McMurray!

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MOVING INTO A NEW HOME CONSTRUCTION these days may feel like you’re moving into a beige builder-grade box. We moved into our newly-constructed house last summer, and we’ve been working ever since to customize it, DIY style. Adding custom elements to your home can be costly, unless you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and Do-It-Yourself, McMurray!

Our latest DIY adventure took place in the heart of our home – our living room. Space and storage are at a premium in Fort McMurray, so our living room also acts as a playroom, a reading room, a TV room, and sometimes even a dining room! Our living room is a decent space, with a large window and modern fireplace, and sufficient room for seating. What was sorely lacking from the living room was storage space. Between magazines, books, DVDs, toys, and other stuff, our living room often resembled a bomb site with objects strewn everywhere! To keep the room neat and organized, and to maximize space, we thought floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves flanking our fireplace would be the way to go. Customized built-ins often cost upwards of $10K, so luckily we’re brave (and thrifty!) DIY-ers, and decided to tackle this project with ready-made cabinets from a big box store to keep the costs down.

The project started off with a sketch of our ideas, and then we carefully measured the wall where the “built-in” cabinets would go. Once we had an idea of what we wanted from the storage space, we chose cabinets from a big box store that best fit our plans. You must consider if you want open storage (do you want to artfully display your books, trinkets, etc.?), or closed storage (do you want to hide all your junk?), or maybe a mix of open and closed storage. Since we have a young family, and I can’t stand clutter, we went with the closed storage option. It may be a disaster behind the cabinets, but no one really sees that, right?

Before purchasing the cabinets, we took advantage of the big box store’s online tools to ensure we were getting the right cabinets for our space. Make sure to meticulously measure the wall and ceiling height, and map out the cabinets on the wall too. Then measure again to be absolutely sure! If you’re going for a custom built-in look on a DIY big-box store budget, you must diligently do your homework, and also be willing to change your plans to accommodate what cabinet sizes the store offers. We chose to go with kitchen cabinets for our space because the size options were more varied and interesting. Be sure to also utilize the staff at the big box store; they are experienced and know their products inside and out, and may even help you remember to also purchase the basic necessities of the cabinets…like the hardware! And interior fittings! And side panels! We may or may not have forgotten about these things…

We also decided that since we were adding cabinetry to the space that we might as well dress up the fireplace area too by adding some tile work. We chose an affordable but chic 12” x 12” tile sheet of thin white carrera marble strips, also available from a big box store. To add unexpected interest and style, we hung the tile vertically, and even added decorative strips of stainless steel tile. I think it turned out great, and the vertical tiles give the illusion of further height to our already 9-foot ceilings.

I’m not going to lie. From start to finish, this project was a lot of work and took some time (several late nights and weekends) to complete. Let’s just say it may not be a quick weekend project, and my amazing husband deserves major props for all the hard work he put into this project! Putting together inexpensive big box store cabinets is no easy task. But now that it’s done, it was so worth the effort. The transformation from the former blank canvas of a wall to the new, sleek, and ever-so-practical “built-in” cabinets is incredible. We are able to neatly store all of our stuff in very stylish cabinets, keeping our living room tidy and (almost!) junk-free. This project really “stepped up” our living room, and added a lot of value to our home. We made the most of our space, and I think we were able to successfully create a customized, designer look for a fraction of the price!

Have you tackled a major project like my DIY built-in bookshelves? I’d love to hear about it. I’m here to help with any of DIY related questions – tweet me @mummymaggie or check out my blog at for more ideas on how you can Do-It-Yourself, McMurray!


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