I had been wanting to build a bookcase around our fireplace ever since we built this house nearly 20 years ago, but there was always some other project that took priority. That changed this year when my wife decided it would be acceptable to mount a 60 inch flat screen over the mantle where a painting had been. We had been using an armoire to store a smaller HDTV as well as a stereo receiver, Tivo, Apple TV, a blu-ray player and two game consoles. Once that flat-screen went up over the fireplace, the wires from the TV to the cabinet drove me absolutely nuts. So I decided to do something about it.
With the new bookcase in place and the armoire gone, the room looks much larger, probably in part because the bookcase takes up space that wasn't useful before. The extra storage is terrific, all of the wires are gone and the electronics can stay in a closed cabinet thanks to an Infra-red sensor mounted on the cabinet and a repeater inside. This bookcase provides far more wow-factor than I was expecting!
This Instructable started as a basic guide on how to make a fireplace bookcase, but it includes a great deal of detail. It will give you the basic instructions, some tips and perhaps the courage to build something that is often left to professionals. This guide is VERY long, mainly because I believe that too much information is better than not enough. As far as I can tell, there are very few guides on how to do this, so I am thinking you are probably here because you want more details than you can find elsewhere. I will do my best to provide those details. Whether you use this as a step-by-step guide, as a place to get a few tips or just as light bedtime reading, I hope you take something useful away from the time you spend here.
I am pretty handy, but I made a few mistakes with this bookcase. The wonderful thing about painted wood cabinets is that in the end, the only one who knows about the mistakes is me. Well...I'll share a few.
Step 1: Do Some Research and Draw Up a Plan
(This is not my drawing but it is pretty close to what I wanted to do. My thanks and apologies to the internet site/guy I borrowed it from.)
If you are reading this, you probably have some idea of what you want to do. Yes, you want a bookcase around your fireplace. Yes, you have a pretty good idea of how you want it to look. No, you don't know exactly how to get from here to there. That's OK. There were parts of this build that I didn't figure out until I was pretty far along. And there were a couple of things I did twice. All OK. No two fireplace bookcases are ever the same so even with this guide, you will end up doing several things differently.
If you haven't already, go out to the internet and search for images of fireplace bookcases. I looked at hundreds. I also took pictures and measurements from a few bookcases I liked at friends' and relative's houses. The goal is to find something so you can honestly say "mine is going to look like that". You need an image or two that will be your reference bookcase. Show it to others. Make sure your significant other likes it.
Make a basic drawing of your space and bookcase-to-be. Take measurements. Make them as exact as you can. Measure wall and fireplace widths at the top and bottom, hearth width in front and back. Your walls may not be straight and your fireplace hearth may not be straight. You can deal with them as you go, but you need that info to make sure your cabinets fit. In my case the walls were straight but the hearth bowed out and the fireplace was about 2 inches off-center. This was pretty easy to deal with once I saw it. Get some graph paper. Draw out as much as you can.
Step 2: Points to Consider
Here are several points about this bookcase build that you should consider when planning yours.
Tools. Don't you hate it when you watch a show on TV about building something and notice that the guy has a $10,000 saw-gizmo in his shop. Of course he can build that antique-look four poster bed with canopy top. He's got every tool known to man! Well, I have a pretty well equipped garage, but I am certain that you can build a bookcase like this with just a few portable power tools. How? Cheat a little! Have the nice people at your local home improvement center cut all your 4x8 panels to size. They can rip your lumber to width and can cross cut boards to the exact length you need. Not only does that mean you don't need a table saw, but it also means you might not need a big truck to haul all that lumber home. I did rent the Home Depot truck for the first trip and the rest came home in the back of my wife's midsize SUV. If you use the "let them cut it at the lumber yard" method, be sure to take a tape measure to confirm the cuts as they are cutting them. If they make a mistake and you notice it right away, they will pull another board and cut it again. But if you get the boards home and a cut is wrong, you will probably end up eating the cost of more lumber and the time of another trip. I'll list the tools I used in a moment and will categorize them as must-have and nice-to-have. The most significant tool you will need is a basic power miter saw.
Electrical. I did not want to penetrate the drywall on an outside wall to run new electrical or low voltage, so I built a false wall. I used furring strips behind the cabinets and 2x3s above the mantel to create code-compliant separate cavities for both electrical and low voltage cabling. The result was a 1 inch gap behind the cabinets and a 1.5 inch gap behind the big panel over the fireplace. The fireplace surround provided about a 2.5 inch gap between the brick and the cabinets. There are no holes in the wall behind these cabinets for anything other than fasteners. I'll go more into wiring, etc, throughout the build. Note: If you plan on running electrical, make sure you follow your local code or bring in an electrician to help. At the very least, if you are just not comfortable with electrical work, you can do the rough-in and have somebody else connect everything. Standard disclaimer: I am NOT responsible for your electrical skills, decisions or mishaps. Be sure the power is off to any outlets or switchboxes you are working on.
A/V and speaker (low voltage) wiring. Think about where you will want to put speakers and plan ahead for the wiring. You don't have to plan every last wire as part of the initial design, but just make sure you've thought it all through so there is a path to run cables in your build. Once the face-frame is on your cabinets and the crown molding is in place, any opportunity to run wiring is pretty much gone forever. The only exception is when you run plastic conduit so you can run or change wires later. I ran conduit between the base cabinet and the space where the TV will go.
Gas Fireplace Switch. We have a gas log fireplace with a remote switch on the wall that hasn't worked in years. My wife and I could not agree on where the relocated switch should go, so we opted for a battery operated remote switch, which ran about $90 on-line. Marriage saved.
Aesthetics. It is important if you have a fireplace in the center of the wall that the cabinets look symmetrical. This symmetry means that all the bookcases should be roughly the same width and the vertical fascia in front of them should be the same width. My fireplace hearth was 52 inches from the wall on one side and 54 inches from the wall on the other. This was perfect for 48" base cabinets and two 24 inch bookcases on each side. The extra is along the outside walls and nobody will ever notice that the face panel on the far left is a few inches wider than the one on the right. My hearth was a little off center compared to the fireplace, too. So the mantel face beside the fireplace is a little wider on one side. Nobody can tell. Nobody will notice on yours, either but you have to get all the measurements right.
Conserving Lumber/Minimizing Waste. When you are measuring, try to keep the 12/48" rule in mind. When ripping a 4x8 sheet of plywood or MDF, anything that is not 12 inches or a multiple of that is going to waste wood. All of my shelve cases were 11 inches deep so I could get 4 from a sheet of plywood and use the remainder (slightly less than 4 inches wide) for something else. I also made sure that my base cabinets were 48 inches wide and my bookcases were a little less than 24 inches wide. That allowed me to use a 4 x 8 foot sheet of 1/4 inch panel for the backs with no waste and no seams. There will still be waste, but if you keep less than 12" deep and less than 48" wide in mind, there will be a lot less. The panel above the fireplace for me was 48" tall by 60" wide...again, one sheet of plywood.
Paint. I painted nearly the entire bookcase with a small foam roller for woodwork and used an alkyd based enamel that is rock hard and not rubbery when dry. I have never used this painting technique or type of paint before and was amazed at how good it looked and how hard the finish is. It looked smoother than a brush finish and let me avoid the mess of airbrushing. I put at least two coats on everything and three coats on the shelves, face frame, mantel and cabinet tops.
Space and Disruption. I built this entire bookcase in my garage, in my family room and, on a couple of nice days, on my driveway. My wife and two kids were often home and in the family room watching TV as I was working. This was a little frustrating sometimes but was not a huge deal. I guess my point here is that you don't need a huge space to build this and it isn't so messy or noisy in the room you are building this in that it drives everyone out of the house. It did get noisy in the garage where I was assembling things and it was noisy in the family room for a few days as I nailed things together with the nail gun and compressor in the room, but it wasn't unbearable. Just remember to turn the compressor off when you sit down to watch TV or go to bed!
Cost. This bookcase cost me about $1300 to build. I used 3/4 inch hardwood plywood for the cases, 1/4 inch hardwood plywood for the backs, poplar for the face frames and all trim, and MDF for the fireplace mantel and surround. You can do it for less than that if you use MDF sheets for the base, case and shelves and pine or MDF for the face frames. Once it is painted, you can't tell the difference between pine and poplar, but the poplar is a little harder, more stable and more dent resistant. I also ordered custom doors online from a place called Barker Doors, part of Barker Cabinets. The lead time was long but they were exactly as I specified. I bought the hinges from them, too as they were less than half the price charged at the home improvement stores.
Time. It took me about 4 partial weekends and a couple of nights to build. There were a few more trips to the lumber yard than I expected also. The doors took a little over 5 weeks to arrive so consider ordering them well in advance. All in all, the project took up two spaces in the garage for about a month but there was probably about 50 hours of actual build time involved.
Doing it the "easy" way. I looked around and considered using ready-made cabinets for the bases and Ikea "Billy" book cases. This may have worked, but I don't think the end result would have looked as "built in". Also, the cabinets and bookcases were pretty expensive compared to the lumber and they were not the height, depth, width or finish I needed, so I would have had to break them apart and cut them down anyway. I decided to just build the cabinets. If you don't want to build the base cabinets, consider ordering them to size from the on-line company I bought my doors from , Barker cabinets. You can specify the exact height, width and depth of your cabinets on-line with these guys and they will be delivered in 5-6 weeks. The major advantage to building the cabinets myself was that I have one continuous 48" wide space underneath rather than 2 separate 24" cabinets. This provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to placing the electronics, etc., in the cabinets. I also did not have to add a solid countertop to the cabinets because they were already one piece.
Aw C'mon! Enough with the talking! Let's get to the good stuff!
Step 3: Tools and Supplies You Will Need
Here is a breakdown of tools and consumables I used:
- Electric Tools:
- Power miter saw (Preferably a sliding compound saw that can cut a 12 inch board.)
- Table saw (not needed if you have the lumber yard cut your panels for the cabinets and shelves.)
- Pancake air compressor and a finish nail gun (I used an 18 gauge nail gun)
- Orbital sander.
- Cordless or corded drill with Phillips and drill bits and a #8 countersink bit.
- A circular saw or trim saw.
- A belt sander would be nice to have.
- A small rotary saw like a Dremel or roto-zip would be nice to have (for cutting holes for electrical.)
- Hand tools
- Tape measure
- Levels, 2 foot and 6 inch. A longer one would be nice to have.
- 7" and 12" Speed square (sometimes called a framing square but it is triangular in shape.)
- Large steel framing square (This is the big L shaped square that will keep everything straight.)
- Some bar clamps to hold the bookcases together and to hold shelf pieces together as you glue/nail them. (You may be able to do this without clamps, but it will be a challenge.)
- A stud finder to locate studs in the wall and around the fireplace.
- A small paint roller handle and a roller pan
- A couple of paint brushes
- Carpenter's pencils
- A large pair of diag-cutters to cut any finish nails that pop through where you don't want them too.
- Tools for wiring if you are going to do that (screw driver, wire-strippers, cutters, etc.)
- A keyhole saw to cut back panels to extend outlets into the cabinet if needed(if no rotary saw.)
- A couple of saw horses. I use folding plastic ones from Stanley.
- A box-cutter or PVC cutter if you plan to use flexible plastic conduit.
- Flexible putty knife for the wood putty
- Caulk gun for the caulk used around the edges of the bookcase and on the crown molding.
- Some canvas or plastic tarps to protect your garage floor from paint.
- A shop vac to clean up the mess.
- Kreg Shelf-Pin Jig. This thing is totally worth it if you plan to drill holes for shelf pins.
- Kreg pocket-hole jig or mini-pocket hole kit. This is for drilling the holes in the back of the face frame so they are not visible. Your kitchen cabinet faces were probably made using pocket holes.
- Wood putty
- Caulk (about 2 tubes of Alex-plus or something similar.
- Quality wood glue (I used Tightbond Wood glue in the red bottles.)
- Some hardwood shims for leveling the base cabinets.
- Sandpaper 180-400 grit for your orbital sander and to use by hand in a few places as needed.
- Sponge rollers for a smooth finish
- (qty 2-3) 1-gallon cans of Alkyd semi-gloss enamel. (I used Behr.)
- Deck screws 1-5/8 inch to 3 inch.
- 18 gauge nails for the nail gun in 1", 1.5" and 2" lengths
- For low voltage wiring runs:
- 3/4 or 1 inch flexible plastic conduit. (Do not buy split wire loom. You want the blue stuff. You can find it at Home Depot but they only sell it in long lengths so you might want to look on-line.)
- 3/4 or 1 inch connectors (because it is easier to install both end and connect at the middle)
- 3/4 or 1 inch screw-type junction box terminators, 2 for each run. (I made 3 runs)
- 3/4 or one inch lock rings for the above box terminators. (the nuts to hold them in place.)
- An outlet box eliminator If you will be extending an existing network or cable jack into the cabinet.
- Note: 3/4 inch plastic conduit will fit in a 1.5-inch cavity between the center TV panel and the wall but requires compact HDMI cables. 1 inch conduit requires a 2.5 inch cavity. (More on this later.)
- Some outlet box extenders (to extend any outlet boxes on the wall into the cabinet bases.)
- Romex of the proper rating for your house (Most likely 14-2 or 12-2).
- A low profile new-construction outlet box as needed. (Pictured)
- Some stud guards. (pictured)
- Wire-nuts to connect wires.
- New, over-sized outlet covers as needed. These are very handy for covering up minor cut mistakes.
- Appropriate hinges
- Door pulls
- small, silicone "bumpers" to place on the corners of the doors to prevent them from slamming into the base cabinet.
- About 7 4x8 sheets of 3/4 inch birch plywood (or MDF if you want to save some money). This will depend on your project dimensions.
- 3 sheets of 1/8 inch birch plywood (or sanded pine plywood to cut costs) These are for the cabinet and bookcase backs and to create a ceiling for the framing between the bookcases.
- 1 4x8 sheet if 1/2 inch birch plywood for the large panel above the fireplace.
- 1 4x8 sheet of 3/4 inch MDF for the mantel shelf and fireplace surround.
- Note: Do not use the generic hardwood plywood sheets. This is what I grabbed and I had a horrible time with the veneer separating from the panel when I painted. Use the BIRCH hardwood.
- Poplar boards for the shelf fronts, bookcase trim and cabinet face frames. (#1 pine if you want to save a few bucks, but poplar is hard and really looks good.)
- Here is most of the lumber required. I am breaking this up by component, so add up as appropriate:
- (1) 1x3 by 8 foot board to reinforce the upper corners of the base cabinets.
- (2) 1x2 by 8 foot boards to provide corner reinforcement for the base cabinets.
- (2) 1x3 by 8 foot boards to provide front and rear center support for the cabinets. (These boards will be drilled for shelf pins)
- (3) 1x4 by 8 foot boards for the vertical bookcase front fascia. (connecting the bookcases together)
- (2) 1x4 by 8 foot boards for the bookcase top fascia.
- (8) 1x2 by 8 foot boards for the shelf front faces on the bookcase and base cabinets.
- (4) 2x4 by 8 foot #2 pine boards for the ladder frame that connects the bookcases over the fireplace.
- (4) 2x3 by 8 foot #2 pine boards for cabinet support and bookcase nailers.
- (4) 2x3 or 2x4 by 8 foot #2 pine boards for studs between the wall and the panel above the fireplace.
- (6) 2x4 by 8 foot #2 pine boards to build up backing behind the fireplace surround
- (1) 2x2 b 8 foot pine board to use as a cleat between the bookcase and the fireplace surrounds.
- (6) 1x2 by 8 foot furring strips for use behind the cabinets.
- (1) Single piece of crown molding that is the length of your wall (mine was 14 feet). The single piece eliminates potentially ugly joints. It was fun getting that home but I really hate seams.
- (2) cove base (base board) pieces to match your existing cove base. This goes along the bottom of the base cabinets. Mine were 6 feet before being cut to length.
- (2) shoe-molding to match your existing shoe molding on the floor if you have it elsewhere.
- (7) 3 inch by 8 foot fluted casing for bookcase fascia and fireplace trim.
- (8) Rosette blocks for bookcase fascia tops and fireplace trim.
- (2) Wooden plinth block pieces for the bottom of the fireplace trim.
- (4) 3/4 inch by 8 foot corner molding for bookcase and panel trim.
- (2) 8 foot pieces of screen molding. (very small flat trim piece about 3/4" by 1/4".)
I am absolutely certain I forgot something but this is probably the most complete list there is.
Ready to start building? A few more points first......
Step 4: Dealing With the Lumber and the Order of the Build
As I mentioned earlier, you can get all of your lumber cut at the yard if you don't have a table saw. But do not get it all cut at the same time. Although it sounds really easy to have it all cut at the same time, one small dimension error early in the build might mean you have to either re-cut or scrap a lot of lumber. Build the base cabinet frames first. Then measure from them to build your bookcases. Once the bookcase frame is complete, measure for the rest of the shelves and the panel above the mantel and go get those cut. All of your bookcases should be exactly the same width, using the same sized shelves, but they might not be for a multitude of reasons. Don't get too many steps ahead when cutting the lumber.
Of course, if you have a table saw and will be cutting as you go, then this won't be an issue but you should still cut in phases once you get actual measurements to work with. I thought my opening between the cabinets was going to be exactly 60 inches wide, but the bricks on the floor were narrower at the wall than they were out in the room and my panel was 1/2 inch too narrow. Rather than buy another sheet of 1/2 inch plywood, I fixed it with some corner trim and you can't tell at all, but It was an annoying error.
This build order is a little odd because of the wiring, the panel build and the long-lead-time doors. The bases and bookcases went in as you would expect, but the large wall panel went in before the mantel and surround because of the low voltage conduit routing.
Here is the order:
- Build base cabinet frame construction and dry fit. (including drilling holes for shelf pins)
- Build bookcase frame and dry fit. (including drilling holes for shelf pins)
- Install furring strips behind the base and bookcase spaces. (These will help with squaring and fastening.)
- Dry fit everything together on wall. Level bases and check everything for square.
- Remove everything and take it to where you will be painting.
- Paint cabinets, shelves and all panels
- Paint all trim boards to be cut (it is easier to paint trim and face frame boards before cutting)
- Dry fit again and cut electrical/low voltage openings in base as needed.
- Install furring strips behind cabinets and 2x3 framing above the mantel.
- Run low voltage conduit routing.
- Run household electrical wiring as needed.
- Secure bases and bookcases against wall.
- Dry fit the panel above the mantel (Cut out TV hanger opening if that's what you are going to do.)
- Install panel above the mantel.
- Install ladder-frame between the two bookcases to close in the top.
- Install Fascia along the ceiling above unit.
- Install face frame for the cabinets and bookcases.
- Install mantel and fireplace surround.
- Install fluted molding and remaining trim.
- Install cabinet doors.
- Hang the TV.
- Install your electronics.
- Install infra-red repeater wiring.
Holy heck that is a lot! This is why it is broken down into small pieces.
I will try to cover a little on each area and include as many pictures as I can.
Step 5: Demolition
Before you start building, you will need to remove the fireplace mantel and the baseboards on the walls where the bookcase will be.
Four key points about demolition of a mantel:
- Use a Box cutter to cut the caulking around the edge of your mantel and the tops and joints of the baseboards so you don't pull away any drywall paper when you remove them.
- If you have to use a crowbar, place a piece of wood between the bar and the wall so the wall isn't damaged.
- Try to keep as much of the mantel as you can intact. It is likely that you will either need to look at it or measure it for reference or that you might need a part from it. I re-used the trim along the inside edge of the mantel where the mantel meets the brick. I also used the way the old mantel fit together as reference for building the new one.
- With gas fireplaces, there is a code requirement that wood can't be closer than a certain distance above the fireplace box. In other words, the studs stop a foot or more above the fireplace. So note where the nails were located that secured the mantel to the wall. You will need to attach your mantel there. (See the video capture I included to see what he fireplace framing typically looks like.)
- Use a stud finder to locate all of the studs around and above the fireplace and along the wall. Use your longest level and mark along each stud so you don't miss any later.
- Do not leave your old mantel where it is exposed to the elements until you know you will not need anything from it again. I had planned on reusing the top board of my mantel, which was made out of impossible-to-find 1 inch thick MDF. I put it out under our covered deck. Unfortunately, it rained pretty hard one night and that part got wet, absorbed water and was ruined. If your old mantel is pretty or unique and you can't re-use it, you might be able to sell it on Craig's list.
My mantel came off in two pieces. The top section included the shelf and the the molding below it. That sat on top of the bottom section, which included the fireplace surround.
Step 6: Base Cabinet Frame
The base cabinet frames were built out of hardwood plywood. Construction is pretty simple.
- These cabinets are 17 inches deep (without the face frames). That is deep enough for most stereo equipment without taking up too much room or blocking the window/curtains on the left.
- They are 31 inches tall to the top. (Side panels are 3/4 of an inch shorter to account for the top.
- The bottom shelf is 3 1/2 inches from the floor, which is enough for the standard baseboard to clear the door once the face frame is attached. (If you have tall baseboard, you will want to raise the shelf or just live with a lip along the bottom of the face frame.
- The cabinet is 48 inches wide. (But the top is longer so it fits snug against the wall.)
- A 2x3 is attached under the bottom shelf at the front and back of the cabinet. This provides support without requiring that the floor be perfectly level.
- Notice that each top has kind of an ear on one side so the cabinet top fits flush against each wall. This was about 3 1/2 inches on one side and 4 1/4 inches on the other. Nobody knows. Yours will be different.
- Remember to subtract the thickness of the panels to determine the dimensions for your cuts, as needed.
- Along the back of the cabinet there are two vertical strips on each side and one in the middle. These are for attaching the panel back and to attach the base to the furring strips.
- The middle support has shelf pins drilled into it, discussed later.
- There is also a support in the front center of the cabinet. This reduces warping and also has shelf pins drilled into it. I'll explain later, but these shelf pins are NOT aligned with the others.
- There are support 'cleats' in each upper corner to help attach the sides to the top and to help ensure that the cabinet remains square. These should be 3/4 inch shorter than the depth of the cabinets with the gap in the back to accommodate the vertical supports.
- Note that, since there is electrical behind the base that will eventually come into the cabinet, I did not install the back panels prior to dry-fitting. This made it a little more difficult to plumb, but it is far more accurate to do the cutouts just before attaching the cabinet to the wall.
- When dry-fitting the base, make sure that it is perfectly level. You can shim the low side or trim off a little on the high side. I did both.
- Once it is level, make sure the cabinet is sill plumb! Both sides should be straight up and down as tested with a long level. A carpenters square should fit snugly in inside corners.
- If you are getting your panels cut at the lumber yard, Do not try to miter the fireplace-side of the cabinet panels as I did. It complicates the side measurements too much and will make the guy cutting the lumber's head explode. Instead, just have both sides cut flat to the same height (i.e. 30 1/4" for a 31' high cabinet) and use screen molding to cover up the edge on the fireplace side.
Prior to cutting the panels and assembling the cabinets, note the "best side" for each panel you use. The cabinet top and fireplace-facing side should be the best sides. Also, be careful of any gaps in the plywood and fill them if necessary. I had a lot of trouble with the plain "whitewood" plywood that I used, which is why I am recommending birch or MDF.
Hammer time: (had to say that... it is really nail gun time. Use the longest nails you are comfortable with for the frame and supports, but use shorter ones that will not poke through when nailing the cleats.)
- Mark your bottom shelf lines and make sure they are perfectly straight using a framing square.
- Glue and nail the top to the sides.
- Glue and nail the bottom shelf to the sides.
- Clamp, glue and nail the cleats into the upper corners.
- Glue and nail the center support and to back corner supports.
- Clamp, glue and nail the 1x3 supports under the front and back of the bottom shelf.
- Use the large framing square to make sure everything is square and plum as you glue and nail.
When the base cabinets are assembled, you can measure and cut the backs but do not install them yet. (Mine were 48 inches wide by 30 inches high.) You will paint these backs separately for the best finish and you will need to cut them if you are running electrical or low voltage wiring through the back of the cabinet.
Step 7: Bookcase Frame
The bookcase frame is also a simple box made with birch panels.
- The tops and sides of the frames is 11 inches deep.
- The fixed shelf towards the bottom of the frame is 10 inches deep plus a 1x2 front lip.
- The fixed shelf front should be about 1/8 of an inch behind the front edge of the sides.
- The two bookcases need to be equal to the cabinet width below. In my case, that was 48 inches.
- Subtract the two inside bookcase sides from the width to get the shelf width. In my case, that was about 22 1/2 inches.
- The bottom of the fixed shelf is about 14 inches above the base cabinet. This height should be determined by the number of shelves you plan on using and your personal preference.
When building the bookcase, note the best side for all of your panels. You will probably want your two absolute best sides to be facing the fireplace but the backs of those panels can't be too bad because they will be the cabinet insides. For the rest, the best side should face inside. Be sure to note which bookcase goes where and keep track of this as you install them.
Let's talk about the height of the bookcase. I have tall ceilings so your measurements will vary.
- The top sides of the bookcases should be about an inch to an inch and a half from the ceiling. This is to allow room to slide them into place and to run any low voltage wires you may need across the top. Do not worry about the gap as it will be covered up by the fascia and crown molding.
- The top shelf of the bookcase should be about 4 inches below the ceiling to allow for the fascia and crown molding. (If you are going to use larger crown molding, the top shelf should be farther from the ceiling.)
- Attach a 2x3 in the back above the top shelf. This will be used to attach the shelf to the wall.
The back panels will be installed a little later. Paint them as one sheet and then cut. They should be as close as possible to the outside dimension of each bookcase. In my case that was 24 inches by about 78 inches. That allowed me to use one sheet of 1/4 inch birch plywood for each set of bookcases by ripping it down the enter. Your dimensions will vary. I'll talk about this again on the painting page.
- Nail and glue the front edge on your lower shelf.
- Nail and glue all of the sides together. Use a framing square to make sure the case is square.
- Nail and glue the 1x3 above the top shelf in the back.
- The backs will be nailed and glued on later.
Step 8: Shelving
Holes for the shelf pins
OK, the first thing for the shelving is drilling the holes for the shelf pegs. The Kreg shelf pin jig makes this pretty easy but you still have to be very careful since one small movement of the jig as you are drilling will make your shelves uneven. Kreg has some great videos on-line that show you how to use this jig. Watch them. It could save you some major grief. (Of course, if you have some other way to do this that you like, feel free use that. I have no stock in Kreg.)
- Cut a piece of scrap or find some other item you can use as a constant measurement to start the shelf pin holes at the bottom of each run. (There were 28 rows of shelf pin holes in this entire cabinet. That's a LOT of holes.) By using a starting block, you can just place the it and start drilling rather than having to measure each time. I used a small speed square, sometimes called a quick or framing square. It worked perfectly.
- Holes in the jig are offset slightly to provide different distances from the edge of a panel.
- Use the 2 inch offset for the holes in the front of both the base cabinets and bookshelves. (This allows for the trim strip along the font of all the shelves.
- Use the 1 inch offset for the holes in the back of the base cabinets and bookshelves.
- Use your judgement on the center support pieces in the middle of the base cabinets. My pin holes there are not centered but I don't care since they are not easily seen.
When I started drilling holes for the pins, I forgot to include the allowance for the front shelf strip and drilled a row of pins in the wrong place (1 inch away from the front instead of 2). Fortunately, these are painted cabinets and I had plenty of wood putty. The error can't be seen in the finished product.
- All of the shelving should be cut 1/8 inch narrower than the inside side-to-side dimensions where they will go to allow room for the shelf pins.
- When cutting the shelves, measure and cut for each opening. Never assume that if a shelf fits in one opening it will fit the same in another opening. It may not.
- Remember to use the good side for the top of all shelves.
- All of the bookcase shelves are 10 inches deep. The addition front 1x2 trim strip will make them just shy of 11 inches deep.
- For the bases, the shelves are 14 1/2 inches deep plus the 1x2 strip to make them just shy of 15 1/2 inches deep. This allows for the back posts in the center and corner and a front center post.
- If you are running electrical, you may need to cut some small circular notches in the backs or sides shelves. You can do this in the final stages of the build when you are determining where your equipment should go. Of course, make sure you don't cut notches at the locations where the shelf pins hold up the shelf.
Step 9: Dry Fitting Everything Together and Adding the Furring Strips.
Bring the cabinets into the room, level them and dry fit them together, including the shelves. Does it look OK? Any dimensional or aesthetic errors? Any warping? If so, now is the time to fix it, before everything is painted.
Next, we need to add the furring strips to the wall. You will use these to secure the base and the bookcases to the wall. This will also provide just enough space to run Roamex for the TV power if you are planning to do that.
- Mark along the wall along the fireplace side of the bookcase and base on each side.
- Mark along the wall along the top edge of the base.
- Also mark the wall under the top fixed shelf of all bookcases.
- Remove the bookcases and bases from their location.
- Using 2-1/2 inch deck screws, screw a 48" long furring strip into the wall horizontally about an inch below the the line you made that marked the top of the base cabinet. The screws should go in where the studs were marked earlier. They MUST go into studs.
- Screw another 48" long furring strip about an inch above the line that marked the top shelf of the bookcase. Again, the screws must go into studs.
- If your wall is not flat, you will notice it with the furring strips as they will look wavy. You may need to cut the furring strips a little shorter or install them in multiple pieces. Often the un-flat part is in the corner. The bookcase will need to sit flat against the wall even if the wall is not flat. If your wall is not flat, be creative.
If you are running electrical, you will need to cut the base cabinet furring strip into two pieces and leave a gap to run the Roamex through above where your wall outlet is. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of this, but I will explain more in the panel over the fireplace phase.
Once the furring strips are in place, put the base cabinets and bookcases back in place. this is where they will end up permanently so line everything up carefully and eye it all again to make sure it looks right.
While you are dry fitting everything:
- Measure the width between the bookcases over the fireplace where your panel will go for the TV.
- Identify the height you will want your mantel and mark that on the wall.
- Measure the mantel height to the the ceiling. Ideally, this will be 48 inches or less so you can use a single sheet of 1/2 inch birch plywood behind the TV.
Step 10: Take It All Out and Paint It
Set up an area for painting in your garage. I laid out some tarps, spread out the two sawhorses and put some of the scrap lumber down between them to provide a platform.
- Use the small foam roller and Alkyd paint.
- Put a light roll of paint on and then back-roll to take off any extra paint. These should not be thick coats.
- For the corners, use the end of the roller or a foam or soft bristle brush. I used the roller almost exclusively.
- Back roll over any lines, thick spots or thin spots. It should be completely uniform.
- Paint the large panels in one piece and then cut them as needed. (when cutting, practice on a scrap piece so you know how to minimize tear-out and splintering on the painted side.)
This paint takes more time to dry than most. Be patient.
All shelves should have at least 3 coats of paint on them. The alkyd paint hardens in about a day and will sand to a smooth finish with 300 grit paper. You may not need to sand anything, but you might want to if there are small bumps on the finish that feel like grains of sand.
Step 11: Fit Everything Again, Frame the Wall, Run Low Voltage and Electrical Rough In.
Now that everything is painted, bring it all back in and set it up again. Don't screw it down anywhere yet because you will probably need to move it to run wires behind it.
If you have electrical outlets to extend into the base cabinets, measure and cut the back panels and sides of the cabinets as needed. Cutting the openings in the back panel is tricky and if you don't know how to do this, here is one technique. Loosely attach the back panel to the base with just two screws. Then measure the outlet distance from the wall and the floor and duplicated that on the back. Then drill a hole in the panel where the outlet should be and push the base back into place to determine how far off it is. Once you confirm the dimensions, drill a hole for each corner of the outlet opening and use a keyhole saw or Dremel to cut out the outlet opening. You can see the cut-outs for the electrical and existing low-voltage wiring in the pictures above.
Framing the wall above the fireplace
Now it is time to put the 2x3s against the wall above where the mantel will go. This will provide a space for the flexible conduit and, in separate cavities, the Romex to extend the power from the base up to behind the TV.
A couple of things to note here:
- The studs on the wall are arranged to accommodate a rectangular recess exposing the original wall where the TV hanger will be. This way, I avoided having to hang anything heavy on the panel. The TV hangs on the original wall. If you don't want to do the recess, then you will attach the studs in a traditional way (vertical) over the existing studs in the wall. You might want to go with 2x4s in this case and don't skimp on the fasteners since your new studs will be holding up your TV.
- I used 3-inch deck screws to secure these studs.
- I laid these boards down flat because I did not want the panel to stick out too far. This worked, but it meant I had to use 3/4 inch plastic conduit instead of 1 inch for the low voltage runs. Normal HDMI cables will not fit in 3/4 inch plastic conduit. You will have to use "slim" cables with small heads. The alternative is to stand the studs up against the wall, but this makes attaching them much more difficult. Thin cables are available at Amazon.
- Leave a few small gaps or notches in the studs where you want to run speaker wires and larger gaps where the plastic conduit will go.
- Wherever possible install these studs over the existing studs you pencil marked earlier. For the horizontal pieces, attach to studs but also toenail-screw them into the vertical ones where they meet.
Running the low voltage conduit
You can see from the pictures how I routed the plastic conduit from a wooden board in the bottom of the wall recess to the upper back corner of the base cabinet.
- The conduit is flexible, but you should try to keep bends wide and at a minimum. The tighter the bends, the more difficult it is to fish wires through them.
- The plastic conduit requires considerable pressure to snap into the different connectors, which can be at awkward angles. I chose to use a piece of conduit each end and attach the ends first. Then I used a connector at the center to connect the two ends. This also allowed me to adjust the length of the conduits as needed.
- You will need to cut appropriate gaps in your studs to accommodate the conduit. You can see the gap in the images here, but there were also gaps built into the fireplace surround when it was installed.
- All of the conduit will be covered up by the panel and fireplace surround.
- This is a good time to at least think about how you will want to run speaker wiring if you are going to do that. You should keep it away from any electrical. I created and used gaps along the sides of the bookcases and above the mantel for my speaker wire and I ran the center channel wire between the right-side bookcase and the wall, up above the bookcase and down through a hole above the where the center-channel speaker will be mounted. I apologize that I do not have any pictures of those speaker wire runs.
Electrical rough in
If you choose to run electrical from an outlet to the panel behind your flat-screen, this is the time to do it.
- Typically, you should keep the wire routing parallel to the outlet and away from any other wiring. Do not run any low voltage wiring, like speaker wires, in the same stud cavity as the Romex for electricity. This is for safety and to eliminate any chance of audio interference.
- Cut notches in the back of the 2x3s studs you are using to route your wires. Use plastic covered Romex staples to secure the Romex to the studs every few feet. There must be a a staple within 2 feet of the outlet boxes.
- If running electrical through the studs, you may need to put steel stud guards on your studs where the Romex threads through. (They protect the wires from nails and screws somebody might put into the wall later.) Check you local code or just do it to be safe. (Mine are not pictured as I remembered it just before I hung up the panel.)
- Leave 6-10 inches of Romex at the ends. It never hurts to have a little more. as it will be cut to length when connected.
Step 12: Secure the Cabinets and Bookshelves to the Wall, Attach the Panel and Build the Laddre-frame Header
Now that all of the studs are up for the center panel and your electrical/low voltage routing looks good, it is finally time to secure the cabinets and bookcases to the wall.
- Secure the base cabinet into place by drilling holes and screwing 3 inch deck screws into the furring strips placed along the wall earlier. Drill and screw through the two side posts and the center post along the back of the base cabinet.
- Clamp and then screw together the two bookcases on each side. Be sure to use screws that are short enough to not penetrate the other side of the bookcase, about 1 1/4 inch should work.
- Align the bookcases and drill holes and screw through the bottom of the base cabinets and into the sides of the bookcases. Measure or eyeball carefully when you do this so you don't miss and drill through the top of the base cabinet. Note that you will be drilling through the side cleats in the base, but there is no cleat in the center. Be sure to drill into and secure all 4 bookcase sides.
- Drill and screw through the cleats above the top shelf of the bookcases into the furring strips you placed earlier.
It is likely that there will be gaps in the back panels where the bookcase meets the base. This can be filled in with corner molding.
The Center Panel
Ok, now you can take a measurement for the width of the center panel and get that panel cut. This is one of the pieces that I cut too early and discovered it was a fraction too narrow for the space. Fortunately, I was able to cover the gap with corner molding.
Cut the openings in this panel:
- Dry fit the panel to make sure it fits in the space the way you want it to.
- Measure each opening from the closest two sides.
- Draw lines marking the cuts to be made.
- Drill holes in the panel where you think the openings should to to help verify cut out locations.
- For the large opening, use a circular or trim saw and very carefully plunge cut the saw into the panel.
- For the smaller opening(s), use a Dremel or similar tool.
To hang this panel, start by drilling and screwing several screws along the very top panel into the horizontal stud installed earlier. I used 2 1/2 or 3 inch deck screws for this.
- Identify good attach points to studs
- Drill and countersink screws through the panel and into the studs. Make sure the screws are slightly recessed because you will need a little white wood filler there.
Once the panel is firmly attached, You can cut, glue and finish nail the molding around the large cut out.
Install the ladder-frame header
The header over the fireplace is made of 2x4 lumber to keep it stable across the span. Construction is very simple:
- The width of the frame is the same as the opening between the bookcases.
- The depth of the frame is measured from the large panel to the front edge of the bookcases.
- Install the frame so the bottom edge is 1/4 of an inch above the bottom of the top bookshelf on each side.
- Use a piece of 1/4 inch plywood panel for the top. This is a piece that should be cut after the header is installed to ensure a good fit.
- Paint the top panel before installing it.
- I used 3 inch deck screws to install the ladder frame and finish-nailed the panel into place.
Step 13: Install the Fascia and Bookcase Casing
I'll start this section with a simple statement. If you don't like the look of something, go ahead and change it while you can. Otherwise, you will see it every time you look at your project.
Install the fascia
The fascia is what I call the strip of wood along the very top of the bookcase that runs continuously from one wall to the other. (The term is commonly used for the similar piece at the edge of a roof.) Somebody else might call it a top-rail or a top-face. This is a good item to install first because you can easily measure each board needed for the vertical bookcase faces. This will most likely be two pieces of poplar that are joined someplace in the middle with a 45 degree angle cut.
This board does not have to go all the way to the ceiling because the crown molding will fill that gap. What is important is that the bottom edge or lip be consistent. Mine was about 1/2 inch below the bottom of the top-shelf
If you plan to install a center channel speaker above the TV as I did, run the wiring for it now. Mine went out through the access panel on the right side of the base cabinet, up and over the bookcases and out through a small hole in the top of the header.
This might also be a good time to rough-in your other speaker wiring. I ran mine from the left side of the base cabinet near the conduit, up behind the large panel to small holes drilled in the side of the bookcase at the shelf where I wanted to set the speakers. The left speaker ran across behind the bottom of the panel. The right one just went straight up. I apologize but I don't have a picture of that. Hopefully, you planned out your wiring as I suggested earlier and know what path it should take.
Install the base cabinet front supports
If you haven't already done this, install the base cabinet front supports now. You can go straight through the top into the supports and toenail them in at the bottom. I used dowels in mine, but they proved very difficult to install so I didn't include that in my list. Just glue and nail yours.
Install the vertical faces
Measure for each bookcase front separately. These fronts will most likely not all be exactly the same because of leveling, small bookcase differences, etc. Mine differed by about 1/8 of an inch because of a slight sag in the base cabinet tops.
Step 14: Install Mantel and Fireplace Surround
It seems like this should have been one of the first things to complete, but for me, because of the low voltage and other wiring needs, it was among the last. I wanted the mantel to butt up against the bottom of the back panel and bookcases with no gap and there were several low voltage conduits running along behind it. Unfortunately, I do not have as many images of this step as I would like. Here were the steps involved.
- If there isn't one there already, anchor a 2x4 behind the bottom edge of the back panel. This will secure the panel firmly along the bottom.
- You will need to cut a section of this 2x4 to accommodate the low voltage conduit.
- Install a 2x6 below the 2x4. You will need to cut a section out of this piece also. This will be what you secure the mantel and several other boards to.
- For the surrounds, you want the sides to be full height and the spanning piece to butt up against the sides. You can pocket hole these pieces together for a tight fit. Or take alook at your old mantel to see how they did it.
- Install 3 vertical 2x4 boards, one at a time, along the sides of the fireplace. Use your stud markings or the old nail holes as a guide to attache these boards. The 3rd board, that's the top board, should be about 3.5 inches shorter than the others.
- Install a 2x4 spanning the space between the vertical stack of 2x4s.
- Measure and cut your mantel to fit between the bookcases. The depth of the mantel should be about 1/2 inch narrower than the bookcase. This will vary depending on what type of edge trim you use, if any. Use your judgement here.
- Dry fit the mantel and Make sure it is perfectly level. Draw a line under the mantel board on the wall and on the bookcases.
- Attach a 2x2 or 2x4 cleat along the length of the line you just marked.
- Re-install the mantel. Make sure it is perfectly level. Attach it to the cleat with finish nails and finish nail through the bookcase sides into the mantel.
- Now you will need to build up the area under the mantel with crown molding and other trim to your liking. I used:
- a piece of 2x6 pine the length of the opening as a base.
- A 1x6 piece of poplar on top of the 2x6.
- A large piece of built-up crown molding with dentil against the poplar and attaching to the bottom of the mantel board.
- A small piece of screen molding along the bottom of the poplar 2x6 to provide some depth.
I also built a small picture frame out of some rounded molding and attached it to the center of the top fireplace surround. It is about 5 inches tall and 36 inches wide.
One tip: Use shorter finish nails and steeper angles where there is a chance that a nail may pop through a board on the other side. If a nail does pop through, clip it with wire cutters and hammer it into the board with a small punch. Then cover the divot with white wood putty, sand and paint.
I apologize that I do not have more pictures of this part of the project. Getting this right was a little like assembling a puzzle. It is likely that you will assemble yours a little differently, and that is just fine. The goal is to make it look terrific.
Step 15: Install Crown Molding, Fluted Molding and Related Trim
I mentioned earlier about changing any things you don't like when you build a project. For this project, I was not happy with the asymmetric face frames and I wasn't happy with a few joint connections on the fascia and the crown molding. The bookcase also still looked kind of plain compared to the fireplace, which had dentil and fluted molding. So, I ripped the crown molding down and replaced the narrow inside bookcase frames with some that are the same width as the center ones. This made it look much more symmetrical. Then I started on the dress-up pieces on the bookcase. Here's what I did:
- Install 2nd row of 1x4 poplar boards along the fascia. This covered the bad joints and provided a top-edge for the vertical pieces to be installed. I was much more careful this time so the seam is invisible.
- Install a single piece of crown molding across the top. This just nails into the fascia and caulks to the ceiling. (I did not scrape any of the stippling off the ceiling, I just caulked the gaps. A single 14 foot piece of crown molding was tough to get home and to cut to size, but the total lack of seams makes it worth it. (Yes, seems can be covered up pretty well, but I didn't want to chance it.)
- Measure, cut and install the fluted column molding and rosettes for each bookcase front. Make sure they are straight. Glue and finish nail them into place.
Caulking, filling and touch up painting
Now that nearly everything is in place, it is time to fill nail holes and gaps.
- Use the white wood filler to fill every nail hole. sand or sponge it down flush and paint over it at least twice.
- Use common caulk (I used ALEX PLUS) to caulk any gaps where wood edges meet. This applies to the mantel, the bookcase, where the face frames meet the wall, etc. Use the caulk very sparingly and use masking tape to mask off the walls and prevent caulk-creep.
Step 16: Base Cabinet Face Frames and Doors
Since I didn't have the doors, I was reluctant to finish the face frames in case there was a size issue. But I wanted the bases to look finished, so I went ahead and built them after everything else was done. ass it turned out, this was a pretty good time to install them because installing them sooner would have made it difficult to route wiring and finish things inside the cabinet.
The critical dimension is probably the top edge. That determines where the doors will sit and how high they will be from the floor. I needed for them to be at least 4 inches from the floor so the cove base and shoe molding could be installed.
Dimensions for my face frame is:
- Top rail is 2 1/2 inches wide.
- Bottom rail is 3 1/2 inches wide.
- inside stile is 2 inches wide.
- center stile is 3 inches wide.
- Left stile is 5 inches wide (to fill the gap to the wall).
- Right stile is 4 1/2 inches wide (to fill the gap to the wall).
- These boards are all cut to length to accommodate 22 by 24 inch doors, so the stiles are 23 inches long.
- The left rails are 52 inches long and the right rails are 51 1/2 inches long.
Of course, that is for my walls. Your set up will be different.
Here are the steps in making the face frames:
- If you have not used a pocket hole jig before, try it out on a couple of test pieces. The objective is to set the depth so the boards are pulled tightly together and nothing breaks through the front face of the boards. You also want to make sure that joined boards are flush in the front.
- Measure, measure and measure again. For typical doors and recessed cabinet hinges, the opening should be 1/2 inch smaller than the door in every dimension.
- Align the center post with your vertical support in the base cabinet. This will ensure that the doors look centered in the cabinet in relation to the bookcase.
- Put any extra framing on the wall-side of the face frame. This will also match the bookcase.
- Dry fit the top and bottom pieces for each frame (called the rails). This will ensure you don't go too long or have a gap at the wall. These pieces should align with the inside edge of each base exactly.
- Cut your vertical pieces (called the stiles). You may need to rip them to the correct width.
- Clamp the pieces together and use the pocket hole jig to drill the holes. Two holes for each stile.
- Glue and Screw the screws into the boards.
- Sand so the front faces are smooth and paint. 3 coats. Keep an eye on the top edge for runs since this will be the most visible edge on the bookcase.
Once the face frames were built and painted, it is time to install them:
- Before installing, make sure the front edge of the base cabinet is flat and free of paint runs or anything that will prevent the face frame from fitting tightly. A tiny gap along the very edge is OK since it can be filled with white wood filler and painted over.
- Dry fit the face frames, making sure the inside edge and top align perfectly with the base cabinet.
- Glue and clamp the frame to the cabinet. A good way to do this is against the center support.
- Nail the face frame to the front edge of the base using 2 inch finish nails in the nail gun. As you nail, push or pull on the frame as needed to help ensure it matches the edge of the cabinet as closely as possible.
- Better to pop a nail through the cabinet on the inside rather than an outside surface, so angle in slightly if you are worried about this. If any do pop through, cut them off with wire cutters, push them into the wood and fill over them.
- Drive as many nails as you think are needed. White wood filler is cheap.
- Step back and eyeball your work to make sure it meets your expectations.
Installing the doors
When my base cabinet doors finally arrived, it was about a week after I had completed everything else and a couple of days before my oldest daughter's high-school grad party so I was anxious to get them painted and installed. The quality of the doors was very good and they looked exactly as I expected. I set up a spot to paint them, put three coats of the Alkyd paint on them and they were ready to hang. Hanging is simple:
- Install the hinges into the doors. No drilling is needed, just place the hinges, make sure they are straiht and drive the screws into the cabinet.
- Hang the doors. I used a scrap piece of wood to align all the doors to the same height and marked the holes accordingly. Luckily, they fit perfectly, 1/2 inch larger than the opening in every direction.
- Once installed, I adjusted the hinges so the doors were level and even. I also adjusted them to be as close to the face of the cabinet as possible without hitting it.
- I purchased
- Lastly, I measured and drilled holes for the knobs.
Step 17: Adding an I-R Repeater and the Center Channel Speaker
Once the doors were on, of course, all of devices in the cabinet stopped working until I could install the infra red repeater and external "eye". I used a BAFX Products 4 lead I R Repeater and a BAFX Products Peephole style hidden IR receiver. It cost about $50 for both of them and I got them from amazon.com.
Installation was easy as all it required was drilling a hole in the face frame where the IR remotes would be most likely to be seen. Then I laid out the repeaters, one lead for each shelf (each lead has two transmitters). I did not even attache the transmitters to my equipment. I just laid them on each shelf in front of each device. Works like a charm.
One thing to consider. Depending on your equipment, it might get quite warm inside this small, enclosed base cabinet. You might want to install some hi-lo vent holes in the cabinet to help air circulate or perhaps a small fan. I plan on doing this at some point, as soon as I figure out how to do it without altering the clean look of the cabinet.
Center Channel Speaker
I added a center channel speaker above the TV. I purchased an in-wall center channel speaker from Amazon. This one is from Micca. It is very efficient and reproduces voices quite well. Although it is an in-wall speaker, I built a small enclosure for it out of leftover MDF and attached the enclosure to the center panel header. The Micca speaker was designed to fit into a larger enclosure, but it sounds pretty good. It draws much less power than the big, boomy ELAC speakers on the shelves, so I had to adjust that channel way down. I only use that speaker when watching a video since that channel is mostly for spoken voice.
Step 18: Tidbits and Finishing Touches
- I bought 2 special "slim" HDMI cables and ran them through one conduit to the stereo. (one to the stereo and one to the Tivo....my wife doesn't like using the stereo to watch TV.)
- Hanging the TV was relatively simple. It sits almost flush to the back panel but pulls out when needed.
- I ran the Wii sensor down a different conduit. it sits within the pocket in the wall and can be pulled out and set on the mantel when needed.
- I ran a network cable down the third conduit to connect to the TV as it is internet enabled.
I am certain I forgot a few things. I'll try to read the comments for a while to see if anyone has questions about the build that I can answer or should include.
There are a few finishing touches that I will mention here.
- The stainless door pulls match those elsewhere in the house.
- Shoe mold was used to hide the bowed-out hearth and make it look more uniform.
- I caulked where the uneven brick meets the bottom of the fireplace surround using masking tape.
- There was a lot of touch-up once everything was in place. There is still more to do.
- I adjusted the eyeball lights in the ceiling to point more toward the bookcases than the TV.
Well, that's about it! Thanks for reading. I hope you find this ridiculously long tutorial useful in some way and at least take a skill, tip or useful gizmo away from it.