Improving a Fireplace Wall With Cabinetry

This house was constructed in the late 70’s. The living room’s long, fireplace wall was made entirely of white cement ‘bricks’ with black mortar lines between. Not very warm and inviting (much less good-looking). The new owners wanted the entire wall faced with display / storage cabinetry to surround the fireplace and a new mantle piece  to match. The only thing we left exposed was the hearth’s stone cap which ran the whole width of the room. In this first photo you can see the wall being prepped (the original bluestone mantle and shelves are chiseled off) with masking tape indicating the position of the new woodwork to be accomplished (mantle, wall panels and the outside edges of the cabinets left and right). This allowed us to get a sense of how it would look both in size and proportions.

new cabinetry wall preparationThey wanted well articulated woodwork but with bold details, not fine decoration. Somewhat masculine / straight lines / substantial. We created block-like corbels for the mantle rather than columns. All the surfaces were paneled and a single, large rosette was machined into the face.

rosette w/ panelsAll surrounding surfaces were paneled as were the cabinet’s side walls. These are true ‘frame & panel’ surfaces, btw / not simply rectangles of applied molding. Each of these panels sits 3/4″below the surrounding wall surface (frame) with the inside molding placed on the panel and rising 1/4″ above the surrounding frame.  Much richer looking this way. We chose to insert glass in the upper doors.

detailed paneling You can see (comparing first to last picture) how the tape helped indicate what the woodwork would look like when finished. These pics were taken before they had a chance to fill it with all their books, pictures, art, crystal, etc. and the painting they had in mind to hang above the fireplace. (I really should go back and take another picture now. (Built-ins always look better when completely filled.) As is often the case, they were  pleased enough that they asked us to do two more projects for them. Their home is much cozier for it.

fireplace w/ surrounding cabinets

Russell Hudson / October 2010 / Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc.