Living Room Update: Bookcases, Ceiling Fan, and Bargain Basement Chairs

Progress is being made on the living room. Yay!

My in-laws are here this week, and they’ve graciously volunteered to help me get some projects done around here. So yesterday they installed a ceiling fan in the living room.

I know, I know…an interesting chandelier or something like that would have been much better. Believe me, I did NOT want to put a ceiling fan in there, and if we were staying here, I most certainly would have opted for a more stylish and interesting lighting option.

But the truth is, this is Texas, and this condo will be on the market in the summer, and I’m trying to make myself think more practically. And that means ceiling fans. Truth be told, I think it looks pretty great, too. Especially considering we’ve just had a bare bulb there for so long!!

living room progress - bookcases and ceiling fan

And as you can see, I also started on the bookcases.

living room progress - bookcases

They’re very rough at this point, and have a very long way to go. Right now, I’m feeling a bit unsure about the whole thing. I used MDF because it’s cheaper than plywood, but the problem with that is that MDF isn’t as rigid as plywood. So I either need to find a way to add a ton of support to the shelves so that they won’t bow, or I need to go a different route with a different material.

I’ve done some research, and it seems that there really isn’t any perfect material for shelves this wide (45 inches). They say that even high grade plywood will bow over time. But that was on a forum with a bunch of carpenters (all men) talking about building wide shelves. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from years of watching my father work on projects, followed by years of working with contractors on clients’ homes, and then ten years of marriage, it’s this: Men are generally quicker to say “That can’t be done!” than women are. And quite often, I’ve found a way to do the “impossible”. 🙂 So I’m going to put some thought into it, and I’ll let you know what I come up with.

And then the last thing…

Did you see my chairs?

living room progress - bookcases and ceiling fan

I bought this pair of chairs from a church garage sale about three years ago for eight dollars (four dollars each). They’re incredibly sturdy, and I liked the boxy shape, so I bought them and have had them in storage all these years, thinking that I would eventually reupholster them and use them.

Well, I’ve been a big concerned about staging my living room for sale, because I didn’t want to buy furniture for it since I might not use it in the house, and that would be money wasted. So a few days ago, I was at my storage building, I saw the chairs, and it dawned on me that I could probably just use those in the living room. So I brought them back, and I love them!

They’re teal and green stripe, so they really do look like they were made just for my condo!

The only problem is that the previous owner clearly had a cat, and kitty clearly like to use these chairs as her scratching post.

living room progress - garage sale chairs

The sides on the back of the chairs are all scratched up, but even the fronts have snags all over. But I’ve found that if I use scissors and trim the threads, it actually looks pretty good. So I’m going to finish that up, and then clean the chairs, and I think they’ll really look nice in the finished room.

Can’t beat two upholstered chairs in the perfect colors for eight bucks!!



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  1. Those chairs are absolutely fabulous! When you said reupholster, I was screaming NOOOOOO in my head! LOL! Then I read where you decided not to, yay!!! Your living room is coming together nicely, I can’t wait to see the final product. I need to learn how to use power tools, I just love all your DIY projects. Not sure if this helps, but when I worked at a tuxedo rental place years ago we had those cheap disposable men’s razors on hand to use on vests that would snag or pill. Just gently run the razor along the fabric as if you’re saving, to this day I use this trick on sweaters and other clothing at home. Congratulations on your progress, everything is looking great!

  2. For support, you could get a nice hardwood trim, 1×3 at the biggest I think for those shelves, and glue/nail them to the fronts. I personally despise mdf, but if all those stores can use it for their bookcases, there must be something to it. If it still looks bowed, run 1×3’s parallel below them, they will be hidden by the trim. That should be more than enough to keep them sturdy over time!

  3. Hi Kristy! Love how this is evolving… I have an idea for you ref your shelf strength… We always install a fascia on the front of the shelves (a piece of wood installed vertically to the shelf piece) – note I am a sketcher, if that doesn’t make sense let me know. You can tuck support pieces behind there, we once used angle iron for a TV shelf, never moved in 17 years… good luck!

  4. It’s looking good in there! I totally understand the whole ceiling fan dilemma and in the end, I think you’re right that in Texas, a fan would be appealing to many buyers. We took down our ceiling fan in our bedroom for a chandelier and I love it, but now that summer is coming and we’ve had a couple warm nights, I have sort of missed having a fan in there! And I’m so with you on the experience that men jump to the “it can’t be done” mode a lot faster than women! I have often figured out a solution that was so quickly dismissed as not being possible.
    It’s looking good, the chairs go with everything you’ve done in there!

  5. Looking good! As for the shelves, mdf is a necessary evil. Could you make a sorta hollow shelf, with extra cross supports hidden and disguised by a decorative trim the front..

  6. Holy wow those chairs are amazing! What a great find!!! I’ve been on the look out for something similar for years now and have not been nearly as lucky! (I’m to the point where those cheap $70 accent chairs at Walmart are starting to look pretty good o.0 That’s bad!) Anyway, I can’t wait to hear your solution for the shelving!

    I was wondering if you’re exciting about starting all over again or if it seems daunting since you’ve poured your heart and soul into your current residence.

    Thanks for sharing! =)

    1. I’m ecstatic about starting over!! When we moved into our condo, we knew it was going to be temporary. We had only planned on being here a year, and we ended up being seven years. 🙂 But in my mind, it’s been temporary nonetheless, so I have absolutely no emotional attachment to this place. I’ve had a blast updating it, building stuff, making fun projects, etc., but I’ll have absolutely no problem walking away from it.

      I’ll definitely be approaching the house with a different mindset. It’s going to be our home for many, many years (maybe even our forever home), so I’ll definitely pour my heart into it. I’m already feeling attached to it. 🙂

      1. Kristi, you have such a great attitude! With everything you’ve done in the condo, you can take those skills and make your ‘forever’ home a show place!

  7. 1x trim on the fronts, a 1x strip secured to the wall at the back of each shelf should hold the MDF without it sagging. Love it, Kristi!

  8. Those chairs are really great in your living room – good colors and they appear to be in great shape. Also, love the ceiling fan – it’s the same kind we have in our living room – moves a lot of air. Lastly, you’ve got a great start to the bookcases. Remember that you are building them to SELL the house. When you stage the house, just put a few books or knick knacks on the shelves and they won’t bow or warp. It shouldn’t be a problem and if the new owner loads them down with books, that’s their problem, right? It’s looking good!

  9. Hi Kristi: Things are looking great. In regards to suporting the shelves, how about putting a piece of wood along the front edge and underneath. The wood could be as thick in depth as you want. With added thickness, cut a L shape piece out of the inner upper edge to rest the shelf into. From the outside it will look like a thick shelf. On the sides and back additional support underneath shoud give it rigidity that it needs. However the outside edges may need extra thickness with trimming to give a solid balanced look. All the best to you and your husband.

  10. You may not need to worry so much about the strength of the MDF if you can at least use 3/4″ thick one. When we moved into our house, I removed a lazy-susan from a deep upper corner cabinet (because every other cabinet was too narrow for plates) and added shelves. All I had on-hand was some 3/4 MDF, so one of the shelves was made out of that. I’ve been using it for 3 years to store HEAVY serving bowls and full stacks of cereamic plate and it hasn’t sagged so much as a millimeter. I have to admit I’m impressed.

  11. Kristi, I love what you said about men saying “can’t be done” faster than women! There are exceptions but those are really special guys!

  12. Coming right along! You might want to just put a support mid way of the width on the shelves, ( maybe every other or stager a little support post). Note for the chairs- instead of cutting -which will lead to a hole with a little wear (sometimes very little wear) Use a needle, just thread the string and push to the underside of the material. – no cut- no hole. Looking good. Not a doubt in my mind you got this!

  13. I adding pretty much the same two cents as everyone else. My hubby is a carpenter. He normally uses plywood for shelves and then fronts it with either a 1×1 strip or a thiner strip of wood and uses little nails. I have some pretty wide shelves myself and this is amazing. Don’ t worry if the strip is a little wider than the shelf. Put it even with the flat shelf and let the extra go to the bottom. It will also make the shelf look like a heavier unit and it will help to balance out the width. I hope I have explained this enough for you to grasp the idea. You are so talented!

  14. I like the suggestions others have made for beefing up the shelves with 1×3’s or some other wood frame. Not only would it add support but it could make the shelves look a bit chunkier. Maybe even consider wood around the edges of the MDF with a thin piece of luan or something on the bottom so that it ends up looking like a heavy piece of wood for each shelf.

    Either way, I’m sure you’ll come up with something. 🙂

  15. Looking good. You never disappoint! Great to have helpers too.

    So funny about the men!

    Home Depot man, “Lady that will not fit in your small Honda!!!”

    If you take it out of the box & put this in the back & that in the front & the other in the back, and the rest in the trunk, it does! See Mr. Home Depot man!? 🙂 Shakes head. 🙂

    Oh, how I love a good challenge from them!

    Staying tuned for your next step. Thanks for sharing your pretty home.

  16. I love finding deals like you did on those chairs – in the perfect colours too! Was meant to be:) Men do usually like to quit more easily – maybe they don’t care quite as much about the finished product whereas we have a vision we are working towards! Good luck with your projects – I am sure you can pull off the impossible!

  17. I personally love ceiling fans. There are some really nice ones out there. I can’t imagine sleeping at night w/o one in the summer. Love the chairs. Everything is looking fabulous.

  18. I like Brooke’s ideas about the bookcase trim. The other thing you could do is simply to
    stage them with lightweight decorative objects and a few books — lees is more kind of approach. I DO wish you would paint them white — it would give such a clean, open look. As for the chairs,
    have you considered some Sure Fit (R) chair covers in a more modern color? With perhaps a bolster or small pillow to complement you breakfast room fabrics? The chair fabric is too dated & doesn’t really fit in with your lovely home and all the remarkable things you have done to it. Nearly at the finish line — don’t flag now! Also– as a fellow Texan — ceiling fan–GREAT!

  19. I’m also in Texas (outside of Dallas) and always shocked when people are removing the ceiling fan for a chandelier! We have a ceiling fan in every room. We are spoiled to them. I can’t be in a room without air circulating.

    My MIL used to have chairs like those. I wish I had your vision, LOL!

    Wish I could come help you – good luck, and I can’t wait to see what you do at the new house!

  20. Kristi, it’s looking good so far! I think the ceiling fan is a nice addition. I’m not a huge fan (HA! :D) of ceiling fans, but in hot, humid places (like the South especially, and even here in coastal California where it gets hot in summer because I’m not close enough to the beach) you almost have to have them because of the air circulation issues.

    The chairs are really nice, I love those stripes. They are a nice, classic shape. I have to tell you, I thought that was a pillow in your pictures until I looked closer and realized it was a KITTY and a real cute one at that!

  21. Those chairs are awesome and perfect for that space! And I also agree with you about men being quick to say that it can’t be done. Sometimes they are right about it, but a lot of the times they’re not and just don’t want to put the effort into thinking about how to do it differently. Can’t wait to see the finished project!

  22. I know it sounds cheap, however, I found a beautiful vintage outdoors lantern on a hard rubbish set over the weekend!

    At this time I am in search of wrought iron patio chairs to
    match. You know precisely what they say, one mans trash
    can be another mans treasure!

  23. What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious
    experience concerning unexpected emotions.

  24. I know this is an old post, and I can’t find the answer in the comments…how did you attach the vertical sides of your shelves to the countertop that they sit on? I’m getting ready to build a built in and I can’t think of the best way to do this! If you end up seeing this, thank you!!

    1. If I remember correctly, I just used a bead of wood glue. I considered putting quarter round around the bottom and nailing it to the bookcase and to the countertop, but in the end, I didn’t feel like it was needed.