Progress (I Think) and Fireplace Indecision

Remember the antique white and hunter green tile backsplash in John & Alice’s kitchen?

j and a kitchen before

(The doors are where we tested paint samples.)

Well here’s what it looks like now…

j and a kitchen backsplash removed

Kinda scary, huh?  Well, it has to get worse before it gets better, and the “better” part of this plan will happen next Tuesday when the granite countertops and the matte white subway tile backsplash will be installed.  I can’t wait!!

While most elements of this room came together pretty easily in my head, there’s one part that stumps me.  The fireplace…

j and a fireplace before

From this view, the wall directly opposite the fireplace has the four large windows.  The area to the left is the kitchen (which will have gray lower cabinets and white uppers), separated from this family room only by a bar.  The area to the right is the wall that I’m upholstering.  Let me refresh your memory…

upholstered wall 5

And here are the colors/fabric that are going into this room…

j and a family room drapery fabric paint samples

So, back to this fireplace…

j and a fireplace before

What really throws me off is that bookcase.  Honestly, I wish it wasn’t there.  If I could do anything I pleased…anything at all…with that bookshelf, I’d tear it out and wall up the hole so that the fireplace is the only thing on that wall.  I can’t imagine what the builder was thinking when he placed the bookcase so close to the fireplace, where the two compete for attention.

But tearing out the bookcase and walling up the hole is certainly not an option.  But I’m still wondering if I can make the bookcase disappear….for the most part.  I’m considering painting the bookcase the wall color.  Then I’d like to paint the fireplace a medium or light gray.  But each time I think I’m just gonna go for it, I get hesitant and start second guessing myself.

So I put forth the question to you.  What do you think of painting the bookcase the wall color to make it disappear as much as possible?  Or is there another obvious solution that I’m missing here?


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  1. What about painting it the wall color and maybe placing some granite there (any extra little slabs laying around?!?!) And making it a wine bar/buffet….maybe even placing a mirror—that way it doesn't show as a odd bookcase….but instead has more purpose . Just a thought…love the colors!

  2. I say paint the bookcase the color of the walls. Do you remember when we painted the bookcase in our family room the color of the other cabinets and then we thought it was too distracting? We painted it the color of the walls and calmed it down a LOT. It doesn't look so busy now. So, if you paint that bookcase the color of the walls and don't put anything too distracting on the shelves, I think that would help a lot in making it kinda disappear and the fireplace the focal point. And, I vote for LIGHT gray for the fireplace.

  3. I think I would add some shelves in the upper part of that book case and paint it the color of the wall. Then I'd paint the back of the bookshelves a deeper darker color to highlight some art objects on those shelves. The lower squares of the bookshelf could hold four natural baskets as some extra storage.

  4. Why can't it be walled over? That's my favorite option.

    Or, remove the top portion, leaving the cabinet, and add shelves.

  5. Paint the bookcase the wall color FOR SURE! I think light grey for the fireplace would be nice. What about a chunky mantel too? I am interested in what you do. My parents have a similar set up and we are stumped!

  6. Ok, this may be a dumb idea, but what about building a solid doors to hide the shelves?

    If not, I'd paint the shelves the wall color

  7. Stacy, that's not a dumb idea at all! I had thought of that, and have even tried to find someone who would be willing to take on the small job of making just a few cabinet doors for me. I can't find anyone!!! None of the cabinet makers in this city want to take on such a small job. If they can't do an entire kitchen of cabinets, they don't want the job. It's so frustrating! I even put an ad on Craigslist, thinking I could appeal not only to the pros, but also to hobbyists, and had no takers. That's definitely my favorite idea, though. That way the stuff on the shelves won't be distracting and compete for attention.

  8. It's not feasible because of budget and time constraints. But yes, that would definitely be my preference! Or turn it into a closet/storage that's accessible from the side, with a solid wall next to the fireplace.

  9. The thing that bothers me the most is the brick fireplace going up to the ceiling!! I would drywall over the top of that, add a nice mantle with the brick just showing around the hearth, paint out all the trim the white and put a bookcase on the other side of the fireplace. I will add that "I'm no decorator."

  10. Okay, for some reason, I had COMPLETELY forgotten about that!! I've been so hesitant because I just couldn't picture it. I forgot that I've actually seen that before!! That settles it.

  11. Hm. I'm not sure why you want to make the bookcase disappear so badly. Why not make it a secondary focal point — a complement to the fireplace? Like… um… a sidecar on a motorcycle. Haha. Maybe there's a way to tie the two together so that it looks like all one unit? Hm.

  12. I would take out the book shelves completely. Love the white brick fireplace, and the color palet you are working with. Going to be dynomite….

  13. I was going to suggest cabinet doors and everything painted the same as the wall, but you've already thought of that solution it appears. You can't find some doors from surplus kitchen cabinets somewhere (that would be in budget)? Even if the top doors weren't as tall as the shelves, you could leave the top shelf "open" and place baskets there.

    I know that you'll come up with a good solution that will make the room great.

  14. I agree- paint it the color of the walls. It is an odd place for a bookshelf! Another thought is to put another bookshelf on the other side? I saw your comment below about cabinet makers not wanting such a small job as making a few cabinet doors. I know I live 2 1/2 hours away (Tyler), but there is someone here who would probably make the doors. We just had some cabinet doors made for our kitchen. We also had some cabinets modified. The guy we used would probably be open to doing it. However, another guy in town just makes cabinet doors. A friend used him and loved his work (and prices). We considered using him, but liked the carpentry experience of the guy we used instead. Anyway, he has a website that shows his prices and work. The website is http://www.apcabinetdoors.com. Maybe he could make the doors and ship them? His phone number is 903-509-9696. (his company is AP Woodworks.)

  15. Could you hang a curtain on both sides of the firplace to cover up the bookshelf and make it more symmetrical?

  16. I agree with Tina B. I like the idea of adding shelving to the other side. It seems we are always searching for a place to store supplies/seasonal items and that could be perfect. You could also rotate out the seasonal stuff.

  17. If adding doors is the favorite option, I'd keep posting on Craigslist. What one person misses one week they might find another week. You could also try more word-of-mouth to find the hobbyist. My neighbor found someone to do an entire wall of built-ins for her from her church.

  18. Along this same line– is there room to cut into the wall a little bit to make the new shelving/built-in deeper? If yes you could achieve a more symmetrical look by adding it to the other side although the storage would not be as deep.

  19. I would SERIOUSLY rip that sucker out. OK, you are right builder should NOT have put it in or mayber moved fireplace to the right and put bookcases on BOTH sides. HMMMMM in the design firm I used to work in, we always said you could tell the MOST builders were men…. :o)

  20. When I was reading the post and saw that you wanted to make it disappear I thought "why doesn't she just paint it the color of the wall?" and then I saw you were thinking just that! 🙂 So that totally gets my vote. It'll look like built-ins!

  21. I'd paint it white and build a matching one on the same side. That way it blends with the fireplace & makes it a larger focal point. Plus, you're adding storage instead of removing it. I think flanking bookshelves would add to the fireplace and make it grander.

  22. Here are my suggestions (which echo many of the previous commenters)

    1. drywall, inexpensive and easy to achieve
    2. paint bookcase the same color as the wall
    3. install doors, in wall color, go to Anawhite.com for inspiration

  23. I just saw a beautiful inspiration photo in Elle Decor, and it made me think of your situation. The outside of the bookshelf was painted the same color as the fireplace to unify them together, but then they painted the inside of the book case a coordinating color. It looked great! So there's one more idea for you….

  24. Rip out the bookcase, put in some new shelves that match the colour for the fireplace. Or make a secret closet, that would be awsome!

  25. What about prefab doors that you cut and add molding to fit. I made doors for our entertainment center with a flat cabinet doors from the restore and molding. Once painted and attached you can't tell the difference. And painting them the color of the walls will blend them right in.

  26. How about painting the shelves the same as the wall color and then adding some storage baskets (woven or otherwise) also painted the same wall color to the bottom shelves? That would cut down on the cluttered look that you might otherwise have.

  27. i take out the book shelves completely. Like the white brick fireplace, and the color palet you are working with.

  28. A well-thought-out, detailed plan is a must for any kitchen project. Whether you design the kitchen yourself, work with a cabinet distributor or home center, or go to a kitchen designer, formulating a plan is the first step.

  29. I don't think you need to rip out the bookcase. I would paint it the wall color, but use a contrasting color for the back of the bookcase. Maybe the fireplace color??? I think the main issue is to balance the weight of the bookcase with whatever you do on the right. What about a series of 3 framed prints stacked vertically echoing the tones of the bookcase? The colors on either side of the fireplace should remain quiet, so the fireplace can sing! Just an idea. I can't wait to see the finished product! I'm certain it'll be beautiful! It's a gorgeous palette!

  30. HI my kitchen cabinets look similar to your before pictures , we are updating our benchtop and i really wanted to paint my cupboards but kept getting told that they are solid wood and to get all the lacquer sanded off them would be a gigantic job & that you shouldnt really paint them because when the weather changes the wood may crack (i think they talked about 2 pack painting?) anyway i hate the wood look and also the horrible red bricks in my house that i would love to paint but my husband likes the bricks .. what is it with men and these dark colours . Anyways am stuck with my cupboards for now (my husband is currently using restorer oil on them to make them all woody and glossy again ,sigh)  Have you painted brick interior walls before? also are these wooden cabinets solid wood and if so what was your process for painting them thanks maz

  31. 1) Add a chunky mantle in chocolate color per your paint selections. 2) Paint the bookcase, trim, and panel above it same chocolate color. 3) Add a beautiful mirror over the bookcase that fills as much of the framed area as possible – preferably have it made custom to fit the opening – in a pretty silver leaf color similar to nailhead trim you are using on wall. 4) Use the bookcase as a bar and fill the bottom with a beautiful display of glasses and barware (could fill bottom section with baskets that would serve as “drawers” if you don’t have enough glassware to make a pretty display). Could also add a really cute “jewel” of a small lamp on top since you have power there. 5) Paint the brick hearth same white as fireplace. 6) Tie in some of the chocolate color in pillows, artwork, etc.