John and Alice's Family Room John and Alice's Kitchen

Progress (I Think) and Fireplace Indecision

Last Updated on December 26, 2015 by Kristi Linauer

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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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    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!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi's mom
    April 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm

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

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

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Painting the bookshelves the color of the wall gets my vote. As does the light gray fireplace!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    A little of this and that
    April 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    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!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Stacy Haugen
    April 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    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

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    April 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    April 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    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."

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    April 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    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….

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Terri Roberts
    April 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tina B.
    April 21, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    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 Maybe he could make the doors and ship them? His phone number is 903-509-9696. (his company is AP Woodworks.)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 6:47 pm

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

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    M W
    April 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    M W
    April 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kim Perdew
    April 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    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)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Anne Sullivan
    April 22, 2011 at 4:31 am

    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!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 22, 2011 at 4:34 am

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 22, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Some homeowners who remodel or build new homes have an interest in recycled glass countertops instead of the more traditional granite countertops for environmental reasons.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Linda Wilkes
    April 22, 2011 at 8:30 am

    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 for inspiration

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    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….

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    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!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    S Grosz
    April 22, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    What are you doing with the bottom of the fireplace? Did I miss that?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm

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

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    April 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

    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.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jenn Faris
    May 4, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    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!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    July 12, 2011 at 2:25 am

    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

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    July 12, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Yes, these were solid wood.  As long as you lightly sand, then use a quality oil-based primer, and topcoat with an oil-based interior paint, your cabinets will turn out great.  Here's a bit more about painting cabinets:

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    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.