Bookshelves around a Fireplace

Job: Build bookshelves and a new Mantel around an existing brick fireplace.

I was going to title this “The Liberty Cabinets” because my client ripped a page out of a magazine and said: “I want something like this, I trust your sense of style so get to work and make me something nice.” but then I noticed there is a cabinet shop with that title …so welcome to my generic: “Bookshelves around a Fireplace” job.


Freedom of design, materials, schedule… methods… wow! Sometimes being a carpenter is a dream job for those of us that enjoy the work.

I started with some measurements of the space and a meeting with the client to go over exactly what she hoped to accomplish and some details of construction. > Built-in cabinets consisting of Adjustable Bookshelves with Deeper cabinets below and a new mantle, everything to be painted white.

While I was building the cabinets at my shop, I scheduled a plumber to cut the existing baseboard heater shy of the new cabinet location. It took a day to collect the various trim for my idea and another two days to machine and assemble things before I could start the installation.

One of my options was how to make the shelves for a 40″ and 45″ cabinet. Experience shows that 3/4″ shelves just won’t hold up when spanning 42″ without middle support. The client didn’t want a divider in the middle of the bookshelves, Thicker shelves or a built-up edge?

I chose to rip some poplar to 1 5/16″ for a shelf edge and then applied a nose-and-cove molding. Since the shelves are only 10″ we’ll see if this holds up to the weight of books over time. If not I can laminate 1/2″ to the bottoms in the future since I have the thick shelf edge to hide it.


Today, a week later, the job is painted, the paint is dry and I’m guessing the shelves are being filled. In lieu of making the custom size raised-panel doors, I ordered them and they should arrive next week.

Since building these cabinets, I have heard nothing but praise for providing something this client has dreamt about having for years. “It completes the room and makes it feel much bigger and brighter. I love the cabinets!”



2 thoughts on “Bookshelves around a Fireplace”

  1. Hi there! We’re getting ready to do a very similar project around our fireplace and I was wondering if you have any finished photos of this project that you could share? Thanks! ~Lisa~

  2. I have the same situation, any finish pictures would be great and what kind of doors u use and what color scheme?

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