Designing Built-In Shelves

Ideas for building bookshelves and media storage around a fireplace.

Q. We are in the process of removing part of the brick surround of our fireplace and replacing it with a gas insert. We have removed the two brick walls flanking the main brick fireplace. We would like new built-ins and a mantle but are unsure what would look good. We want media storage (TV, stereo, DVD) and book storage. I have attached a picture of the living room before we removed the side bricks.

A. Removing the brick is a great start. A new surround and mantle in cream-painted wood would look stunning paired with a dark marble tile insert for contrast. Use a similar marble or tile for the hearth and build the new built-ins on either side, making them a few inches shallower than the new hearth. Since you want to store your television in your built-in, be sure to build it deep enough to contain the TV.

Think about designing the unit with open spaces for books and display items, and doors to enclose the TV, stereo and accessories. Your remote control might not work through wood, so you may need to face some of the doors enclosing any electronics with glass. If you want to keep the stereo hardware as hidden as possible, choose bevelled glass — it works with remotes and still “conceals” hardware and gives a built-in a great, updated look. Another option is to keep the TV open, sitting on a shelf and hide the rest of the hardware behind a glass door. Choose a large rectangular mirror for over the new fireplace mantle, installed horizontally, to reflect lots of light into the room.