Fireplace Wall Built-ins-Courtney 1

Hi! I’m Courtney, a SAHM to two little boys.

Sawdust Diaries - Courtney Part 1

I got bitten by the woodworking bug a few years back, but now, stuff’s getting SERIOUS! We moved into our home almost 7 years ago and immediately bought 6 IKEA Billy bookshelves, then proceeded to fill them with books and my husband’s “treasures” (read: animal bones, found glassware, fossils, and seashells). I’ve since grown tired of staring at the gaps in between the cases, and the blue paint with brown accents in the room makes it feel darker than it already is. I contacted Sandra to see if she would help me make built-in bookcases to flank the fireplace and columns. My husband is supportive of my plan, mainly because he knows I really want to do this. (He’s more of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” mind.) I am honored to be a part of Sawdust Diaries!



I just got off my Skype consultation with Sandra. My hands are sweaty and I’m wondering what my husband is going to think about what she has suggested. We just went from bookshelves flanking the sides of the fireplace, to incorporating the entire fireplace into a whole-wall treatment.


Sawdust Diaries - Courtney Part 1

Sawdust Diaries - Courtney Part 1


She had some great ideas that I hadn’t considered previously. I’m totally nervous, yet excited. On one hand, I wonder how I’m going to do this. On the other hand, I know that if I take it step-by-step, I’ll eventually get it done. The question is, how long will it take me??? Deep breaths! I’m feeling like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew at this point. My homework is to remove the molding and baseboards and that seems really final … I’m destroying part of my current house!


Luckily, all my old bookshelves sold on Craigslist within one day of listing them, so that is out of the way! Now, I’m getting up close and personal with my baseboards. The first section of 20” baseboard took entirely toooo long to remove. My 2-year-old son is asking me, “Why you break our house???”


My homework for the weekend was to remove baseboards and crown, and call an electrician to put in recessed lighting and move two electrical outlets. Taking the crown off is hard, as I don’t have a lot of strength when I’m working with my arms over my head. So, to delay, I snuck up to the attic to determine how the old recessed lighting was wired. I’ve recently done internet research on electrical wiring but haven’t really done much hands-on work. I decided I could remove the old recessed lighting and maybe save some money by doing it myself. After I got the old stuff out, I bought new trims and cans. I was on a roll at this point, and I figured since I’m not running new wire, I could do it myself and save a few hundred dollars. I went ahead and used the old wiring configuration to hook up the new lights! It took me the entire day and I had to Google every step of the way (including how to use the wire strippers!), but I did it!


[Note from Sawdust Girl: Attempt electrical work at your own risk.]


Today I added a dimmer switch to the circuit. Now the lights above the bookcase can help light the room, or cast a nice glow over the “treasures.” Sandra sent me the project plans and cut list, so I’ll be ready to go!

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19 thoughts on “Fireplace Wall Built-ins-Courtney 1

  1. Can’t wait to see progress on this project. That you did your own electric is a great start. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  2. Cindy says:

    How exciting! I love this. xo

  3. Katie says:

    Excited to see your DIY journey unfold, Courtney!

  4. MarieRoxanne says:

    That sounds like a lot of work, and since you are a SAHM do you do the work when kids are sleeping? I can hardly wait until the final reveal! It sounds a lot better than what you had previously.

  5. Courtney Burge says:

    MarieRoxanne: My husband has summers off and he took care of the kids, or they spent time at Grandma’s house.

  6. Ayisha says:

    How courageous you are Courtney for figuring out how to do your own pot lights. I wish I could do my own. I have a second story which makes things 20 times more difficult.

  7. Emilio says:

    Super curious to see how this turns out! I’ve got a fireplace with a dead space to the right of it in my living room. I currently have a bookcase I bought from Target in the space and have been thinking about filling that space with a built-in bookcase. Can’t wait to see the design!

  8. ckd says:

    Good post. I find out something more demanding on different websites everyday. It will always be stimulating to see content business writers and practice a little something at their store. I’d prefer to use with the written content on my website whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a link in your web blog. Appreciate your sharing.

  9. Ashley says:

    I’m so excited to see how this turns out! Your set us is very similar to mine and I’ve been wanting built in bookcases since we bought the house 3 years ago! I’ve always wanted to incorporate them into my mantel area but our tv cut out is a huge hole in the wall where yours is open. I’m interested to see what Sandra comes up with as I’ve been considering contacting her for my project. Just need to save some money first 🙂

  10. Guerrina says:

    Way to go, Courtney! I admire your risk-taking and doing your canned lights! This will be an awesome wall when done and I look forward to following along. I have a triangular shaped TV wall that needs a built-in and I keep procrastinating!

  11. Fawn Teresi says:

    Ooohhhh! I am sooo excited to see how this plays out! Cant wait to follow along 🙂

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  13. […] with Courtney’s Built-ins … if you missed some of here story, you can catch up here: Part 1, Part 2, Part […]

  14. […] on with Courtney’s story… catch up on her other Sawdust Diaries too: Part1, Part […]

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  19. […] you haven’t been following along, you can read all of Courtney’s progress posts here:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.  Courtney did a fantastic job on this project.  I […]