Before and After: A Living Room’s Awkward Corner Is Transformed with Stunning Built-Ins for Under $500

published May 13, 2021
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Credit: Lisa Kanegae

The living room is often the spot in the home that you spend the most time in, your guests see the most of, and where your television set can become the focal point if you’re not careful. It pays to spend a little extra time and effort creating and staging a spectacular and stylish living room television wall. In the case of the living room belonging to Lisa Kanegae’s ( mother — which had not been renovated since it was built in 1995 — the payoff is huge.

Like the beginning of many renovation stories, Lisa’s mother’s living room functioned well enough, “however, the hideous marble decor in the corner was an utter eye sore. You would think it was a fireplace, but it was not. The space just needed a major update to bring it up to this century,” Lisa says. Her mom was already in the midst of a renovation and updating her kitchen and flooring, so Lisa decided to use her recently acquired DIY skills to improve this wall in the living room.

“Since this is the main living area in her home, the room needed a focal point,” Lisa says. “I also wanted to make her some cabinets to hide some of the clutter she’s accumulated over the years. Everything always looks nice as a custom built-in, so I worked on a design for the space.”

Credit: Lisa Kanegae

While the initial idea was to build some cabinets, the project ended up becoming a total built-in media unit wall. Over the course of 12 days, the project evolved beyond the initial design even more thanks to a couple of lessons learned through mistakes. In the first round, Lisa made her doors too wide, so they started to sag below the cabinet frame. Lisa scrapped the whole assembly and started over, designing more narrow doors that would all sit perfectly flush.

She also had a few drill holes for hinges that she accidentally made on the wrong side of the door. “It’s okay, it was easily fixed with wood filler,” Lisa says. Using a template for her hinge install made the process way easier, since she was able to get the hinges in the exact right spot.

Credit: Lisa Kanegae

Lisa finished off the cabinet’s designs with a gorgeous light green color that she says was a compromise of her mother’s favorite color, a neon lime green. In the end, the entire project cost $485 to complete. “I know my mom would never spend the kind of money it would take to have this built,” Lisa says. “So it was nice to build her something and make her feel special. She sacrificed a lot for us growing up, so I was happy and excited to do this for her. She can also look at this everyday and remember all the hard work I did — surely I should now be the favorite child.”

Credit: Lisa Kanegae

While Lisa is proud of how the entire project came out, her favorite detail can be found at the top. “The bookshelf and molding around the entire unit and TV really gave it that custom look. This built-in instantly modernized her home and she was so happy,” Lisa says.

And while there are still a few things she would have done differently if she was tackling this project today (like lowering the open shelf in the cabinet below the TV), she says she’s most proud that she was able to take on this challenge and accomplish it. “I was honestly shocked once I stepped back and saw everything completed and couldn’t believe I built all of this!”

Credit: Lisa Kanegae

Lisa’s DIY living room media wall is the perfect example of how adding built-in cabinets, shelves, and other storage can produce an entirely custom look to a room, plus create tons of storage. So if this project sparks any inspiration, considering following Lisa’s DIY motto: just go for it! “Often times, I feel like I have no idea what I am doing and I make countless mistakes,” she admits. “But in the end, everything always works out and sometimes my mistakes are blessings in disguise. This was my hardest challenge yet and I am so proud of what I was able to accomplish. You never know your full potential unless you TRY! . . . Mistakes are inevitable, but that’s how you learn. As incredibly frustrating as they can be, it’s only helped me improve my knowledge and building skills and I was able to complete my biggest build yet and I’m so elated with how it turned out!”