Before and After: DIY Built-Ins and Dramatic Paint Transform This Family’s Reading Room

published Aug 14, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: white living room with a large tv

Dark green is a popular choice for built-in shelving. (See: These wall-to-wall bookshelves, this cute home office, and this home library if you want to be green with envy.)

And it’s no surprise: “Symbolizing harmony and growth, along with royalty and refinement, emerald green is the perfect color to remind us to find balance this year,” Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson wrote when she was forecasting popular colors for 2022.

Homeowners Paula Truscott and Martin Loorits (@mismatchedhome) added the regal shade to their living room (plus some built-ins) to maximize wall space.

“Before we bought the house, this room was used as a TV room, which didn’t make sense to us given its tucked-in location,” Paula says. “On the other side of the entrance was a small amount of wall space that couldn’t really be used for anything.”

The previous homeowners had all white walls, and most of their furniture was brown. “The room was also carpeted, which didn’t flow with the jarrah floors in the living areas,” Paula adds. “We wanted to make it a little more special. We weren’t game enough to paint our living areas dark, so we thought we’d make this room moody in contrast to the white walls in the living space. The wall around the opening was dead space, screaming for a built-in, so we decided to turn this into a home library/sitting room.”

The room as you see it today was a multi-year endeavor; Paula and Martin replaced the floors and painted the space (Taubman’s Racing Green) almost immediately after moving in and added their own furniture.

“The dark green paint we have used throughout the room requires four coats, so that was a little tedious!” Paula says, but she loves the intimacy the shade brings to the space. “It’s so inviting, especially for sitting and reading,” she adds.

Two years later, Martin added the built-ins. “We always had it on our to-do list, but other projects took priority,” Paula says. “Martin is a cabinetmaker, so he did it himself after work and on the weekends over the course of a few weeks. After building the base of the shelf, he then built the frame, added shelves, and added some wainscoting on the cabinet doors.”

Many of the accessories on the shelves have been slowly collected over time from thrift shops, Paula adds, proving that collected, intentional design is often worth the wait.

She says the only thing she’d do differently in the space is build the shelves earlier “because it has really made the space feel purposeful.” (Again, definitely worth the wait!)

“We are most proud of the fact that we built and designed the bookshelf ourselves,” Paula says. “We didn’t just buy something off the shelf.”

She encourages others to give built-ins a go, too: “Draw it out and ask for help from a professional if you need it, but if you’re handy, you could definitely tackle it!” she says.