Before and After: $1,000 DIY Built-Ins Totally Transform the Look of This Living Area

published Apr 3, 2021
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
Project Type
Living Room
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: beige TV wall with mismatched furniture
Credit: Wendy Duffy

A great set of built-ins can transform a living space: They provide storage, sure, but also give an otherwise plain room a statement-making focal point. Need proof? Take this project from Wendy Duffy (At Lane & High). Before, this basement living area in her home was full of hand-me-down furniture that was outdated, mismatched, and seriously lacking in storage. “This room frustrated me because I sorely needed storage and this ugly furniture had to go,” Wendy says.

Credit: Wendy Duffy

Her need for storage became even more pressing once she became a real estate agent last year and had to create a home office. She decided to add one to this space but to do that she’d need room to hold her printer, office supplies, and work materials — not to mention a desk.

Credit: Wendy Duffy

Wendy decided to create a custom set of built-ins that would give her lots of storage and would also replace all of the mismatched furniture that was in the room previously. She bought four base cabinets from Lowe’s for the bottom, then added a wood top to those made with 1-inch-by-10-inch pine boards. She built the rest of the shelves using a combination 1-inch-by-12-inch pine and plywood.

Wendy took the piece from good to great with decorative moulding on the base of the cabinets and crown moulding at the top. She also made sure to cover up all the edges of the shelves with 1-inch-by-2-inch trim. Then, she painted everything bright white and gave it a coat of water-based sealer for durability.

Wendy chose to install the same pulls and knobs on these built-ins as the ones she already had in her kitchen — a small detail that makes everything feel cohesive. In total, the built-ins cost $1000, with the base cabinets taking up the largest chunk of that ($400).

Credit: Wendy Duffy

Now, Wendy has way more room to store necessities in both enclosed cabinets and open shelves — and once she was done with the shelving, she was able to fit a desk into the corner of the room for her work, too.

“I love everything about this project!” Wendy says. “I love how much brighter this room is and all the storage I got!”

But the best part was that she DIYed the whole thing. “I am most proud of the fact that I planned and built this myself,” Wendy says. “Aside from getting my husband and daughter to hold one end of a piece of wood from time to time, this project was all me. I am very proud of that.”

For those who are intimidated by the idea of building their own shelving from the ground up, Wendy suggests breaking the project into pieces: “DIY can be overwhelming but if you take it one step at a time, you can conquer anything!”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.