Alternatives to built in cabinets beside the fireplace.

What options do I have besides built in bookshelves in the recessed areas on each side of the fireplace? That’s the million dollar question! The answer depends on the answer to 4 questions:

1) Do you need to store electronic equipment? 
If so, a piece of furniture (a media cabinet) or a built in cabinet would look great! Measure the electronics before you proceed, then shop at furniture stores, on line, or price custom pieces from a carpenter.

2) Does your budget allow for built in cabinets with cabinet grade doors? 
Often people spend several thousand on one living room wall, even up to $6,000, (plus the price of decorative pieces for the display area or shelves).

Before proceeding, it’s wise to first make a detailed list of wants & needs for each room of the house. Do you need rugs? Do you want new dining or bedroom furniture? Does your entrance area (the foyer) need an upgraded light fixture? How do built in cabinets fit into your overall budget for the entire first floor?

3) Does your room have good lighting? 
If not, you might be happy with light or painted woodwork, (instead of wood stained cabinets) and/or mirrored door chests, as shown in the photo below.

4) Do you like a clean simple look, or do you prefer to display lots of nic nacs? 

Now that you’ve thought about your goals. Here are some photos to help visualize the range of options:

Option One, furniture instead of built in bookcases 

On each side of the fireplace below, the 34″ tall chests make the room feel tall. The tall twig branches also assist with the illusion of height. Anytime you can replace a tall piece with a low console, you open the possibilities for the illusion of height.

Option two: Open shelving, as opposed to lots of shelves, so you can house your TV

This is our design for our client in Greensboro, NC. Notice we offset the TV on the right with large accessories on the left. This helps “balance” the built in shelving, for a symmetrical look. Notice there is only one shelf on each side? This client loves the clean look, without the need to fill 4 or 5 shelves with nic nacs and books.

                                                                     


Option tree: Art, above consoles. 
If you have limited wall space, this can be the perfect spot to display art. It’s a uniqiue look, and allows you to add color. By not building custom wall units on each side of the fireplace, the client can spend a larger portion on furniture, chandeliers, floor lamps, art, and rugs. Notice how this clean simple look “compliments” the fireplace.

Option Four: White built in cabinets, to match woodwork.
This would allow you to store lots of books. In the room below, it looks amazing because of the coffered ceiling.

Option Five: Stained wood surrounding recessed lighted shelves, in a contemporary style.
Mahogany, cherry, walnut, these woods are beautiful but VERY pricey. If it’s in the overall budget, this type built in cabinet can be a nice addition. Plan to spend double or triple what paint grade lumber would run.  

Built in cabinets on each side of the fireplace are personal preference. It’s helpful to gather photos of favorite style before proceeding, or contact a local interior designer for space planning and draftsman plans. If you plan in advance, you can include these:
1) Recessed lighting inside the cabinets
2) Glass shelves – framed with wood borders
3) Storage solutions. 

For comments, click the word “comment” below. For questions, be sure to email us instead. If you have a recessed niche on each side of the fireplace, we hope these photos gave you some ideas. It’s a focal point wall, so if it’s furnished correctly, your room can be both beautiful and functional for your needs. For many more bookcase and built in cabinetry photographs, see our older blogs.

2 thoughts on “Alternatives to built in cabinets beside the fireplace.

  1. New build, the room is 20’ wide with the fireplace wall also 20’ wide or long. Windows on other wall. The plan is to put a 6’ fireplace wall with 6 1/2 ‘ built ins on each side. The cabinet builder has come up with a mantel all but 3” of the 84” fireplace wall. We are recessing the shelving and base cabs as to not have it so massive looking. However I do not like such a long mantel. Will it look appropriate to have 6” of space on each end of mantel or does it have to go to the end of the fireplace wall? As I said there is only 1 1/2 “ at each end. This is a traditional fp with a Sheetrock fireplace wall and the mantel and legs. It’s way too massive for me. Thank you

    1. A 6.6 mantle next to 6.5 built ins seems accurate. A long mantle allows you
      to place large art above, with one accessory to the side. Sorry for the delay,
      we rarely have time to open our blog, hope it all worked out well!

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