Living Room Built-In

A major upgrade to our living room came with the addition of our media center and built-in sofa. Since we’re major film buffs and love watching movies on our HD projector, the decision of how to set up the viewing area seating was not one that came easily. We knew the old futon had to go, but multiple visits to the furniture stores left us despairing that we would ever find a couch we could both agree on, that fit the space and didn’t cost a fortune. The obvious solution? Make it ourselves!

The first step was to build the media cabinet – an area to hold our DVD player, game systems and other equipment, with a pull-out shelf for the receiver to make it possible to reach the back and plug in more cables as needed.

We used maple plywood for the box and scrap Marmoleum for the top. That wall above (cleverly hidden by a blue curtain) will be finished with cypress paneling, eventually, and make for a nice display nook.

The cabinet fronts make use of beautiful figured maple – too unruly to rout for traditional furniture-making, but the perfect accent here – and Ecoresin panels, as seen in our doggy door post. Soft-closing Huwilift Strato hinges allow the doors to lift straight up and down – rather expensive, but also totally cool. Got to hide all those electronics in style –  and keeping the doors closed also cuts down on the hum.

There was some skepticism at first of the built-in sofa idea, but our next-door neighbor recently had a nice one made, so we knew it could be done in a classy way. To make sure we got the angle and height right, we mocked up a test section with some borrowed cushions, and adjusted until it felt comfortable.

Side tables with Marmoleum tops and Valchromat fronts were added on each end; this one is cut out on the base to divert air flow from the forced-air vent below.

Slats on the base give the seat a little bit of spring.

Angled to match our test section:

We found the fabric for a steal, about $100 for enough to make all the cushions, plus an ottoman and two seats adjacent to the front door. A local acquaintance made the cushions in her upholstery shop, perfectly constructed in less time than we could have imagined. And we got a custom piece for much less than we would have spent on a regular retail sofa!

Kitchen Drawer Fronts

Our biggest finishing touch for the kitchen yet – the drawer fronts! As a “cosmetic” detail, these had been holding on our to-do list for a long time. Winter is a good time to get in the shop and get some projects done, though, so over the past two weekends we finally got to mill these up and install them.

As mentioned in our previous post, we chose to use Valchromat, a recyclable material superior to typical MDF, made of waste wood fibers and low-formaldehyde binder. As the color goes all the way through, it is easy to work with and doesn’t need to be painted – two coats of clear penetrating oil is sufficient to darken the color and increase water resistance.

Kitchen drawers “before”:

Installers at work:

Edge detail – angled so that drawers can be opened from top or bottom, no pulls necessary:


Fun with salvaged items

From the start, Rae and I had planned on using salvaged or recycled items in as many areas as we could, but things didn’t turn out quite that way. Nothing really jumped out at us in the local yards we visited, and a couple things we did like were beyond our budget even at this stage in their lives.

We’d given up hope of finding some stained glass for use inside the house above the bathroom doors and the idea of finding a set of cool looking lights for the kitchen, but then on a return trip from Boston we visited and hit the jackpot!

Amazingly we found both – a simple set of stained glass windows from England and a pair of exterior “ship type lights” from India.