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DIY Built-Ins Cabinets | Designing Built-In Cabinets For The Johnson Files!

There is nothing Kyle and I love more than turning a house into a home. We have designed countless projects in order to accomplish this goal for our family and others, but nothing provides that homey feel quite like custom built-in cabinets!

I know what you’re thinking- custom built-ins are expensive! That is true, but it doesn’t have to be. A few weeks back, we flew out to Utah to visit The Johnson Files (Shaun and Nicole Johnson) to prove that built-ins can be done without breaking the bank! We love Shaun and Nicole SO much and spending a few days with them to surprise them with this epic transformation filled my heart with so much joy!

arched cabinets

We are big fans of built in cabinets, which is why we did them in our own home as well! You can check out that post right here.

In this post, I will give you the honest truth of what no one really tells you when building your own built-ins, so you can decide if this is the next big project for your home!

Built In Cabinet Structure: Our Approach!

From physical materials to your own personal emotions, there is a lot that goes behind the scenes first when deciding if a DIY built in cabinets makes sense for you.

The easiest way to achieve that “built in” look is to use existing bookshelves as the main structure. It’s crazy to think that these are actually just standard bookshelves with gorgeous trim around it to get that custom appearance!

Shaun and Nicole previously purchased two cabinets to sit on either side of their fireplace and this acted as the base of the entire built-in! We were now able to create the blueprint and base plan of materials needed to purchase when we arrived.

Use What You Have!

We did already mention that the Johnson’s previously bought cabinets to furnish their home, but we are now reusing them for the base of the project. Instead of thinking that you need to customize everything fresh, look at what you have to act as a cost-saver and a way to stay sustainable.

When taking measurements, the cabinets were not large enough to touch the wall on the right side of the fireplace. This is where the custom part begins! Kyle chose to build off of the cabinets, thus making the built-ins centered to the rest of the wall.  Little details like this allow for your home to feel more luxurious.

Embrace the Customization of Built In Cabinets!

From the style of the cabinets to the decorations filling each self, everything about your DIY built in cabinet will be made specifically to your own taste.  Shaun and Nicole chose to have their built ins take up half the height of their massive ceilings- making the room feel more centered. The top of their shelves had a cut-out arch that we just loved. Such a fun touch!

built ins cabinets

While Kyle was physically building the shelves, Nicole, Elise and I hit the shops to find the perfect decorations to style the shelves. To learn more about how to style your own bookshelves click here (link bookshelf decor post)

There was debate throughout the entire project on what to do with the front of the fireplace- there was stone on the front that did not match with their aesthetic anymore.  Kyle and I did not want to leave the built-in unfinished. We ended up building a box to cover the front of the fireplace and painted everything to blend seamlessly with the color of the fireplace.

Struggle Is Part Of The Fun

Most people tend to shy away from home projects because they believe it is too difficult for them to accomplish. From start to finish, we embraced this project with a mindset of having fun.

Before we could reach the finish line, the beautiful cabinets that Kyle had been building in the garage had to be moved into the family room.

built ins cabinets

We advise any at-home builder to have a small village on call to help with the heavy lifting. After the help of five men, we were able to bring the bookshelves inside. The real hard part now commenced- placing the bookshelves on top of the cabinets.

Necessity calls for innovation and with the help of a lightbulb replacer and a single two-by-four, we were able to support the weight of the top of the shelf and not crush a single finger!

Finally, the beautiful built-in is ready to enjoy!

Take Breaks When Needed

Kyle worked tirelessly in order to finish the built-in over one weekend, but that lofty goal should not be the case for everyone. Spread out the time you plan to build your project so you can keep your motivation high!

If you plan on spending entire days constructing your custom piece, make sure to take care of yourself. Nicole Johnson’s mission the entire weekend was to keep Kyle well-fed as he worked so hard and we appreciated it soooo much!

We felt so appreciated during this entire process, truly bringing us back to why we started sharing our love for at-home renovations in the first place. Overall, we were so proud of the built-in we created for the Johnson family! If you do decide to take the plunge and start crafting your own built-in, let us know of your progress in the comments or over on our Instagram!

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