Double Parlor Home Library The Victorian House

Never Mind

I was trying to be positive yesterday and convince myself that things were fine, but I was gone almost all day and when I came back the doors had been attached. I thought we had agreed to hold off on them and I’d have some time to think about what to do. The wood grain is good enough I guess, and I appreciate the work that went into building everything, but the paneled doors combined with a toe kick? Very eighties, and I hate it.


I made a stupid mistake and I messed up. I didn’t go into details with the carpenter and I thought we were on the same page. I would say things like “I want it to look like it’s always been a part of the house” and to me, that encompassed everything from the quality of the wood to the inclusion of period (not 1980s) details. I’ve never worked on a custom project like this, and my inexperience is showing.

I don’t even know what to do at this point. Getting rid of the recessed toe kick would help immensely, and I think that can be remedied easily enough. The doors though? Learn to like them? Try to cut them down and accept the weird proportions that will result? I’m ready to give up. I cried over these stupid bookshelves yesterday, which is ridiculous. They are bookshelves — get over it, Nicole. I just feel dumb about the whole thing and I’m sick over this costing more to fix my rookie mistakes and lack of communication.

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  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Ugh. I hate when this kind of thing happens and makes you feel ill. First of all, is it worth it to let the project continue on as planned, and wait to see how it all looks in the end, once all of your things are styled on the shelves? Because I wonder that once it’s all done and you look at the bigger picture of it all, it will actually start to look alright? I don’t think it looks that bad, but I fully appreciate when something isn’t as expected, it’s a bit heartbreaking. (But I stress that I think it looks ok!)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Do you have a picture of what you have in mind (you might have posted one and I missed it), it may help us with suggestions and help the carpenter. It’s so frustrating when you see a custom project not turning out as you envisioned.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:15 am

    What about full overlay doors? You wouldn’t see the hinges then, or the frame. Might be a little wonky when you open the doors since it wasn’t designed that way but would give you a cleaner, more timeless look when they’re closed.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Ask the carpenter to build out the toekick (either by making a box or just adding some blocking with a solid face – then add a toebase molding to the face of the cabinet where the toe space was OR have the carpenter lift up the cabinets, build a platform (can only be a couple of inches) box out the toe kick and wrap with taller baseboard molding.
    That might help – we own a custom wood shop and I’ll tell you as much as you try to be on the same page it is very hard to make sure all the bases are covered especially with custom items. It’s much easier when you pick from a catalog as you can see photos – but custom? That is more of the talk through, fingers crossed we got it right sometimes. Not sure if I helped.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:23 am

    So above the cabinets was it to be open shelving?

    I agree let the project go on and finish it with your stuff because I think that will tone down the “wood”. The other suggestion I would give is change the hinges, to the invisible kind. In my opinion the hinges are adding to the 80s feel, as is the lack of hardware to open the doors. Hardware makes a big difference.

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 10:35 am

      I agree completely. Those hinges are baaaaaad. They need to be hidden. That would probably improve things a lot.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Sorry to hear what you’re going through.
    What are you going to be storing in the cabinets? Have you thought of a glass insert instead of the raised panel? Maybe find a local salvage place with old windows. See if there are any panes large enough to cut to size for the doors, that way it wouldn’t have the crisp new glass look and would have a bit more character.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Okay. I agree, when you first started the process and posted pictures of what you wanted, THIS is not THAT – I’ve been there. But, I know there’s something to be said for historic woodwork, blah blah blah. But, I think once you fix the toe kick problem, you should really consider painting the cabinets or consider a different stain. It’s virtually impossible to match your house without spending a ton more money.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:31 am

    You have a great eye for design so I’m sure you will figure this out! I can’t imagine taking on a project like this. I get anxiety just picking a paint color!
    Not sure of this is a realistic suggestion, but what if you cut out the wood in the center of the door and did glass or leaded glass?

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I understand you being bummed because it was something you put so much expectation into. I’m with the ladies who already left comments : you should probably wait until the whole thing is done then you can deal with it as if it had come with the house. Take care !

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:32 am

    It’s an expensive, permanent feature in your new home – I’d totally cry too!

    I’d weigh out how much it would cost to get doors you want vs. just leaving them off and maybe adding in some bins/baskets instead? I have no concept really of what “cutting them down” would do… Bringing the toe kick forward seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal (not that I’m a carpenter!).

    Good luck getting it to work for you – for a project like this it’s definitely worth getting it right.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Take your cues from your breakfront in the dining room. Remove the toe kick by raising the whole set up 4″ and adding a beefy baseboard. If that doesn’t quite do it, (as a more expensive fix) change out your doors to more shaker-style with flat panels, similar to the breakfront’s or the kitchen cabinets’. Changing the hinges might help a bit, too.
    It’s all about scale!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Hey. :(
    Many hugs. It’s going to be okay, Nicole.
    Many, many hugs.

    You’re right, the doors look really 1980s and the hinges the way they are are very 1980s and yeah. Sadness.

    I like Jeanna’s suggested of putting a leaded glass insert into the doors, and let’s change the hinges so that they’re not showing.

    The recessed toe kick is also not working, and you’re getting rid of that, and that’s progress.

    I think other people have said it, and I’ll say it too, have faith in yourself. You’re a problem solver. You can do this, you can solve this problem!!

    Go looking for pictures of the kinds of bookcases you had in mind, and take another stab at it.

    Also: I believe that when the bookcases are up and they’re styled with books, it’s all going to come together.

    It’s gonna be okay, I promise. You’re in the big leagues of design, now, you’re spending some real money and you’re hiring pros and this is your learning curve. Learning to cope with the horror of it not going right, and course correcting in the middle of a project. While pregnant.

    Apply ice cream directly to feelings and try again.
    You can do it!

  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    April 9, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Oh, I’m so so sorry. I’ve been there, and it is an awful feeling.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Was this drawn or rendered? I am a kitchen designer @ Home Depot and I always make sure to show a colored/realistic rendering to all my clients. This really helps with showing exactly how the cabinets will look when complete.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:45 am

    If you hate it, stop the project immediately. Regroup and have a full discusssion with carpenter about what’s possible now. Built-ins are an investment and just settling isn’t an option. Sorry about the hiccup, but it will work out. They’ll be beautiful one day soon guaranteed.
    Good luck.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:45 am

    At this point, I think the best thing to do is search for reference photos that show exactly what you want the finished project to look like. There will be no debate on what this series-of-words means to this person as opposed to that person. Use the same technique you woould use when getting a distinctive haircut and try to leave nothing to chance.

    I used to work for our States historic preservation office and we had reference books from the past and artisan catalogs of custom woodwork and furnishings, perhaps you can track down some reference materials for the time period of your house. good luck!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I don’t think you should just soldier on. I know it’s a painful lesson but better to just take a deep breath and fix it now rather than let it fester by trying to live with it. You are never going to love it. I would either have the raised panels swapped out with flat panels or what Allison (above) suggested – do glass inserts.

    As for the toe kick area have him add feet or a decorative toe kick corner to give it a more furniture feel.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:47 am

    1) Cut yourself some slack. You are pregnant after all.
    2) I am wondering if it would look more period if you switched the doors with drawers??? In the vintage built-in I had in my older homes/apartments the lower levels were usually fitted with drawers on the bottom, not doors. I am thinking some campaign-style detailing would be sweet…
    3) Believe me I totally understand where you are coming from, emotionally, I had to stop the bus on a reno project last summer with left me with plastic covered holes in my roof from the fourth of july until labor day. Took me four tries to find the right look.
    4) Still, it’s only stuff. :)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

    I don’t like to be really critical of other people’s homes on blogs, but I can tell you’re upset and looking for opinions: I don’t think it is the frame that is upsetting you – it has nice clean lines, so even though changing the doors now would be a costly mistake, it will be better than having spent money on something you don’t love. I also really like the suggestion someone made of switching out the wood panels in the doors for a glass insert, although it might not make the most sense with kids (I don’t have kids, so I can’t really speak to this) – and you probably wanted it for hidden storage so glass would defeat the purpose. And yes, the toe kick doesn’t do it much justice at all, so I would change that if it is easy enough. I actually really love the frame a lot and I think with the shelves it will be beautiful, so if you can fix the things you’re not in love with, it will all work out and you’ll have the piece you envisioned.

  • Reply
    Ali Burtt
    April 9, 2014 at 10:50 am

    How distressing. I have every faith that you’ll come up with a solution though. You have exquisite taste and awesome negotiating skills. You can fix this.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Would incorporating the (previously removed) baseboards in front of the toe kick be an option? Maybe cut down a little. Same details, slightly shorter? Would the stain/wood grain work cohesively? It could potentially be a nice way to bring in the period detail you are looking for.

    In any case, I’m very jelly that at the end of all of this you are going to have what can only equate to the real life version of the library in Beauty and the Beast.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:55 am

    As I think you have learned, you should always do a drawing or find a photo of what you want, and make sure someone fully understands. However, I think everyone’s experienced this moment, at least to some degree.

    While I understand your 80s concern, I think this will actually look “older” when it’s finished and the shelves/books are up. I agree about changing (ideally hiding) the hinges. I also think that bevel is part of the 80s issue. Could they just route them out to be square and not beveled?

    Are you trying to match the shutters? If not, going darker with the stain might also help, but I’d wait until you get the shelves up to judge.

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 11:01 am

      I just went back and looked at your old posts. I think you are in a tough spot, since the rendering did seem to indicate everything that’s being built (but I guess you guys just didn’t discuss your interpretations enough) and you did see the doors when they arrived. I think you’d be hard-pressed to not cover extra costs.

      I would ask for the hinges and kickplate to be changed, and I think see how it turns out once it’s all in place. I think you may be pleasantly surprised, and if not, you can switch the doors.

      I’m sorry!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

    At this point, I would consult with an architect or cabinet designer. You will probably need to have new doors made. However, the grain on the wood does not look bad to me anymore, which is one positive. I think with newly styled doors, your bookshelves are going to be beautiful. With how much you have spent, it is worth investing a bit more money to get the result you want.

  • Reply
    Nicole S.
    April 9, 2014 at 10:58 am

    What. A. Bummer.
    Yes to that flush toekick. The doors should be inset, not partial overlay like the carpenter has made them… See if he will negotiate on that. It’s difficult to communicate these things without drawings. And send an email if I can help with other questions – I’m a Chicago architect and we advise clients on these sorts of ‘simple’ projects all the time.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Yay for lots of blog friends with good suggestions! I agree with the statement of one who said you are a problem solver, this can be fixed. Monique also had a helpful bit with regard to the toe kick and finally the hinges, definitely change them. Your carpenter is obviously a craftsman and he want this to make you happy, so show him what you want and don’t be afraid to tell him to change things. It’s his responsibility as much as yours to be on the same page. Hang in there, it will be great in the end when it is all said, done and styled!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Oh Nicole… I hope you give yourself the liberty to make changes, even if they cost a pretty penny–I agree this is not attractive and you should enlist the carpenter’s help to get things where you want them. Don’t lose your original vision, you will be glad you fought for it in the end!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I think there are some really helpful comments already (pausing to regroup and rethink with the carpenter, bumping out the toe kick, finding some photos of the cabinets you imagined, changing the hinges and hardware, even switching to drawers). You’re spending some serious money here and you shouldn’t hesitate to speak up and fix things while you still can.

    I just wanted to add my support and say that I know you will figure this out and make it lovely!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Ugh, WORST feeling. I cried over a bad eyebrow wax once; it’s that sinking feeling that you paid for something that put you in an even worse spot than when you started. It’s not silly at all–I’m sorry you’re disappointed. We’re cheering for your beautiful house!

  • Reply
    Christina Lynn
    April 9, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Girly, I know the feeling. I cried when we had to settle for our second choice “ugly” home when we weren’t able to go with our first choice. (I still cry, particularly because we went with this home for the extra bathroom – which needs a gut job and is still not functional after four years. I cry a lot.)

    Everything works out in the end! Pick your chin up, dust off those shoulders, rock those bookcases, and they’ll be lovely in no time. : )

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I agree with Linda and Megan. It’s not what you wanted, so going ahead with it will just involve you in paying out big bucks for something that frustrates and irritates you forever. Stop the work and talk it over with the carpenter. He might be able to suggest reasonable solutions once he has a better understanding of what you want.

    Coincidentally, we have a contractor (our first ever!) working in our living room right now and even though it isn’t major work, it’s been interesting to see how he adapts and problem-solves throughout the process. An experienced professional should be able to respond to your concerns.

    Worst-case scenario: the frames are really nice, the toe-kick can be built out, and you can leave the doors off until you have a solution for them, whether that solution is glass or drawers or new wood doors in a different style. This is a salvageable situation. You can do it.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I have been through these kind of projects and have learned that sometimes you need to stop, refrain from adding any more time or money, figure out how to approach the problem, and then proceed.
    Problem 1- the oak looks like red oak vs. white and has a much pinker color than the original. Problem 2- the overall style, sorry but it is builder basic which looks 80’s. Hinges, door style, toe kick are all way off from our other built ins and I doubt that your carpenter is up to making anything close enough to match the rest of the house.
    Possible solutions- 1. Make all bookshelves instead of base storage. May not be as useful but if you can modify what is already made, and I assume paid for, then the oak difference will not stand out as much and the cabinet style is no longer an issue. 2. Start from scratch. Probably not a great option but better than installing something that you hate and then having to pay more to rectify it. 3. Continue with install, slightly modify cabinets, and paint it all. The style will still stand out as way different than the rest of the houses cabinets but if it is painted then it may look less like you were trying to match it.
    Good luck, most of us that have done extensive house remodeling have run into issues similar to this and the best thing that I have learned is to not pile on more money to something that is never going to be what you want.

  • Reply
    emily @ go haus go
    April 9, 2014 at 11:14 am

    There’s nothing worse than leaving something up to someone else and being totally disappointed. It’s the worst. I feel for you. When stuff like that happens, it only worsens the control freak inside me.

    If you do walk away for a bit, have them remove the doors before they go. Without the doors, that is a beautiful hunk of furniture.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:21 am

    You can add “legs” in the corners, and it vastly vastly vastly improves the look. I’m trying to find a picture of what I mean. Something like this:

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Hi, I know exactly what you are going through. I had similar moments during a renovation of one of my homes. First, don’t settle for something you don’t love, particularly at this price. I agree with everyone who said photos should help. I’m actually doing a custom built-in design for a client right now that is fairly similar to this one (but painted white). I think one that that would make a huge difference would be to have the doors reconstructed to be inset into the frame instead of overlaid on top of the frame. I think that and the style of the doors are giving it the 80’s feeling. And, I agree on building out the toe kick. The baseboard should either die into the face frame of the cabinets on the side or continue around the front of them under the doors (possible if they are inset).

    Also, let me know if I can help it any way. If I had the dimensions, it wouldn’t take long to mock-up a solution in Sketchup. I agree with many of the previous commenters – it will turn out alright in the end!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I don’t have any words of wisdom regarding fixing the bookshelves. My only idea would be to remove the inner panels of the doors and replace them with leaded glass. However, can I say that it’s SO REFRESHING to see a design blog that admits they’ve made a misstep and are majorly bummed about it.

    I’ve done some home renovation myself and had some projects that I was just heartbroken about because they turned out not at all what I was expecting, either due to inexperience, miscommunications or just plain bad luck. It’s comforting to know this happens to other folks as well, and really nice to see the “how do I fix this?” process as well.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

    First, this is fixable. You have tons of reference in your home. Just look at all those built-ins on the upper floors. I think you will be much happier with the result if you wrap the existing baseboard around your bookshelves. I also think the doors would be dramatically improved if they were flush with the surrounding trim, which is much more common for the time period. I know it will cost money to fix the mistakes, but you will be so much happier in the end.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I am no artist/designer/architect, but I have lived a life trying to make things work! I totally agree with all of the comments above recommending different hardware and building out the toe kick. I think that will help the perception immensely.

    On the doors- have you thought about flipping them over and using the backs as the front? A lot of times doors of that style have backs that look like shaker style fronts, like your breakfront. You could possibly get the look of the breakfront, keeping the continuity you want, without splurging on new doors.

    One more thing- I cried about bookshelves on Monday- literally! Two days later, I am still not thrilled, but have several ideas to make them better. It’s all a process!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Ugh. I hate big mistakes. Part of renovation though. I think if you change the toe kick (I like the idea of raising things and making that bigger and definitely in front) you could loose the doors and use baskets for storage. It will make them look more contemporary and add nice texture to the space. It’s not as ideal for mess hiding as doors, but lots can be hidden by baskets. And definitely change out the hinges, as mentioned if you keep doors in some form. Don’t live with it if you don’t have to. I did that for years and I wanted to punch the stupid decision in the face every single day.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

    A lot of really positive ideas already, so I know this is repetitive. Really, this will be an easy fix that will just end up costing a bit.

    I’m going to repeat the suggestion of a full overlay door, meaning they will almost be touch and totally cover up the face of the cabinet box. Have them made of quarter sawn oak? And specify a hidden hinge. Then cover that toe kick space with a piece of trim? You could even do the door fix in a month or two with a different cabinet person?

    We’ve all made costly mistakes. I feel your pain. Don’t cry!!

  • Reply
    carrie @ brick city love
    April 9, 2014 at 11:32 am

    It’s a rough lesson to learn but it’ll make you more experienced for it. It happens. I’ve been there. You’ve got lots of wonderful suggestions here but, ultimately, go with your gut. You’ve got a great eye.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I would modify the original plan and go with bookshelves to the floor. You own those cabinets now; sell them on CL. Or maybe they could be used elsewhere? All shelving will lend itself to styling and you still get your library look.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Hang in there Nicole. You have the natural ability to make it lovely and I am sure you figure out a way to also make it the way you want it. In the meantime, good luck!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Ewwww! Sorry to be so blunt but these cabinets are just plain ugly.
    As some suggested before I’d skip the cabinets and would only put up shelves on that wall. I’m sure you’ll find another way to storage any items you don’t want on display.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:50 am

    OMG who are all these people saying its too late to turn back?? Its never too late! You are paying good money and he is working for you! not the other way around! Tell him to STOP IMMEDIATELY and work out a new plan. I agree with the other comments about the hardware – totally dated looking and that’s an easy fix. Get something chrome and polished and modern looking and you will feel must better. I know you are trying to be respectful of the house’s original design but you have to make it work for you in 2014 – blend the old with the new! You always do that so beautifully – don’t stop now just because you’re not used to subbing out work like this!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I would need to walk away from this project and take a bit of a breather to regroup. What has been done does not work at all. It is not in keeping with the home and, as I’ve mentioned before, the grain of the wood is too much. I don’t think you would actually get a fair match unless you used reclaimed lumber, however. You said that the carpenter has worked on the home before. Do you know the specific projects and are they things you love? It may be time to bring in another professional to get their opinion. I really, really feel for you. You seem to be completely struggling with a direction in your new home.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

    This person does quality work and this style is clearly in their wheelhouse… it just doesn’t match your house. Put work on hold and provide some visual examples to back up your words. Then ask designer/craftsman to provide some solutions that include written and visual supports. This is a public job for them and if they get it right, they payoff is there (beyond a happy customer) and they should work with you. Speak now or forever criticize them and yourself. No good!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I agree…they look a lot like my 1980’s kitchen cabinets. My sister moved into an 83 yearold condo. the butlers pantry had the original cabinet doors missing and had been replaced with shutters…it was bad! we made simple 1×3 framed doors (kinda shaker style) and inset them with a patterned tin (like for rad covers). this of course was a temp cheap fix but maybe you could do something like that and re-visit professional doors again later? Good Luck you home and your style is amazing anyway:)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Yes, they are only book shelves, but they are your book shelves that you’ve paid a lot of money to have built.
    First, cry some more and get it out of your system. I recommend crying with ice cream at hand (I’ve been there). Then fix the problem. Change the style of the doors (hide the hinges) and build out the toe kick. Also maybe put up only two doors, one on either end.

    Be kind to yourself. You’re not happy with the project , and it can be fixed. You have to decide what will make you happy down he road.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Fix it. Make them what you envisioned or you will hate them forever. Good luck!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Don’t be sad. Maybe it’s just pregnancy hormones..:
    They can be fixed!!! I am sure you will be able to come up with some picts or visuals to help the carpenter. There are some good suggestions in the comments about building out the toe kick

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