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 9:38 pm

    You are upset because you are talented and have a keen eye for design! And it doesn’t help that these are custom, expensive bookshelves. So of course you want to have them perfect!

    That being said, have a sit down with your carpenter and explain to him your frustration and disappointment. The key is to not criticize his work (call it 80s to his face). Walk him into that beautiful second kitchen of yours and explain to him what you meant by “original” and the period details in the house he was supposed to match/ play off of.

    A trick on the toe kicks could be adding false feet so it looks like a piece of furniture.

    Best of luck and keep your chin up!! It will turn out amazing. I promise!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    I am so sorry you are going thru this. If you want to cry. Cry, scream, or throw a fit. You are entitled. It is not your vision
    I can see why you are disappointed. I am disappointed too. I was picturing you doing something different.
    I have been thru 3 major remodels. Each had a stumbling block and I too cried with what the contractor or craftsman had done.
    The first was a custom oak wall/ entertainment center. When we could not fit the tv or and books I cried. We timidly called the carpenter over to ask him to widen the shelf. he craftsman wanted others to like his work so he came over took the whole thing out and remade the entire unit with adjustable shelves!
    The second was our kitchen remodel. We had to have the hardwood floors repaired patched and refinished. The floor man was unaware that beyond the plywood barrier to the living room lay more good hardwood floor that he had to match. I happened to walk in when they had stained part of the kitchen. This time I did not cry. I threw a fit. Had the whole crew stop and called my contractor. The work was suspended 2-3 days till they could match the color. They let the wrong stain dry, sand edit off and restrained. It still is not perfect but close. Thank goodness I was here that day.
    The third was in our bathroom. The electrician was putting in the vanity lights. The contractor had told him to center the months wall for the 2 sinks. I wanted them centered over each sink. Yup cry, fit and work stopped 2 days while they figured out what to do because a pipe prevented just centering electricity.
    I learned a lot. Have a plan. Never assume. And make sure with pictures or drawing everyone is on the same page. Oh and assume someone will not understand and go over it again just as they are going to do something.
    Yes it is just a bookcase but it should be right. Remember you will be the one living with it,not the carpenter. It may be his vision, but it is your house and your vision.
    I found this online…maybe more what you were thinking.
    I hope it all works out. We are all behind you!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Hmmm. I think the leaded glass (or even just glass) insert suggestion is perfect. It will add to the cost, but could totally be worth it in the end.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Sorry to read about your bookcase woes. It does look awful. The toe kick has to go and those cabinet doors need to be flush with the rest of the cabinetry. I don’t like raised doors at all. It is a 1980’s look that makes me cringe.

    I was reading some of the other comments, and I love the idea of glass craftsman style doors. It will not create such a heavy wood feel and look in the room. Even if those doors were flush it still creates heaviness in that corner. In working on my own house I found many times that ideas seem great in concept, but once executed they really do not work, so it is important to just admit it and then fix it right away. You won’t be happy with something that went wrong or just turned out not to work well after all.

  • Reply
    Melissa Arnold
    April 10, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Nicole, I totally get the feeling of “I thought we were on the same page…..” I ordered custom cabinets when I bought my first little house and I was so proud and so detail oriented but i apparently had not discussed that the shaker door with bead board panel must NOT have any ogee or beveled edges but very shaker-esque straight edges. When the cabinets arrived to be installed, I quietly left the room and went into the bathroom and cried until I couldn’t see. It didn’t matter that this gentleman had produced custom cabinets for me in 8 days (unfinished, I was painting them.), it didn’t matter that he delivered them without any money down and would not be paid until I closed on the house (I was rolling the renovation into my mortgage), It didn’t matter that no one would ever notice the detail that I cried over (and they didn’t…not one person said “That beveled edge is just so bad.” All that mattered was that my first house that I got to control every little detail and have it just like I wanted was wrong because I was inexperienced and didn’t know that my definition of shaker was not everyone’s definition of shaker. I understand. It’s your party, cry if you want to.

    Then, change those doors into exactly what you want, NOW. Don’t settle for something this important and this expensive. Tell your carpenter to stop and regroup. Make sure that everytime you walk into that room, you say to yourself….Damn, girl, you did good. Settle for nothing less. You will never regret it.

    Just my two cents. Good Luck!, Stay strong.

  • Reply
    Melissa Arnold
    April 10, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Oh, and what about cutting the cabinet hole larger to fit the doors rather than cutting the doors down to fit the hole. Changing the hinges will also go a long way to getting them out of the eighties. Those hinges are just bringing the sophistication level down.

  • Reply
    Sarah W
    April 10, 2014 at 12:39 am

    I am so sorry that this is not working out how you’d like! That is very frustrating! I have never dealt with something this large, but it reminds me of when we were painting my daughter’s nursery. My Aunt had come to help paint, and originally I picked a color from the fabric I was using in the room and matched that. It was a green, and in the fabric it looked fine, but on the walls, I felt like I was drowning in Mountain Dew. Not good. My Aunt had left for the day and was coming back next day to help us finish and I cried and cried wondering what I would do. She had spent all that time painting, and I didn’t want to tell her I didn’t like it, but I didn’t want to keep quiet, and have everyone else be secretly thinking how much they hated it too, and miss my chance to change it. My husband tried to convince me that I could like it, but I was firm that me liking it did not have to happen for this to be a positive outcome. If I hated it, that was okay. Turns out, my Aunt was feeling like I was, we changed the color, and the next one was perfect! Just what I was hoping for! All that to say, if you know you’re not going to be happy with things the way they are, don’t feel like you have to accept what is. Speak up until it’s how you want it! Loving everything you’re doing so far!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 8:00 am

    I don’t comment much, but I just want to say I appreciate your honesty here. Your openness is quite touching.

    I can’t offer any solutions, but as a homeowner I can at least tell you that you’re not alone. We all makes these mistakes.

    • Reply
      April 11, 2014 at 11:59 am

      +1. This shit’s rough. Kudos for sharing.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Ugh–dissapointments are the worst. The best part about them is the opportunity to force yourself to stretch a bit–you have a ton of great ideas here–and of course I have one more. What if you made the doors super modern? I love what they did here.

    It would totally modernize the stripey oak and bring some shape to those doors.

    (totally love the add feet idea!)

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I think it’s generous to share your own disappointment with your readers. The feelings you’ve shared are a reminder to me that beauty is important, valuable, even life-giving. In my own life I tend to dismiss my need for beauty as frivolous, even though to me it’s one of the most significant elements of life. I would say yes, they are just bookshelves; but also that bookshelves and the physical space that holds our day to day lives can be sacred and that you remind us of this through your writing and sharing. I hope that they ultimately turn out to be everything you wanted and more :)

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Sorry to say this, but those bases look EXACTLY like my kitchen cabinets. (that yes, were installed by the former owners in the 80’s). Only difference is that my hardware is BRITE GOLD! yeesh…

  • Reply
    Sarah @ 702 Park Project
    April 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I love your honesty. There have been so many things with our house (a 4 month project that is now in it’s 11th month) that have made me just want to say, F it! So I try to just sleep on it a bit. But I have to agree…I’m not sure you can learn to love the 80s cabinets. But rest assured there are options! There always are! :)

  • Reply
    Joanna @ thenestbook
    April 10, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I can totally empathize with you! I have shed many tears over house stuff gone wrong! Just try not to get too down on yourself or the situation and wait to see how it all unfolds. You are crazy talented and I know in the end it’ll look fantastic.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 11:38 am

    If you do a project like this again- where fine detailing is important- use a cabinet maker and not a carpenter. I think you could have put this into the hands of an experienced cabinetmaker with very little direction and had a result you would be happy with.

    A cost effective solution might be to add moulding to the bottom and sides ( and top if it’s not specified already) and to change the hinges to someting like a low profile piano hinge.

    Good luck and make it work!

  • Reply
    Evelyn W
    April 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    As the wife of an architect and having gut rehabbed two buildings, this is totally normal and don’t beat yourself up. To this day we still wince over lack of detailed specifications for contractors. It’s just a part of the game and the missing design instructions have to be made up as glitches are encountered.

    There are lots of great websites online that sell woodworker details. Not expensive at all and you can spruce up the doors by layering pieces on. You’ve got the foundation and it can be built up from there.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Nicole! I’m usually a lurker but I so sympathized with this post I felt obligated to chime in…similar thing happened with us when we were replacing our grand old (crumbling) parlor staircase and the stair guy used red oak plywood on the risers…it looked awful and he was so wretched about it (and dishonest), finally we ended up covering it with a runner but it still makes me angry to this day.
    And the money thing…I remember that sinking feeling…I cried a lot, too!

    So, I know these suggestions will cost money, but in my experience I know when I hate something, nobody can ever convince me otherwise, and I just feel so much better when it’s been fixed. I could not more strongly agree with those who suggest reinstalling or matching the baseboard at the bottom of the cabinet–to do that it looks like you might have to raise up the cabinet a bit to have clearance but that shouldn’t be too big of a deal depending on how it was built. Secondly, I also totally agree that you should change the doors (as other people have suggested) to a plain shaker door and if possible have them recessed rather than with that face reveal. But honestly just changing the style will make a huge difference. Finally, I have this suggestion (which someone else might have said since I read the comments yesterday, so sorry if I’m repeating). I discovered in our house that part of why old oak looks so different from new oak is not just the character of the old lumber, but because people used to be more efficient about using all of the tree and might use a mix of plain sawn and quarter sawn wood all for the same application (like floors and trim). This is all by way of saying that the new oak in your photos of the bookshelf, which shows its grain so heavily, is plain sawn I highly recommend using quartersawn for the doors–it will just cut down on that 80s graining thing about 110% and it will mix with the plainsawn in a nice vintage way.

    If it is an option to change the stain I’d go for something a little more golden and less brown (it will darken over time and will also show the grain a lot less). But if not–because I understand that might break the bank–just do the doors, and I guarantee it will look sooo much better! I totally feel for you, I love your blog, and best of luck with this!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I feel you pain. I’m so sorry! I hope this is an easy one for you to resolve but when you have something pictured, it’s hard to accept less than what you expected. We had landscaping done; I won’t tell you how many thousands of dollars, but it was terrible. It was exactly what we didn’t want, they never listened to word we said. I’m still angry and we certainly don’t trust them to come back. Lesson learned.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Hats off to Cynthia.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    We recently finished building a house – I was pregnant for most of the build and I too became quite frustrated with all the details that didn’t turn out as I had envisioned. I would highly recommend waiting on the doors for awhile- they can always be changed out months later. My husband regularly reminded me that my frustrations were “first world problems” which frustrated me even more, but looking back, it actually helped gain some perspective into the situation – its annoying now, but it could always be worse (I’m not trying to be snarky or mean, my tone is kind hearted because I was the same way!) good luck :-)

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    I vote to ditch the doors completely. I believe you said that you would be using that portion for toy storage,so glass insets would be tough and it seems like you don’t want to keep this style of door frame anyway. You can organize /disguise toys in canvas bins or bins covered in a fabric of your choice until your kids are older. You may decided by then that you like them without doors

  • Reply
    April 10, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Decide by then, I mean. Oops

  • Reply
    Ashlea Walter
    April 11, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Yes, they look terrible. Fight with kindness, firmness and clarity for what you want.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    April 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Maybe someone else has already suggested this, but could you/the carpenter possible use the doors from the upstairs kitchen (the one you’re thinking of clearing for babe #3)? I mean I have no idea what the dimension are – but it maybe a way to save money and time and get a look that is true to the house.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Could you just scrap the doors and have open shelves all the way to the bottom? The bottom cabinets aren’t period-appropriate anyway, and all of your inspiration pictures had ceiling to floor shelves.

    I am so sorry it turned out that way. I don’t blame the carpenter, though — he did what you approved on the drawing. :(

    You could also maybe make 2 square panels on the doors instead of one big rectangle panel — that way it might tie into the foyer bettah.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Hi there, Nicole,

    I had built in’s done for my not-so-great-room last year. This was a project that was 10 years in the making and I was so thrilled to finally do them. The carpenter did a beautiful custom vanity for my master bathroom (basically copies a restoration hardware one). Since we had worked together, I took for granted that he knew what I wanted. I didn’t do a thorough job really thinking about scale and measuring. Like an idiot, I signed off on drawings without really looking at them. What I should have done, in retrospect, was have him copy something from a photo. My fault.

    A few months later, my cabinets arrived for installation. I knew the minute that I saw them coming off the truck that they were wrong. I knew that I totally f-d up. The bottoms were too low and they needed an extra door. They looked ugly and cheap.

    He wasn’t installing them that day and it gave me a few days to mull over. I grew to loathe them more and more with each passing moment. I was mad at myself and scared of what my husband would say.

    But he knew what I knew: it was worth getting what I wanted.

    He came over, took the big pieces out and left his sprayer, trim pieces and the shelves at my house for 3 long months. I added a dark wood “top” in the middle to cut the white and make them look more high-end. I re-designed the doors and changed the height of the bottom cabinets. I changed the size of the area that accommodates the TV. I paid more and kicked myself (hard). But you know what? I love what I ended up with. I learned an important lesson! And you know what else?? I am never doing built ins again! I took on some extra freelance work to cover the costs and painted them myself to save $. I figured that in the big scheme, WHATEVER. I wish you could see how nice they look. I am very happy that I cut my losses and got what I wanted. I know that you will too. You are in good company. Good luck! Mary

  • Reply
    April 12, 2014 at 7:04 am

    I’m sure you are overwhelmed with all the great advice that you are receiving in the comments to this post, but here’s mine….
    Paint! I did a restoration of a really historic house and had to face tough decisions on m.e.m.’s (match existing members) all the time. There were some that were easier than others. The one thing I learned is you can almost never match the graining and patina of old millwork.
    Change the doors to inset and paint. There are great products to smooth the grain in the oak and use your fabulous eye for color to create a focal point. My bet is that if those built-ins had been there when you purchased the house we would have read a post where you talked about how practical they are but that they looked too new.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I think the fact that I was thinking about this when I couldn’t sleep last night, makes me think I need to step away from the computer:) It needs new doors. I agree with the contractor that they shouldn’t in inset – we have a 150 year old house and know to well about that. But the routered edges on the doors? And the bevelled inset? Awful 80’s. New, square doors that match the top would be a huge improvement, with the frame wider and the inset smaller. Have you looked at vandykes for hardware? They are our first go to place for replica hardware.

    Don’t settle, be firm.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2014 at 7:02 am

    You can do good. Its not that bad also. Hope the next post will be about how you turned things around and made effective use of what went wrong…

  • Reply
    April 14, 2014 at 11:35 am

    We had similar problem with a kitchen project, mid-install. In hopes that you might get lucky like we did… open those doors and take a look at the inside. Ours looked AWESOME on the inside (clean lines, no raised panel) so they installed them inside-out for us. The raised panel is now facing into the cabinet and I am happy :)

  • Reply
    April 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Hi! Aww, don’t fret over it too much! You’ve made better out of worse. :)

    Is it possible that maybe it’s just a lot of wood grain in general? Would this be a time to opt for paint? Maybe something like a warm ebony that looks like it has an old patina? Just to break it all up a little bit. It can still look like part of the house.

    Sometimes it’s good to just finish up and let things settle a bit. The right answer will come. It always does, right?

  • Reply
    April 15, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Ooh- here’s another idea. What if the panels were veneered with another wood withe some sort of decorative grain? Like a walnut or something. I just went and looked at a few Vine shots I took in our family’s Galveston home to see what the different wood treatments were and saw this shot from the library:

  • Reply
    April 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Here’s an example of new built-in shelving that blends well with the original architecture

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    April 28, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Wow, thanks for your honesty!

  • Reply
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