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 12:10 pm

    Uggg…this is such a bummer. It’s not fun shelling out the additional cash but I would have the cabinet doors completely rebuilt to a raised panel inset style with hidden hinges like these. Your carpenter may be able to salvage the expensive panel part of the doors by cutting them down to size and then re-routing the raised panel edges. You’d need a new frame build around the redone panels but it’d probably be the best true to period option without starting over in materials.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    It will be fine.
    The wood looks great first of all. Agree with others that the simplest fix would be different (or hidden) hinges and I love the idea of adding little legs or feet below.

    I’ve cried and had sleepless nights over things like trying to pick the right paint color for our house. When all that money is at stake, it’s super stressful. Also I find the older I get, the more $ involved and the stakes are higher… like now I can afford that expensive dining room table I’ve always wanted, but what if I get it in the room and don’t like it?? Things were easier when I was younger and houses/furniture were more temporary.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I am not sure if this recommendation is in your comments, but have your carpenter add a baseboard instead of a toe-kick, so there isn’t that recess. Should be an easy enough remedy for a skilled carpenter, and would look more “period”.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Nicole, don’t fret. A little furniture kick across the bottom to build up/out the kick will dress the unit nicely. Perhaps a more decorative hinge and then it’s done.We all have a “vision” that gets lost in translation, the important thing is to make the most and learn. Your blog isn’t about perfectionism it is about living a stylish life, thank you for the honesty.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Yikes, the toe kick is the killer. And don’t be too upset about crying, it’s a normal reaction. For the money you’re spending on this you need it to be RIGHT.

    I like the inset suggestion, though I’m not honestly sure how to go about it in as cost-effective of a manner as possible. Good luck!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I feel your pain, I cried over the stain on our hardwood floors today. My husband and I spent FOREVER laying them, we splurged for unfinished so we could stay consistent with our 1950’s home… and then the professional finishers came and stained them with the colour we chose and I absolutely hate how it turned out on the wood. Beyond ugly. Your doors don’t even come close. They are going to sand it all off and I have to choose another colour, but now I’m gun-shy, my husband is out for town for all this, and we may be facing huge delays (in addition to the extra cost) because the floor finishing company is already all booked up for Spring. I ugly cried all morning, but then again I”m pregnant too.

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      Aw! I feel for you! We had all oak floors put into our 50’s/60s home 5 years ago and we also went with unfinished to stay era-appropriate. (Everyone told us to just do the engineered pre-finished but I knew it would look all wrong in this house.) I don’t know if you’re planning to do poly over top of the stain, but remember that will change the final color slightly as well (makes it deeper and really makes the grain pop). Ugh, I’m remembering the mess from all the installing and sanding…it was so worth it but what a mess. Hang in there!!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Oh Nicole, I totally know that sinking feeling…I just experienced a similar experience with a new sofa. I waited 3 months for it to arrive, and the fabric is nothing like I thought it would be. I live in a duplex built in 1900 and here is a photo of what my original oak built ins look like: The door fronts are leaded glass and they really help to break up the heaviness of all the wood. Good luck!

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Beautiful! Thanks for sharing! I want to see more of your home!!!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I could commiserate, but I think you need action steps over wallowing.

    Yes, have them fix the toekick. Then have them cut out the panels on the 80s doors and fit glass in them. You can add cute fabric behind the glass for opacity and change it out if/when you get bored with it.

    Everything is salvageable. Good luck!

    • Reply
      Maureen Donahue
      April 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      This is exactly what I was gonna suggest

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      …read my mind! Doors are tricky but pretty glass (wavy, period stuff or something with a bit of “texture”) can hide myriad trouble spots.

    • Reply
      Erin @ One Project at a Time
      April 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Really smart idea. You could go with an etched or frosted glass if you were trying to achieve hidden storage. Your carpenter should be able to easily cut out the recess, dado the new frame, which would allow a groove for the glass to sit in. Glass might be too expensive, but in theory you could do the same thing with a 1/4″ oak plywood. Either way you’re using mostly the same materials, and just insetting a new face into the frame. Good luck! If I’ve learned anything from experience, spend the time and money to do it the way you want it, or you will have wasted your money on something that bugs you every time you walk in the room. Good luck!

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      I like that idea of how to change the doors. Or, what about decorative metal grille in the middle of the doors?? You know, the metal grille with the small cutout patterns. I don’t know how period that is though. But it could look cool! And the metal grille would hide whatever is behind the doors well enough.

      My suggestion reflects my personal bias right now against a room-full of the grainy oak. Our house (we’re in NW suburbs) is full of the same grainy oak and it feels overwhelming and outdated. I think it’s the grain and the color that’s outdated. Whereas, shelving and cabinetry made with less grain might have a different feel. I don’t know. I’m weighing our options to change our wood but some people love the oak, we’re all different and that’s okay!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Hey Nicole

    First – I think it is awesome that you are embracing the original wood work and not just painting everything white. Deciding on this, hiring someone to build cabinets and starting is more than half of the battle to so don’t feel defeated just yet!

    Also, the built in is coming along great! Just needs some tweaking to get it where you want it. Two things I think that would greatly help the situation.

    1. Nevermind the toe kick, do the opposite. Build it out. Rather than having an 80s toe kick that goes in, make it look like it is sitting on a base. Build it out just by an inch or so, so it extends beyond the cabinet part and wrap a similar baseboard/trim around it that the rest of the room has. So it looks as if it live up to its name, a built-in!

    2. Someone mentioned hidden hinges already, which would be perfect. However, rather than the raised (machined looking) doors, I would stick with shaker. Hidden hinges with shaker doors and latch hardware…

    These will be beautiful. Props again for sticking with the wood. Don’t second guess yourself!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Totally understandable to have a little cry. It’s frustrating. In your defense, I don’t think these are period to the house so your first, basic request wasn’t met.

    A lot of good suggestions already. I’m with the others, I think the hinge is a big detail dating the doors.

    I couldn’t resist doing a quick search for Victorian cabinets and the two doors on the bottom of this piece look interesting. Other commenters are suggesting a baseboard over the kick and I think that will look great and make it more like this. A faux inset door. Also, the doors are much more simple. The inset he made is a very 80s detail and not period but maybe a wider trim can cover it?

    Apparantly you should have a little keyhole too. That seems to be what they all have and it would be a nice little detail.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Also, I notice some door/hinge detail in the corner of your picture. That is what the carpenter should have matched. I don’t mean to sound crabby about the carpenter but I think that was kind of a no-brainer.

    At least you have some examples to show him.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Switch the doors out for leaded glass with hidden hinges and you’re golden.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Yep, fix that toe kick with added baseboards that match the room and ditch the raised panel doors. To me, the doors are the most obvious problem in sticking with the style of your house. A shaker style door would work better.

    I’ve soooo been there with the crying over expensive house projects & miscommunication! Why can’t these contractors just read our minds?? :) Shake it off and good luck, Nicole!

  • Reply
    Virginia (The Heartographer)
    April 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Ooh, you poor thing! But you know what? A) I think it’s not that bad, B) I think you should get them assembled with books in them and worry about fixes later. Seriously. I think this is kind of like when everyone and their dog was freaking out about the turquoise shade I painted my office—you can kind of see it here behind me and around the background art in my head shot. My mom and husband and friends and neighbors were ALL like “THAT IS WAY TOO BRIGHT AND DARK VIRGINIA” but as soon as I had fully stocked bookshelves and art hung on the wall and such, it looked beautiful.

    I’ll be honest; I’m super duper sensitive to ugly 80s stuff, but I’m really not seeing what you’re seeing here. They don’t have those awful camel-hump tops. Or fake brass hardware. Assemble the whole shebang as is, and then later pay for a few funky Victorian-like details—could you get ceiling-like dentice trim in oak to go along that toe-kick? Something ornate and funky like that would help. In fact, I remember seeing many different posts from Little Green Notebook that involved basic molding/trim being used to build out elements like toe kicks, baseboards, fireplace surrounds, door framing, etc. in ways that made it look more custom and built in and period appropriate.

    Have faith, Nicole! You will barely notice any whiff of 80s-ness once the whole project is complete, and any tiny additions will be cheap and look gorgeous. I foretell it. :)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I didn’t have a chance to read the other comments so this might be redundant, but what about “lead” glass inserts on the doors?

    The toe kick would help too.

    You aren’t that far off from perfection!


  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    When the carpenter drew up the plans for you, is that the door profile he used? I’d have thought he would have used a shaker profile, or copy the doors in your second kitchen. If the drawings are different, it will be easy to ask him to replace the doors with no cost to you. If you are unhappy, I would make a change. I do like the leaded glass ideas offered. It would probably be dumb luck for your second kitchen cabinet doors to fit or for them to be able to be cut down to fit. This is of course assuming you are still planning on removing them.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I know it probably doesn’t help much, but I don’t see the 80’s look in the cabinet doors. :) They look just plain traditional to me. They match the panels on the pocket doors. What did cabinets look like in the late 18th century? (I ask because I don’t know.) Also, will they really be that noticeable when the room in finished? I think fixing the recessed toe kick is a good idea, but I like the doors just fine. I hope you find a solution that makes you happy, though, because it is beyond miserable to have expectations that are just not met. :(

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Many have already said this…
    Just reuse the baseboard you removed to cover up the toekick – even if it means you have to build the cabinets up a little higher to accommodate the baseboard profile. Otherwise, I think it looks great! I don’t think there’s much you can do about the quality of the wood. Oak harvested now looks very different than the old growth oak that was used when these houses were built.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I totally agree with the baseboard instead of toe kick. That will help SO much. I’d also love to see some sort of cane or metal grate in the doors- cutting out the raised panel portion will make the doors slightly less secure, but it’s not a kitchen cabinet, the doors probably won’t get everyday abuse anyway. Brining in a West Indies vibe?
    It could probably be achieved with adding trim to the outside of the door and then you wouldn’t have to cut them at all. Just thought that would look nice with your mix of style but period details, kinda like the house was a trendsetter of it’s time ;)
    I hope you can figure it out- but I love that you admitted that it’s not what you wanted or thought you were getting. You always give such great advice, even if it’s “don’t do what I did”- so thanks!!!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    My mom passed your post on to me. We both feel for you, honestly. May I say a word from my experience as a designer? The process is never an easy one, and everyone tries to work in good faith. So, don’t beat yourself up. On the other hand, once a project goes awry, none of the fixes that anyone comes up with will truly satisfy you. In any case, because of this experience, you’ll be overly cautious of any suggestion that anyone makes, and you’ll end up totally stressed out.

    In my experience, the most successful projects have resulted from showing photos of pieces similar to what I want and literally drawing circles around the particular details that I want in my custom piece. I also draw a line sketch of what I want. (I did this even for my engagement ring) Also, before starting anything, I request a sample of the wood with the exact finish (stain, paint, whatever) to use as a control sample. Everything starts with prep and on paper. In your case, the doors and hinges need to be addressed to work with interior of your house. But those can be found online. Check out Houzz. Find an image of what you want and show it to you carpenter. Draw up and discuss together what you want done. Then, look online at for leg styles and decorative trims that might work under the countertop overhang. Carpenters are good at building, and I’m sure he would appreciate your input in terms of style and design. Ultimately, if he’s a true professional, he’ll prefer the extra time in order to end up with a happy customer.

    I hope this helps and doesn’t come across as patronizing or snobbish. I love seeing that you love your home enough to want to take risks and make it extra-special. Good luck!


  • Reply
    Heidi S.
    April 9, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    If it makes you feel better I have cried about house project many times over the last 13 years (and I’m an architect, which makes it even more painful). I agree with what a lot of others have said. The doors need to go and the base needs to be built out.

    When we built our built-ins, I reused the baseboard at the bottom. This doesn’t look like an option for you because it would raise the lower cabinets and then the shelves won’t fit.

    For the doors, I would say you could try living without them and add inset doors later if you really decide that you want them. A period correct inset door is really the only thing that is going to look correct, unless like someone suggested you go for a full overlay (to make it look more like your wainscot), but that doesn’t solve the wood grain problem. I agree with the person who said that this is red oak and your original wood is probably white oak. Unfortunately modern red oak the grain is more pronounced, hindered by modern stain and poly.

    If you are set on using doors you could try Barker Doors (you can custom order doors to the exact size you need) and they offer a nice quarter-sawn doors and some nice simple door styles.

    I think the upper shelves will be fine once they are filled.

    Good luck! And remember you have good taste!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I hesitated to comment since so many have covered the best possible solutions. When I have run into a roadblock with a remodeling project, helpful advice sometimes makes me feel worse about the situation. That being said- when I looked back at your sketch for the bookcases, it seems like the cabinet bases were much shorter- only coming up to the bottom of the window. These new cabinet bases seem much higher and more like kitchen cabinet bases both in size and door/hinge style. I think that I would maybe go with what Anna Dorfman (DoorSixteen) mentioned on twitter and try to sell what you have as is and start fresh with your newfound knowledge about how to communicate what you want with your builder. IMO there is no happy ending on settling and living with what you consider a failure as a project.

    Hang in there!

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      I think that’s what I’d do, too. Sell the finished pieces as is and sell (or even return, depending on how cut down it is) any extra wood. Clean slate.

      Now that the bases have been drilled for hardware, I don’t know how you can switch to an inset door (which is really what you need) without also having to replace the faces to cover the holes. And, if you were going to spend the money to do that, you might as well upgrade the doors and fronts to a better wood (not red oak), which would then make you want to also do the sides… So you’d not only be paying to correct the mistakes that have been made, but you’d be creating a piece that would have been more expensive without any issues (upgraded wood, upgraded door style), when it sounded like the original budget was pretty close to the top of what you want to pay for this project.

      Some of your past posts have mentioned removing the cabinetry in the upstairs kitchen(s?) and it looks like you may well want to reconfigure your main kitchen someday, too. Would you consider holding off on this bookcase project (or using a temporary filler like some of your existing Ikea shelves) until you’re ready to remove some of the other cabinetry? Then use the oak from those cabinets to build or at least face the new cabinetry in the library?

      And I hesitate to say this, but it’s seemed to me like maybe the library isn’t the best use of this space for your family. So this could be an opportunity to revisit the configuration of the entire main floor. If it were my house, I’d use the front parlor as a more formal living space (formal in the sense of not a playroom or tv room, not in the sense of uncomfortable and stuffy), the second parlor with the fireplace as a dining room (b/c of the funny shape and proximity to kitchen), and the current dining room as a more casual living space/den with tv. (But I really hate the built-in in the dining room – it doesn’t look original or consistent with the rest of the house to me – so I’d be happy for an excuse to get rid of it!)

      Anyway, you know best how you live in your house, so my point is really just that sometimes mistakes/delays/etc. in home design are a chance to stop and reconsider whether the initial approach was the best one. And often the solution is even better than the original idea – I hope that will be the case for you!

      • Reply
        April 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm

        I agree with Erica, the wood choice and design are disappointing for such a grand house. Can you scrap and recoup anything? Maybe a simpler design for less? Basic, straight bookcases from kitchen #2 scrap could be better? I’m so sorry. Home reno is tough. Hang in there.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Oh, Nicole. I’m sorry you feel this way. I think we’ve all cried over something house-related. We feel stupid and embarrassed and our self-esteem plummets. But do you know WHY we feel this way? It’s because there are too many people out there who don’t share their mistakes and less-than-perfect decisions. Behind every drool-worthy room is at least one mishap. I’d bet $$ on it. We’re human. We all make mistakes. We learn. We move on.

    Thank you for being honest and sharing the not-so-perfect side of being a homeowner / designer. Personally, I find it refreshing, inspiring and completely relatable. I have no doubt you will figure things out. Like you said, they’re just bookshelves. Don’t be so hard on yourself. xo

  • Reply
    Tina Slocum
    April 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I feel for you, Nicole. I agree that if you don’t fix the doors and toe kick now, you’ll always regret the project.
    The extra cost will be worth it in the end. Those doors are not your vision for sure, they look like 1980s types that get taken out on Property Brothers. (Granted the wood is good quality). Maybe the carpenter can absorb the expense, for the bad interpretation ?

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I feel for you. I have done a lot of construction and DIY on the three houses we have owned and one thing I know for sure: always always give a workman drawings and plans. They are not being paid to be designers or interpret your vision. The small cost to consult an architect is well worth it.
    I have used an architect in the past as a consultant, not to produce full plans, but to produce readable drawings of a small remodeling project. I was very pleased. Paid only for the time spent. Saved time, money & agony. I made sure to find someone who enjoyed working with older houses & remodeling.
    Now I have an architect daughter & cannot tell you how much More I have learned about the importance of drawings. My husband & I added a ground floor bedroom, bath & library to our 60 year old house and our contractor thanked us every day for using the drawings our daughter provided. He said his job was to do good work, not to make design decisions.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I think you may just be able to flip the doors (so the now back is showing) and have a little more of the look you wanted?

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Ah the mire of dealing with contractors. NEVER depend on them to understand. They will do whatever is the quickest and cheapest every time. They simply don’t care.

    Cabinetry like this was made by artisans, not today’s crappy carpenters. Unfortunately you’ll never be able to make him replicate the old.

    You’ll need to have him try again on the doors, shaker style or copy the profile you’ve got on your full height doors. Concealed hinges or period styled only. I highly recommend you pick up a contour duplicator gauge for measuring all the molding.

    Use blocking to flush the base to square, and then apply a copy of your base-mold. That should help the toe kick.

    Good luck! This is one of the hardest parts about fixing an old house…

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Ouch – that statement about them “simply not caring” is rather harsh. I’d say that it was a learning experience for both parties albiet a very expensive one. I think we’ve all had this experience at one point or another.

      The best thing to do now is to consider your working relationship with your particular contractor: Can you recover from the miscommunication/poor execution or is it best to cut ties, sell the finished items, and look for a new “partner”.

      Carpenters – for the most part – are like every other independent contractor: if they don’t do good work, they won’t continue to work. They want their clients to be happy and to recommend their work, not cry over it. At some point, we have to look at how we handled our part of the correspondence and take responsibility for our part of the project execution – and rectify it.


      • Reply
        April 9, 2014 at 4:07 pm

        True! I know a contractor who is SO very caring of his work and customer’s homes also immensely skilled. But he is so very stuck in a certain time period. He thinks it the best so subconsciously all of his work has the same sort of look. It can’t be helped.

  • Reply
    Cassie @ LittleRedWindow
    April 9, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I’d start with getting rid of the recessed toe kick, that really might be enough to salvage the whole project, I think it will make a big difference! Don’t despair and don’t forget how pregnancy hormones make everything seem so much worse!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Can you resell the doors and buy something that fits your vision? Crying is a perfectly normal reaction to something like this , for sure :(

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I would definitely cry too. But don’t beat yourself up, it’s fixable. I agree with others about the hinges — those look just like the hinges on my parents’ kitchen cabinets, which were built in … 1988. But I really think if you take care of that and the toekick, and you see the whole thing in-context, you won’t hate it at all. Just keep moving forward!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Its your house, and its precious and its so much part of your life,and your world, you cry, its valid, don’t apologise. I have cried over similar things and I reserve the right to d it again!
    Mmmmmmm yeah the kick plate easily sorted, so do what you must! The doors bother me to and to be specific its the proportions of the rails and styles to the panel. I’ve looked at all the other woodwork in your house and even though it varies greatly the rails and styles are all wider, and the panels smaller (only deviation from this is your shutters). I’d get new doors made, with smaller panels, maybe even 2 per door, (sorry yes extra cost!)Do talk to your carpenter they will care, and they will be even more upset if they aren’t given a chance to rectify the situation. Sit down with them and draw pictures until your happy and try to find some resolution.
    I don’t comment very often but I love your blog, I love your calm and pragmatism towards all things, I have every confidence that you will find a solution.
    Much love Carol

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Don’t be discouraged. I 100% agree to matching the wood. My husband and I are renovating an early 1900s home and are trying to match as well. I have found that every contractor has their opinions and many times their opinions are based on their experience and what they are good at. You might ask your carpenter if he has experience with inset doors. Sometimes (not always) the answer will tell you why he/she might be more hesitant. Their inexperience in that area comes out in negatives of why you shouldn’t do it. If the inset doors are done right I don’t think they will swell or shrink and look unbalanced. I am not a woodworker so I don’t claim to be an expert, but our original kitchen cabinets (were inset doors) were moved to our damp basement by the former owner and they are still in tact, level and work well…even better than the cabinets they put in to “upgrade”
    I do think removing the toe kick will help and maybe google tips on how to “age” wood. There are many tutorails out there that you could try on a scrap piece. Your vision is always amazing. I look up to your design aesthetic so stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to make your carpenter go back and fix something OR pay your carpenter for what he has done and respectfully move to a new carpenter that gets your vision. It might not need to come to that at all, but just wanted to encourage you!

    • Reply
      Melissa Arnold
      April 10, 2014 at 12:50 am

      Nicole, I agree with Jennifer. For a master carpenter who is capable, truly capable of building inset doors, there are no settling problems, swelling problems or shrinking problems. It is a skill that frankly most carpenters are simply not interested in working at because they must be meticulous AND the flip side of that is that few homeowners want to pay for that kind of precision and skill so it is a two fold issue. I had also thought of flipping the doors around to the plainer side. Just know that all is not lost.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Removing the panel and replacing with glass is a great idea; why didn’t I think of that? And would be quite period appropriate, too. You can always paint the oak if you truly hate it (and I agree, it isn’t great). I grew up in Oak Park in a 3-story victorian, so I appreciate authenticity, but sometimes painted built-ins can give a modern pop to the original woodwork that surrounds it.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Oh man, you poor thing!! I’m sure everything will work out – it’s frustrating, to be sure, but you’re making sure it’s done right (and for the amount of money you’re spending, it darn well should be!!). Good luck!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    The first takeaway for me from the bookcase project is that a careful reading of the drawings is always required. Go over every note. The sketch your carpenter provided clearly says “3 1/2″ toe kick”, “raised panel” doors and “1 1/2″ face frames.” Of course now you know what these notes mean in built form.

    Even if you did read and understand the sketch, I noticed a few MISSING items that I would have expected. I would have asked for them if they weren’t provided:

    – What do the raised panel doors look like? Was an elevation (or even a representative photo) discussed? How are you or the carpenter conveying the design intent for the doors without a picture or drawing to agree on?
    – A section cut of the cabinet would have shown the toe kick and you would have caught it. I doubt you were provided a section…
    – There is no context–as in the side walls are not drawn. You would have picked up on the misalignment of the existing base trim and new trim/toe kick. The existing trim is 12″ high…how is that going to meet up with the new work?

    What would I do? Raise the bottom shelf 1″ higher than the existing trim so the saved trim could be reinstalled over the toe kick on the face of the base cabinet–this will make it look always-been-there-built-in. Leave the doors off for now. If you want doors, make them inset or flush…I doubt that your 100 year old house is still settling.

    One last thing: I agree with the posters who mentioned the white oak/red oak differences. Stain could even out the differences between the two but that is a lot of trial and error. May I suggest staining all the wood (and I mean the whole house) darker? I was one of a very few posters who commented on painting the old dining room trim white (9/1/2010 post) because the wood (fir, I thought) wasn’t that great. I hesitated saying that almost 4 years ago and I hesitated just now saying that the wood in your house should be darker–they didn’t use clear stain at the turn of the century! Also, darker stain on the new piece would even out the color differences in the grain–the dark parts of the oak grain would recede and it would look more uniform.

    Many lessons to learn from this–you would benefit from having an architect friend nearby to look things over! I am an architect (albeit on very large commercial projects) and I live in Lincoln Square…just sayin’… ;)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Someone mentioned modifying the panel doors to glass which I’d vote for.
    There is a lead glass shop in Oak Park near the Metra stop that works on restoring many homes that could probably help build faux-original glass doors to make it truly feel like it has been in the house all along.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Fill in toe kick (easy) and have your carpenter cut the doors so that they are inset, shaker-style(also easy). Sorry the end result didn’t match your vision…but you’ll get there.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I am so sorry Nicole!

    We had custom bookcases built out of cherry. In fact, you can see them on this page around the white marble fireplace:

    They have flush doors which I think helps a lot too.

    Our builder collaborated with us during the design progress and mocked up different 3D designs with some sort of CAD software. Yours should have done that, too! He even printed out different angles and views so we could really look it over. Whoever your cabinetmaker is, I think he/she bears some of the blame.

    I’m sorry to say that these aren’t really worthy of your beautiful house, but I think you can probably salvage them with some minor modifications. Hang in there!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    I think you have the right idea, but that much wood is that much wood no matter how you slice it. What if you made it look like a piece of accent furniture built in instead of a bare wood built in? You could paint it a satin deep grey or black (in the similar color family that you put on the walls in the other room). I would use vintage knobs on the doors to accentuate them rather than try to hide them (the clear lucite or brass would be awesome). I wouldn’t use glass for the cabinets because you probably want to store them with kids stuff that could look messy if they are transparent. Then, you could line the back of the bookshelves with wallpaper or fabric (which you could change over time as your tastes change). We had a horrible built in cabinet in our bathroom we are remodeling and rather than scrap it, we sanded it down and painted it a grey satin, and used clear lucite vintage looking knobs, and I am so happy with it. You could take the original idea you had an modernize it a little more and create a feature that would really standout.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Never mind. Years ago a friend told me everything can be fixed and I have kept this in mind over the years when facing disappointment. Everyone makes mistakes, and often expensive ones. You need to take care of yourself – take a few quiet days. You may have to invest a bit more in order to remedy the problem to your satisfaction. I like the idea of the lead glass.

    Deep breath.


  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Dear Nicole-I was really puzzled by your response to this disappointing result in the refurbishment of your beautiful home. ( One of the reasons I have followed you for years is your distinctive style and command of your talent and increasing family responsibilities,)until one of your commenters mentioned pregnancy hormones. It is presumptuous to assert this is the reason you are so gob-smacked by this upset but I am convinced if not for that fact you would be handling this with military efficiency and your usual aplomb. I would get the carpenter to make any corrections he will do for little or no additional cost and then let it be until the new baby has arrived and you are getting some sleep and enjoying an addition to your home that I guarantee will be absolutely perfect!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I think a moulding along the bottom and smaller less obvious hinges- like those on the shutters in the photo- would go a long way. Inset doors are nice but tricky and expensive, they really require the skills of an cabinetmaker or woodworker.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    I’m sorry… I honestly want to post something about how I feel ‘sorry’ for your situation, but I’m really not and I’m going to hold my tongue. Good luck!

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      how odd and funny to post to a blog you find annoying? Why even read such a blog? It’s like associating with people you can’t stand and then blaming them for your personal opinion…… that it is they who are at fault for the way you have decided to feel.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    dear “annoyed”,
    i think “hold my tongue” means “not say anything…”

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      I second your comment kara!

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I have to say that I really appreciate your honesty about the project. We all screw up or misjudge or miscommunicate sometimes. It is hard to admit mistakes. Especially to the whole world online. It just makes you human:)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I have to say that I really appreciate your honesty. We all make mistakes. It makes you human:)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    I’m so sorry about your current issue. I hope you will come to a solution that you will love. All I can offer is words of encouragement. Selling it maybe your best option if you can’t salvage the doors.

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Lots of great suggestions here but I think perhaps the most useful is to step away for a few days. Once your mind is more clear, the decision will likely be as well. You clearly know what you’re doing – all will be well.

    • Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Lisa has the best advice. Play with your kids and think of how many fun options you have for a nursery! With even a few hours distance from this you will feel so much better. You will not fail this house! <3

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I’m not sure if this was mentioned but maybe you can use some if the trim you took off to add onto the front of the bookcases? Like continuing the base moulding onto the front and left side of the bottom of the new piece. Sort of like john and Sherry did here, but yours is of course more pronounced trim work:) there are also more links to more details on how they achieved that built in look. I think they house crashed you once, right? Pretty sure that’s how I found your blog! :)

  • Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Oh, Nicole – I’m so sorry you’re disappointed and frustrated. But you are smart and have great taste and will figure out what to do. Sometimes we just take a little detour along the way to fulfilling our vision. As for the shelves, have you considered scrapping the cabinets and taking the shelves the whole way down? More library-like, maybe, although not your original intention. May also be a way to work with what the carpenter already has completed. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

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