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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  • Lindsay
    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!)

  • erika
    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.

  • sarah
    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.

  • Monique
    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.

  • WES
    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.

    • Ashley
      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.

  • Allison
    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.

  • Ayanna
    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.

  • Jeanna
    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?

  • Ariane
    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 !

  • Nicole
    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.

  • Claudia
    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!

  • Janine
    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!

  • 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.

  • Melissa
    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.

  • Linda
    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.

  • lsaspacey
    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!

  • Andrea
    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.

  • Kristen
    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. :)

  • Megan
    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.

  • 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.

  • Katie
    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.

  • Leslie
    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.

    • Leslie
      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!

  • Kerry
    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.

  • 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.

  • Cathy
    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!

  • Dana
    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!

  • Katharine
    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!

  • Taylor
    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!

  • 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. : )

  • Elizabeth
    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.

  • shana
    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.

  • 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.

  • Sarah
    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:

  • Jillian
    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!

  • Kelsey
    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.

  • Catherine
    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.

  • Jackie
    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!

  • Kathryn
    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.

  • Andrew
    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!!

  • 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.

  • Dulcie
    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.

  • Eileen
    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!

  • Tanja
    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.

  • Kristen
    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!

  • Elaine
    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.

  • erin
    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!

  • melissa
    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:)

  • Margie
    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.

  • Kristin
    April 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm

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

  • Bev
    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

  • Becky
    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.

  • Julie.
    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.

  • Lauren
    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”.

  • Laurie
    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.

  • Margaret
    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!

  • Christine
    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.

    • Julie.
      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!!

  • Wendy
    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!

    • Michelle
      April 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

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

  • Ginger
    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!

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

      This is exactly what I was gonna suggest

    • Lisa
      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.

    • 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!

    • Deb
      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!

  • Heather
    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!

  • Laurie
    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.

  • Laurie
    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.

  • nancy50
    April 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm

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

  • HollYo
    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!

  • 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. :)

  • Jennifer
    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!


  • Kristin
    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.

  • erin
    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. :(

  • Erin
    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.

  • Catherine
    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!!!

  • Vivian
    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!


  • 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!

  • Dorothy
    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!

    • Erica
      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!

      • J.Lee
        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.

  • Dana
    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

  • 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 ?

  • Susan
    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.

  • Monica
    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?

  • Nicole
    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…

    • Lisa
      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.


      • J.Lee
        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.

  • 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!

  • Jace
    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 :(

  • Julie
    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!

  • Carol
    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

  • Jennifer
    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!

    • 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.

  • Juliana
    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.

  • Laura
    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!

  • cynthia
    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’… ;)

  • Abigail
    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.

  • Tara
    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.

  • BW
    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!

  • Katie
    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.

  • Jill
    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.


  • judy
    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!

  • kate
    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.

  • Annoyed
    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!

    • judy
      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.

  • kara
    April 9, 2014 at 6:46 pm

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

    • Katie
      April 9, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      I second your comment kara!

  • Kate
    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:)

  • Kateandamanda
    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:)

  • Kahli
    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.

  • Lisa
    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.

    • Sarah
      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

  • Alyssa
    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! :)

  • Stephanie
    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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