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Custom Built-In Makeover

Updating Built-In Cabinets

I haven’t gone this long without writing a post yet… sorry! Between celebrating with friends, food prep for Thanksgiving, family road trips, and all my online shopping (oops), I honestly haven’t had any free time. Oh, and I’ve been working on a massive project in the house updating the great room. I thought it would take me maybe 2 afternoons and I could sit and have a glass of wine, add the before/after pictures and write a cute blog post about it. Well, I was wrong. It has taken me a few days + way more hours than I expected so… here I am, a few days later than I’d planned on writing this. But, I can say it was worth it! If you’ve seen my Instagram stories, you know it’s been an intense project.

I LOVE our new home (as if you couldn’t tell already). It was so beautifully built and decorated, added on to, etc. Timeless taste went into every detail and I think that’s what made me fall in love with it. However, a few years of wear & tear have taken it’s toll. Especially in the great room, where we spend all of our time. … I’ll do a big blog post about the full updated room shortly, still finalizing some details. But for now, we’ll start with the built-ins.


I don’t post these before photos to suggest that I do not love this room. In fact, I loved the color, it reminded me of our old house and I know the room was done professionally by one of our areas top interior designers. Once the family (who hired the interior designer) sold the home, they obviously took all of the beautiful window treatments and accents with them that originally complimented for the space. (The room was gorgeous and the built-ins were decorated with gorgeous pieces and an awesome record player, built -in speakers and organized records.)

So we were kind of stuck with an empty dinged up/stained green room. My best girlfriend called it an ‘abyss of green’ and the space truly overwhelmed me décor wise (something that has never happened) and I think it’s because it all blended in and it’s an enormous room. Nothing stands out to me anymore like it did when it was beautifully decorated and furnished.

Painted Built Ins

This is before we moved in – yes the Happy Birthday banner was still there hanging from push pins when we moved in & this photo was actually after we had the carpet professionally cleaned. New carpet is being picked out asap. And a new wine fridge & ice maker.

This was my best attempt at throwing some of our pretties up in the built-ins (placeholders until I found the time and inspiration to tackle this huge space). Our oldest pup Goose was my assistant. Also, ignore the empty photo frames.. I was waiting to finalize colors for this room before I framed anything else.

Creating a Focal Point

Step one of making this humongous room our cozy and happy living space was to create a focal point. At this stage, my bestie is right – it’s a green boring abyss that has me feeling super un-inspired. B & I agreed, the best thing to do was give it a focal point by refinishing the built-ins/bar to be a bright white. I’m so glad we did, it really pops against the black granite countertops.

I refinished ALL of my kitchen cabinets in the last house in one day. So naturally, I was like ‘oh yeah, I can tackle this so quickly, I’m a pro at this’. Wrong. This was a much larger project for me – I guess because it’s a huge wall of shelves and it took lots of prep work as it was painted in a oil-based bright green and last time I was painting over dingy white cabinets.

This is the paint I used… it’s great for this because it doesn’t show any paint strokes at all and it is such a great finish that is easy to clean. If you’re doing cabinets yourself, don’t use trim paint – use this. You’ll be so glad in the long run. It doesn’t yellow & it somehow makes my cabinets feel harder/higher quality.

The Steps

    1. Clear off all shelves & take apart all parts that you can (remove hardware, cabinet doors, etc)
    2. Sand all faces you will be refinishing
    3. Clean. Clean. Clean. I’ve recently been obsessed with this Pledge Multi-Surface
    4. Start rolling. I always start with the shelf inserts
    5. Use a brush on the awkward angles and edges
    6. Repeat coats, if necessary. (You may want to lightly sand between coats)
    7. After it is all very dry, re-assemble the cabinets & add hardware

This is after one coat. I always say thin coats but in this case, don’t cake it on but definitely make sure you are rolling on paint and not just spreading it to barely cover.

Ignore the mess. This is before I was finished -step ladder/ladder, paint & stuff everywhere! I hadn’t even cleaned the mirror at this point.

Fun fact, the pretty bowl in the bottom center shelf was a wedding gift to my parents from the family who lived here. Isn’t that so special? I stole it from my mom (with her permission because she knew I’d proudly display it). I love having it here.

white built-in cabinets DIY

wet bar decor

I’m going to do a post &  add a free printable of these ‘bar pun’ signs I created. I love them & they add a little bit of fun to our bar – you know I love puns 🙂 

Some of my wishlist for the new built-ins


Grab Today's Steal!

I will share more details on this space as soon as all of the new furniture has arrived & I’ve done some playing! Even my husband is excited. It really changed this room so much! It’s a work in progress at this point but I’m almost done! I still need to decorate and update the hardware to something a little more modern. I am so excited to enjoy holiday celebrations in here in the coming weeks!


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