DIY Custom Built Ins for Living Room

5 Materials
1 Week

Each step outlined below is shown in greater detail in the video tutorial I attached to this post.

I realize this project may seem like a complex woodworking project, but the reason for this post is to help folks realize it is not as complex as it seems. I hope you find it interesting to learn how DIY Custom Built Ins are constructed even if you don't want to build one for yourself.

Additionally, this piece
Some friends of mine asked me to build 2 identical Cypress built ins on both sides of the fireplace for their new home.
They wanted the built ins to extend from the floor to the ceiling and have a farmhouse style to match the rest of the house.
Since I had to build these DIY custom built in cabinets in my shop, it was easier to build them in 3 different sections.  These sections would stack on top of one another to comprise the final piece.
The DIY custom built in cabinet doors with glass panes, shiplap on the sides, and all black hardware.
diy custom built ins for living room
Bottom Section
The first step to this project was to build the bottom section.  It was important that I build this as sturdy as possible because the middle and top sections will sit on top of it.

I started by ripping 3/4" plywood to size.  Next, I attached the 2 sides to the bottom piece with glue and pocket holes.

Then, I put the back piece in position and secured it to each side and the bottom with a bar clamp.  I spread glue, drilled pilot holes, and used pocket screws to secure the back.

Next, I attached the front and back floor supports using pocket screws and fastened 3 evenly spaced between them. I also screwed into them from each of the outer sides.
diy custom built ins for living room
Bottom Section Insert & Top
The bottom section insert consisted of 2 sides and 2 pieces glued together to form the middle. This insert would lay into the previous section.

This was my own design and I'm sure it's overkill, but I made sure the bottom piece was as sturdy as it possibly could be.

The top laid perfectly on all 4 corners, but I still used a clamp to prevent shifting. I secured it with glue and pocket screws.

diy custom built ins for living room
Middle Section
I constructed the middle section the same way - with pocket holes, glue, and screws.

This section is twice as tall as the bottom section and has 2 large cabinet doors.  I used 3 1x4's cut from plywood to attach to the back of each section.

This will help provide spacing from the wall in case wires need to be ran down the back.
diy custom built ins for living room
Top Section
Of the 3 sections, the top was by far the easiest to build.  This section was small enough to have 2 sides, bottom, and top.  It did not need support in the middle.
diy custom built ins for living room
Cypress Wood
Please Note: You don't need to buy rough cut lumber if you don't have the ability to mill the lumber yourself. This lumber can be purchased from lumber yards already dry and milled and ready to install.

My friends were going for the farmhouse style and wanted the built ins to be constructed with Cypress wood with a shiplap pattern.

Since cypress plywood is very hard to find, I decided to use plywood for the cabinet carcass and trim it out with cypress.

I bought the rough cut cypress from a local cypress sawmill and spent many hours milling the lumber. More than I had originally anticipated.
diy custom built ins for living room
Cypress Overlay
Since the interior of the bottom cabinet would be visible through the glass panes, I had to cover the interior with Cypress.

I repeated this process for the middle and top sections. I used a vertical pattern for the middle section because of the length and to conserve as much cypress as possible.
diy custom built ins for living room
Cypress Shiplap
The cabinets would be installed on each side of a fireplace, so only one side would be visible. This is where I installed the shiplap with a 1/8 inch space in between.

I used tile spacers and a level to keep things consistent and level as I went up the side of the cabinet.
diy custom built ins for living room
Shiplap Transition between Pieces
I didn't attach the transition piece which would go between each section. I simply put it in place, I attached the one above it and removed it to install at a later time.
diy custom built ins for living room
Bottom and Top Glass Pane Doors
The custom built in cabinet doors were fairly easy to build and were solid cypress.
I built the middle cross of the cabinet doors by using my dado blade to cut a cross halving joint. You can do this with a chisel as well.
I cleaned up the joint with a chisel, spread glue, and clamped them together.
Next, I built the outer frame and marked where to put the biscuits.
I used glue and #10 biscuits to join everything together.
In total, I made 4 doors for the 2 bottom sections and 4 more identical doors of smaller height for the top sections.
diy custom built ins for living room
Middle Cabinet Doors
I made the middle doors by first building the outer frame.  I used my router with a straight bit to cut a notch on the inside of the frame.
Since these doors needed to be very light in weight, I resawed some shiplap to 1/4 of an inch thick and laid them in the door.

diy custom built ins for living room
Cabinet Door Hardware
My friends wanted corner brackets on each door. The brackets had no functional purpose, they are only for show.

These brackets are expensive if they are purchased in black, so I bought the cheapest brackets I could find from my local big box store.

I scuffed-up the brackets with a metal wire brush and coated them with 3 coats of black spray paint.

I did the same thing for the cabinet pull knobs and handles.

To ensure consistency, I made a 90 degree jig to install the brackets in all 4 corners of the cabinet.
diy custom built ins for living room
Cabinet Door Glass Panes
I ordered 32 glass panes for the bottom and top doors from my local big box store.  I picked them up already cut to size the following day.

First, I used my router to cut a notch for the glass to sit in slightly deeper than the thickness of the glass.

Then, I placed the glass in place and used silicone around the edges.  I let this dry for 24 hours.
diy custom built ins for living room
Built Ins Installation
I recruited my buddy Lester to help me install the cabinets.  These cabinets are extremely, extremely heavy.

We put the bottom section in place and secured it to the wall studs from inside the cabinet.  Then, we installed the middle section, secured it, and then the top section.

After about 6 weeks, I reinstalled the doors and the door handles.
diy custom built ins for living room
Lessons Learned and Conclusion
My friends seem very happy with the custom built ins.

This project was a lot of fun and I learned many new woodworking techniques; however, I severely underestimated the time it took me to complete this project. I'm grateful for this project because I learned valuable lessons regarding pricing my work.  I barely broke even on this project, but I'm glad I was able to help out some friends.

Would I take on a project like this again in the future?  Yes, for 5x the price I charged for this one.  :)

Please consider  subscribing to my YouTube channel and visiting my website for more projects and other fun stuff.

Feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions.  I'm happy to help! Visit my website for a full list of material and tools.
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Jeremy Hoffpauir

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Arielle
    on May 10, 2018

    I just opened a similar company that provides this service- so curious to hear what you actually did charge and what you should have charged! Thanks AB

  • Ken
    on May 10, 2018

    Why did you wait 6 weeks to reinstall the doors?

    • Jeremy Hoffpauir
      on May 10, 2018

      I had to wait for the painter, floors, and other contractors to finish their work. This went into a new construction house.

  • Marie Oriol-Lavalle
    on May 11, 2018

    Great job. I just can't help but ask why you would post this on a DIY site. I'm just curious because--who is going to do this other than a super-professional with mad carpentry skills! Am I wrong?

Join the conversation

3 of 95 comments
  • Mary Coakley
    on May 14, 2018

    Fabulous work and tutorials excellent

  • Brittany Andrews
    on May 20, 2018

    This is beautiful work! And you seem like such a nice, helpful person.  Thank you for sharing your experience and masterpiece. I wish I had the patience to make this.

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