Sunday, September 9, 2012


It is tonight, the night of September 9, 2012 that we are doing the dance of joy in the Wagner house.

After lots, and lots...and lots of sweat, blood (only a couple drops but give us some dramatic license) and confusion, our secret art installation behind our bookshelf is DONE.

If you read here, here and here you can read about us demolishing the bookshelves- but I may have been quiet about the decor aspect of this whole adventure. I admit it- I felt like being a tease.

But, regardless, it's done so we can brag share it with you now!

When Nate and I decided to tackle the dining/family room, we had a simple collage of a general vibe we wanted to achieve. It looked something like this. We're calling it "Manhattan Cabin" or as Nate says, "Traverse City without the Taxidermy."

We are still working on the dining area, but I thought I'd share the family room side with you since it is (dance of joy) "done." It still needs fluffing...but I can not hold it in any longer!

Before we began any of the process, we picked a wonderful color called "Pencil" from Martha that I painted the backs and interior sides of each shelf. It matched the yellow in my difficult to coordinate recliner that is in the fireplace room. It took like 5 coats to get the color right, but it was so worth it.

The inspiration for this whole thing was really a tutorial on Pinterest for pallet backed bookshelves that we fell in love with. The one downside was that this tutorial was for the back of a Billy Bookshelf. We couldn't really take the back off our built ins so we had to improvise.

Now, at any point in this process it could have failed miserably. We honestly never expected this to work. I say this knowing full well that that doesn't put a lot of faith in us but we completely made this up as we went.

Here were our concerns:

When we took the shelves down off the built in to make room for our TV, we were 75% expecting the entire bookshelf just to fall off the wall. While normal people wouldn't attempt this if that were the case, it was obviously where the TV needed to go to not be in the way of every day life. While Nate and I use our TV every day (we are big couch potatoes come 8p.m. when we like to watch movies together) I didn't like it floating in my Fireplace room. I wanted the fireplace room to be about my fireplace, not Nate's gigantic black monstrosity of a TV.

Then when we hung the TV mount, we assumed the weight of the TV would rip the wall down (even in studs) and send Nate's baby crashing to the ground. Again, I'm stubborn, so I did it anyway testing as I went.

Then we got to the pallet part, where I was fully expecting the wood to split as we tried to attach it to the built in.

Soooo....with all of that confidence in ourselves, we went about our business. We found this lovely pile of pallets on Craigslist for F-R-E-E. My kind of find. After trying to get them in 3 different sizes of vehicles we realized the only way we were going to get them home was to break them apart. Big Pallets= Nate, Brenna and I loudly smashing pallets (which I was very bad at keeping the boards intact so I got exiled to wait patiently in the corner only to emerge to pick up nails) in the parking lot of a business for two hours on a Friday afternoon.

This process was EXHAUSTING. I don't understand all these "pallets are awesome!" posts that don't include the disclaimer that it is a pain in the ASS to get the boards off in one piece.

To get a board off in one piece you have to gently hammer a crowbar under each of the nails and jimmy it just enough to be able to get the nails out. After the first 5 pallets we got a system and it was much smoother, but a lot of the boards we working on landed in the scrap pile. Ridiculous. Saturday morning, Nate and his friend Jason hung out in the garage prying the rest of the boards off.

Notice my husband's ridiculously cute butt.

 Please note, we made a trip to home depot and got Nate safety equipment due to our parents being convinced we were going to die.

After all of the jimmying was completed, the game of tetris began. There was large gouges where the original shelves were, so we had to cover them up while not nailing into them for structural integrity. We decided to forgo "fixing" them since we were covering them up pretty much permanently anyway. We also had to pick the boards that we liked the best and were in the best shape. 

Then the 4 hour process of measuring and cutting began that involved cut a piece, run inside, scream "AH THIS IS GOING TO LOOK COOL", checking to see if it fit, and then running back to the garage. We'd then cut the next piece, run back inside, scream "OMG", checking to see if THOSE fit together, then back to the garage, etc, etc.

Really long, difficult process for 3 visual people. I suppose mathematical people would have just been able to draw it out and get it done, but Brenna, Nate and I all have HORRIBLE math skills.

After all that hub-ub, it was 10PM and we decided to call it a night.

This morning, Nate and I sealed each piece of wood (all sides) with poly to ensure that the wood would not continue to rot, and if any nasties were on the wood they wouldn't infect something else (bugs, mold, etc) Please note, we did NOT sand the wood. We wanted to keep all the bumps and cracks intact, we didn't want to lose any of the character. 

While that dried, we went on an adventure for curtain fabric, which I'll be sewing tomorrow or the day after.

After a few hours of distracting ourselves, we came home and got to work.

Our original plan was to liquid nails the pieces to the wall and potentially nail/screw the pieces that needed it. We wanted to stay away from nails because we were worried the wood would explode into a thousand pieces.

After putting about 4 pieces up with Liquid Nails and taping it together we realized this approach was not going to work because the planks were not smooth- the wood just wasn't going to stick to the wall.

So in the words of my husband, "SCREW THIS. I'M GETTING THE NAIL GUN."

And about 4 minutes later, we were done! The nail gun had much quicker results, and after staring at this mess for the past three weekends I was so ready just to be done. I think the only reason the wood did not shatter was because the nail gun went so fast the wood didn't have time to realize what was happening.

We still need to nest and tidy a bit, but here is the end result! We are so dramatically pleased with it. We also love that we got the swivel mount that allows us to still enjoy TV from our big sectional, but it also allows Nate to point the TV towards his leather chair and play video games without me having to see it out of the corner of my eye.

We are now also using a room that was wasted real estate in our house.

Here is the Before:

And here it is now!

Here is the cost break down of this entire bookshelf project.

Yellow Paint: $10 (after a sale at Home Depot)
TV Mount: $69 (we bought it on Amazon, Here this was the cheapest by far of any swivel mount we researched and we have no complaints at all)
Wood: FREE
Poly: $10
Tools: Already Owned

That's it! Under $100 and we have this dramatic art installation in our room.

Check back this week for the finishing touches.

Now here's the part where you tell me how much you love it and how awesome we are. Thanks in advance! :)


  1. Now that I see real photos rather than phone photos, this is amazing! ~ Dad

  2. Very Nice, Emma! I love seeing how much fun you guys are having. Also, the blog is so fun to read. 10 points. :-) - Cora Also Rae LOVES the yellow!

  3. This looks amazing! I love that color!

  4. Emma.
    I like how I dedicate a weekend to your home improvement projects, haul a massive couch for you 2 hours out of my way while hunched over in the rain, and pour my blood, sweat, and tears into this...


    ...just kidding~
    I know you only didn't post them because they're unflattering.

    However, we're going to have a photoshoot soon of me with a lot of powertools and makeup on and hair done.

  5. Gah, I'm late to the commenting party, but I just wanted to say that your family room looks AMAZING!! When the next time I redecorate, I'm calling you for help.

  6. I think this looks amazing, it was a really awesome idea.


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