Built-In Bookshelf Turned Modern Bar

Hello again!

I’m excited to share this long-overdue project! And old, out-dated bookshelf re-purposed with subway tile and modern lighting to make a perfect little bar? Yes, please! I think we finished this update close to 6 months ago, and it has yet to make any appearance on my blog! However, it turned out to be one of my favorite projects to-date! I’m not exactly sure what to call this project…Recessed Tile Nook? Built-In Bookshelf Turned Dry Bar? Hmmm…we will call it a “bar” for now.

full length close up

I’ve never loved this recessed bookshelf in my living room, and for several reasons. 1. I felt that it was outdated and made the living room look outdated, despite updating the décor. 2. I’m not a huge fan of open shelving because I end up spending time and money just to style the shelves, without getting much storage benefit from it. Lastly, 3. Open shelving = dusting! And lots of it! So needless to say, I wanted this bookshelf gone and replaced with something more functional and aesthetically pleasing.And that popcorn ceiling? Yep that’s a thing of the past, as well!!

Those shelves GOT TO GO!

I’ve had this idea to turn the recessed shelving into a recessed bar area for quite some time. I knew it would be a little pricier than some of our other projects, and would require more time and effort from my husband in terms of building and framing the bar, tiling the wall and building the “counter top”. Given these items, we decided it would be easier, and look better if we purchased custom cabinet doors (instead of building them), which turned out to be a good decision.

I love the finished design because it ties in nice with the updated fireplace, and its visually interesting when you first walk into the living room. The tiled wall and modern pendent light are unique and fresh, and the solid walnut counter top is beautiful in contrast to the white tile and cabinets. Together these elements make a statement without being over the top.

Between the gray tile and mortar contrast lines, and the simple, gold pendent light, I felt there was enough movement and interest, so I opted to style the “nook” very simply to prevent it from being too busy and cluttered. A traditional decanter and tray on the left side, and a clean, modern succulent (or cactus) on the right side. Voila!

close up

full room

Here are the work-in-progress pictures.

Luckily, when we went to remove the bookshelf, it came out in one piece, completely intact. So, we re-purposed the entire piece in the garage to hold all my paint. Win-win!

Built-In Bookshelf – Bye Bye!


After removing the shelf, we needed to wire the ceiling for a pendent light. Luckily there was already an outlet in the bookshelves, so we were able to pull electricity from the outlet easily to add a light and switch.

The gold stencil and popcorn ceiling – bye bye to you too!


Up next, was building the frame. The frame was used to create the lower cabinet, on which we would rest the counter top and attach the cabinet doors.



Once the light and frame were complete, we were able to start tiling. The credit for these straight lines goes to my husband. He was meticulous, and for good reason. Crooked  or unlevel lines would be very obvious in such a small space. We had a few instances where the tile was falling from the backboard while the mortar was still wet, but other than that, it went smoothly.


Right about this time is when my gold geometric pendent showed up on my doorstep, so I was excited to get it installed!




Next, my husband worked with my brother (who is a skilled wood-worker) to create the bar/counter top with a solid piece of Walnut. We really wanted to make a statement with a beautiful piece of wood, so we splurged on one solid piece, rather than gluing thinner boards together to create the full width.




And finally, we hung and painted the cabinet doors (as well as the gold feather stencil on the wall to the left!). I wanted the doors to blend in to the background so that the tile and counter top would stand out, so I painted the doors the same color as the surrounding walls, and left the doors as-is without hardware. I figure I will add door pulls at some point if I see some that I really love, but for now, I’m very happy with the understated look.

P.S. Between the the time we finished this project, and it wrote this blog post, we also had our popcorn ceilings scraped (Hallelujah!!!). You might notice it in the work-in-progress pics above.

Half Room

close up


full room



Material Sources:
1. Subway Tile: SomerTile Victorian Soho Subway White Porcelain Tiles (1.75×7.625 in.) – Overstock.com

2. Pendent Light: Geometric Brass Pendent Light – CB2.com

3. Cabinet Doors: Shaker Paint Grade Maple – Cabinetnow.com

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