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Best Built-Ins Before and Afters 2013

You showed us the clever and artful craftsmanship of your storage spaces. Now see which ones were finalists in our annual Reader Remodel Contest

Built with a Purpose

A place for everything, and everything in its place. That's the idea, anyway. Of course, reality often falls short of the organizational ideal. That's the beauty of built-ins: Take some otherwise underused space and install a purpose-built piece of furniture to make storage and organizing easy and efficient. Here's a look at the amazing variety of built-ins that This Old House readers sent in this year.

An Impressive Built-in Bookshelf: Before

Who: Frank W.

Where: Laytonsville, MD

I designed and built this wall cabinet for my office to house all of my office files, computer printers, and scanners. It will also house a wall-mounted TV with hidden cables. The wood is African mahogany that I stained and finished myself.

An Impressive Built-in Bookshelf: After

Who: Frank W.

Where: Laytonsville, MD

The most difficult part of the remodel was creating the overall cabinet design, as well as making all of the solid mahogany moldings.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

See all the images from this entry.

A Wall of Bookshelves: Before

Who: Tere T.

Where: La Mesa, CA

We made bookcases, prepped the wall, installed and shimmed the cases, painted, added brick on the wall and installed a faux ceiling beam.

A Wall of Bookshelves: After

Who: Tere T.

Where: La Mesa, CA

We named the library "Jim's library," after my late father-in-law, who loved home projects, woodworking, and books!

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

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From "Lava Pit" to Office Fabulous: Before

Who: Jenni D.

Where: Kansas City, MO

I used to refer to my office as the lava pit, thanks to the lovely orange shag carpet, which was the first thing to go. After tearing the carpet up, I refinished the hardwood floors underneath. Rather than tearing down the wallpaper, I simply filled the seams with drywall mud and painted over everything. The focal point of the room is the custom-built window seat and bookcases that I made from scratch, all by myself. The window-seat lid lifts up for storage, and air circulation isn't a problem since I included radiator screens at the bottom. I added crown molding to the room and replaced the light fixture as well as built the custom sideboard and shelves.

From "Lava Pit" to Office Fabulous: After

Who: Jenni D.

Where: Kansas City, MO

It's such a luxury to have room for everything (and with space to spare even!) I love how the built-ins give the room such an elevated, custom feeling.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $500-$1,000

See all the images from this entry.

A Laundry Room Surprise: Before

Who: Charlie M.

Where: Houston, TX

It was just a drab laundry room.

A Laundry Room Surprise: After

Who: Charlie M.

Where: Houston, TX

My wife absolutely loves it!

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100-$500

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An Elegant Window Seat with Storage: Before

Who: Jeff E.

Where: Marion, IL

This space needed some help.

An Elegant Window Seat with Storage: After

Who: Jeff E.

Where: Marion, IL

I sewed the curtains out of two shower curtains, and I saved a huge amount of money by having a local upholstery business sew my window-seat cushion cover out of a painter's drop cloth.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $100-$500

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Whole-Room Remodel With Built-ins: Before

Who: Terry M.

Where: Quincy, IL

Gutted the wall with a built-in entertainment center on it, which had been built in an alcove where a fireplace would have been.

Whole-Room Remodel With Built-ins: After

Who: Terry M.

Where: Quincy, IL

I helped with tiling the hearth, and I did all the painting and decorating.

Who did the work: I did some of the work but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

See all the images from this entry.

Hallway Storage Solution: Before

Who: Mary P.

Where: Montgomery, AL

Carpet and linoleum were removed and replaced with tile.

Hallway Storage Solution: After

Who: Mary P.

Where: Montgomery, AL

I love all the storage space that we have now, with the coat closets, overhead storage bins for hats, gloves, and scarves, and all storage under the new window seat.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $500-$1,000

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Pergola and Plants: Before

Who: Karon O.

Where: Chicago, IL

I'd have to say that coming up with an idea that would give us shade in the summer and light in the winter was the hardest part.

Pergola and Plants: After

Who: Karon O.

Where: Chicago, IL

I built up the benches so the neighbor kids and I could sit out there and talk. I designed a frame for the window that allowed me to add some brackets to tie in the look of the pergola. I love having flowers in the window box and I know the clematis I planted will look and smell beautiful as it grows up and over the pergola, lending it a more welcoming feel.

Who did the work: I did some of the work but a contractor did most of it.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

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Entertainment Center Transformation: Before

Who: Michelle P.

Where: Virginia Beach, VA

We removed a recessed TV cabinet and redid the blank wall.

Entertainment Center Transformation: After

Who: Michelle P.

Where: Virginia Beach, VA

This remodel has added a finished look to our family room and provided us with much needed storage.

Who did the work: A contractor did most of the work.

Cost: $5,000-$10,000

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Complete Fireplace Surround Remodel: Before

Who: Corey S.

Where: Gainesville, VA

The room before was drab.

Complete Fireplace Surround Remodel: After

Who: Corey S.

Where: Gainesville, VA

We took off the factory mantel and the granite on the floor and the fireplace surround. Rewired for the TV to be able to sit flush on the wall above fireplace. Built out the wall up to the ceiling and added Hardie backer board and mortar. Laid stones individually. Recycled a downed log from the woods and cut it and stained it for a new mantel. Cut supports and anchored them for the mantel to sit on. Laying slate tiles for the hearth area.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $100-$500

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Rustic Room Built-in: Before

Who: Jon S.

Where: Fenton, IL

The room was in rough shape.

Rustic Room Built-in: After

Who: Jon S.

Where: Fenton, IL

Completely built the cabinet. Used beadboard on the back and added shelves and molding. Made the countertop out of oak barn flooring. Lower cabinet has deep shelves for added storage.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100-$500

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A Staircase Transformed: Before

Who: Dana P.

Where: Galveston, TX

A scary old stair.

A Stairway Transformed: After

Who: Dana P.

Where: Galveston, TX

In order to make use of the 500 square feet of attic space, we had to design and build a new staircase. We wanted it to look as if it were original to the house. First we lifted a massive beam 11½ feet into place in the living room ceiling to stabilize the second floor. Then we set about scavenging for newel posts and railings. No one we have shown the house to can believe the staircase didn't come with the house.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $100-$500

See all the images from this entry.

A Grand Fireplace Replaces a Mural: Before

Who: Kirk B.

Where: Moyock, NC

We wanted a warm, inviting family area, and we wanted the aquarium to be a presence.

A Grand Fireplace Replaces a Mural: After

Who: Kirk B.

Where: Moyock, NC

We built the complete structure, including mantel, shelving, wainscoting, and fireplace surround. We sanded and painted the built-ins, installed the fireplace and electrical wiring for the fireplace, with a gas hookup by a professional.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $500-$1,000

See all the images from this entry.

Attic Makeover With Fabulous Walk-in Closet: Before

Who: Katie H.

Where: Whitefish Bay, WI

We needed more space.

Attic Makeover With Fabulous Walk-in Closet: After

Who: Katie H.

Where: Whitefish Bay, WI

We gutted the attic apace, added a window, installed electricity (lights, outlets), framed out knee-walls, installed build-in shelves, built drawers, installed drawers, added new sub-floor, carpeted space, drywall and added laminate flooring.

Who did the work: We did the work ourselves.

Cost: $500-$1,000

See all the images from this entry.

A Beautiful Bay-Window Built-In: Before

Who: Emily B.

Where: Fletcher, NC

We didn't like the room's design.

A Beautiful Bay-Window Built-In: After

Who: Emily B.

Where: Fletcher, NC

We remodeled this space as new homeowners so that we could add our own personalities to an old home. It's our first improvement and a great inspiration to the rest of the home!

Who did the work: We did the work ourselves.

Cost: $500-$1,000

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Kids' Basement Built-in Playhouse: Before

Who: Kevin D.

Where: North Potomac, MD

We wanted to build an indoor playhouse for the kids.

Kids' Basement Built-in Playhouse: After

Who: Kevin D.

Where: North Potomac, MD

We transformed the bare wall into a facade for a small cottage. The walls/roof are covered with cedar shingles. The windows were made with wood and acrylic, and the door is cut from a plain slab. I cut the door to size and added a mail slot and the hardware, which consists of a working storm-door latch and mechanical crank doorbell. The grille in the door is a small piece of what was once one of my home's window grilles. How's that for repurposing? The interior work took the longest, with engineered-wood flooring, beadboard walls and ceiling, new kid-safe electrical work; and there's a small bookshelf and cabinet built-in under the lower portion of the stairs. I added a transom barn window so we can spy from inside the laundry room.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $500-$1,000

See all the images from this entry.

Bedroom Becomes Office With Built-Ins: Before

Who: Lisa H.

Where: Walnut Grove, MN

We needed more space.

A Beautiful Bay-Window Built-In: After

Who: Emily B.

Where: Fletcher, NC

We didn't like the room's design.

Second Life For An Old Outbuilding: Before

Who: Kara P.

Where: Walnut Grove, MS

We had an old outbuilding with rotted siding. My husband and I came up with the idea of making it into a weekend cabin retreat.

Second Life For An Old Outbuilding: After

Who: Kara P.

Where: Walnut Grove, MS

We built a sled out of railroad timbers and moved the outbuilding next to our shop. We tore it down to the studs. We found a local family who sold us the cypress siding. After completing the interior and exterior, we moved it to a wooded location next to our pond. We then built the deck. My husband ran cable railing so we still could have a beautiful view. This is the best DIY project we ever completed! It is so peaceful and relaxing.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

See all the images from this entry.

Built-in Bungalow Bookcase: Before

Who: Angi B.

Where: Tampa, FL

We wanted a built-in bookcase that would match the character of my mom's 1926 bungalow.

Built-in Bungalow Bookcase: After

Who: Angi B.

Where: Tampa, FL

The hardest part of the project was designing a bookcase that would aesthetically fit the space and character of the home while maintaining the functional requirements, including the height, weight, and sheer quantity of books in her collection.

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100-$500

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Building a Closet Reading Nook: Before

Who: Hoover B.

Where: Andover, MN

I wanted to make a fun space for reading, and since I had a spare closet—it was the perfect space!

Building a Closet Reading Nook: After

Who: Hoover B.

Where: Andover, MN

I wanted to make it sturdy so it not only has lag bolts into the studs, but also support under the middle. It worked out great, as I now have cubbies for baskets that hold extra books. The cushion was really hard for me, and involved a huge learning curve, as I had never worked with upholstery fabric before. The final product was worth all the work!

Who did the work: I did all the work myself.

Cost: $100-$500

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A "Den" Renovation: Before

Who: Steve M.

Where: Glen Ridge, NJ

I didn't like the room's design.

A "Den" Renovation: After

Who: Steve M.

Where: Glen Ridge, NJ

We took out the through-wall air conditioner (and installed central air). We removed old windows and installed new ones. We built bookcases and a box for fireplace, adding an antique mantel we found in a local shop, and had granite hearth installed.

Who did the work: A contractor did most of the work.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

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A Coffered Ceiling Renovation: Before

Who: Scott F.

Where: Grand Rapids, MI

We didn't like the room's design.

A Coffered Ceiling Renovation: Before

Who: Scott F.

Where: Grand Rapids, MI

We removed all the carpeting, paneling, and ceiling tiles. We refinished the flooring, rewired, added new stained wainscoting in the same place where the original trim had been. (The original trim had been removed, but there was a shadow on the plaster of where it once was.) We added a new stained-glass window where previous window was behind paneling and added new trim around the window. We removed paint from the wood beams.

Who did the work: We did all the work ourselves.

Cost: $1,000-$5,000

See all the images from this entry.