Living room shelves

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008
Cornice moulding

Built-in shelves make practical storage areas and can be attractive, but if they're not well done, well, let's just say they can be eyesores. Our shelves were so ugly, I thought they were beyond rehabilitation and should be ripped out completely, but on closer inspection I saw only two serious problems, the gaps between the shelves and the wall, and a hideous cornice moulding (a bold claim, but the proof can be seen here). Maybe we could replace the moulding and fill the gaps, and maybe the results would be tolerable.

Home Depot had varying sizes of moulding that we looked at and tried to imagine in place. Because molding should be angled at 45 degrees to the ceiling and the wall, and the corners need to be mitred, and that's very tricky to accomplish, I consulted several Internet sites before daring to purchase the material and setting to work. I printed out diagrams of how to cut each angle, and when it came time to cut the corners, we kept the diagrams close at hand. The wood must be held at an angle, the cut must be made at an angle, and the board can be placed either rightside up or upside down, depending on whether you're cutting an inside or outside corner, and we had one outside and two inside corners to worry about.

Even after the cuts were made, we found the moulding difficult to install because of the number of angles that must be matched while hammering the board into place. We ended up just tacking the boards up lightly and then working from the outside corner back to the walls. Still it took a couple of tries to get it right enough (there's no such thing as perfection when it comes to moulding). When we were finally satisfied, we filled the gaps in the moulding and where the shelves don't meet the wall with foam spackle. The last step was priming and painting, which we worked on over the next week, replacing the hardware on the cabinet doors, and replacing the blinds.

The results were very satisfying.