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Five years ago when we bought our house, we were excited that there was a room off the side of the kitchen where we could watch our boys play while we cooked, did laundry, or did school work (yes, our kitchen also does double duty as a laundry room and a home office). Forget the fact that the room is awkwardly shaped, small, and we have no clue what it is supposed to be used for in actuality. Also forget that it has a huge, brick fireplace placed between two windows.

Ok, we couldn’t forget that part…we didn’t want our children playing in the fireplace.

We needed a fireplace makeover. My husband and I own more books than any other couple I know…we joke that the most difficult part of moving in together was reconciling our book collection. And, as literacy professors, our children also have an obscene amount of books. So, the fireplace issue combined with our book issue led to our ingenious, crafty solution – the fireplace bookshelf!

We don’t use our fireplace. As city folk living our lives in the pseudo-country, the image of the two of us gathering firewood, building a fire, and tending said fire is somewhat comical. Besides, the previous homeowners left us with a dingy fireplace covered in soot (they obviously were the “build and tend a fire” type). The thought of cleaning the fireplace with a toothbrush and harsh chemicals and inevitably coming out looking like Bert, the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins, terrified me. Thus, we had my dad close the flue and do whatever else needed to be done to temporarily deactivate the fireplace, and I shared with him my idea for the space.

I thought that the fireplace opening consisted of prime first floor real estate space for, ahem, books…and I wanted him to build me a bookshelf that could be mounted inside the fireplace, but removed easily if we ever decided to become the kind of people who built fires or we wanted to sell the house. My dad thought I was crazy, but that is a pretty typical response to my ideas (like the time I convinced him to help me paint my hallway what he called “doo-doo” brown and he kept calling down the stairs, “Heather, are you SURE you like this?” Then, when finished, he liked the color so much he wanted to use it in his own home.)

Anyway, the fireplace bookshelf turned out great. It is not “in your face” different, but it makes the fireplace far more practical for a kids’ playroom.

It slides into the fireplace (note the side walls are on angles to mimic the share of the fireplace) and it has wood spacers between the shelf and the brick to ensure the shelf has a tight fit. Also, because the shelf was built to fit our particular fireplace, it cannot tilt out if the kids put pressure on it. Instead it would need to be pulled and shimmied straight out if we needed to remove it (thus no chance of my kids removing it and pretending to be Santa or something in my chimney).

Eventually, I’d love to get a casing for the fireplace to make it look like a wood trimmed, white fireplace (without ruining the brick), but Hubs still needs some convincing on that one…

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