Our Living Room Alcoves Project with Wickes

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Living Room Alcoves

(This is a paid collaboration with Wickes and the post contains affiliate links)

Since the day we moved into our home, we have always spoken about having built-in cabinets and shelves in our Living Room alcoves, however, we’ve never actually got round to implementing them. They were originally on the list as part of the overall renovation work for our living room back in 2018 (when we knocked through our two reception rooms) but with Ross falling ill shortly after the work started and with Christmas was just around the corner (with 12 mouths to feed and seat) we decided to just get the main knock through done and revisit it at a later date. So you could say this room has never been ‘finished’ and was more a room which was still a ‘work in progress’.

When Wickes approached us to work together on a collaboration, the brief was to revamp a space in our home using materials and tools that could be purchased in-store or online. It didn’t take much deliberation for us to select the Living Room Alcoves as the focus for this project as it would mean we would finally get this room near to finished as it could be!

Having previously had quotes to get the work down via tradespeople, Ian decided that he wanted to try his hand at building them himself and soon went to work on creating a shopping list that would help with his plans.

He ordered the following online at Wickes;

So in total, this all came to £995.21 which compared to the cost we had been quoted previously (up to £3,500 in some cases) this was a much cheaper option! Plus it meant Ian got to learn a new skill and with all the tools required for the job, it was also a long term investment as he can now go onto making additional things (he’s already talking about 3 other projects in the pipeline!)

We ordered online and received our Wickes delivery less than 24 hours after ordering. As we don’t have a large vehicle, ordering online was perfect for us and it meant we could get the large MDF panels delivered without the hassle of worrying about how we could get them home. Delivery was also free so it was a no brainer!

So now we had all the materials and tools, it was time for Ian to get to work. This is where I am stepping aside and letting Ian take over, so if the blog goes all northern from here on in, you know why.

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Aye up love, how’s it going………..ok it’s still Ross typing here. Here you go Ian, the keyboard is all yours…

Living Room

Thanks, Ross. Ok so… let us start with the measurements!

Measurements

  • Width: 142cm
  • Base Cabinet Height: 77cm,
  • Height Floor to Coving: 250cm,
  • Depth of Base to Wall: 37cm,
  • Top Cabinet Depth 25cm (sat slightly forward due to picture rail)
  • Shelves set 39cm apart
  • Tongue and Groove set as 14cm.

Step 1 – The Design

The first task was to establish a good height for the TV, too high and it would be awkward to watch and too low and the base cupboards would look out of proportion due to the high ceilings. I created loads of sketches first to pre-empt any issues and to start creating a cutting list, this helped me massively and saved me loads of time in the process as I had a clear vision of what was needed.

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Step 2 – Getting Started

Next up was the cutting, I used 2 x Wickes Tilt & Fold Down Workbench from Wickes and 2 x Wickes Spring Clamp Set this created a great workstation to be able to manage the large MDF panels. Using Bosch Cordless Circular Saw I was able to get a great finish and the precise cuts I was looking for. I measured the distance of the blade to the edge of the plate, this was so useful as I was able to adjust my cutting guide to quickly mark out and cut the MDF to size.

Step 3 – Finer Details!

The finer detailing work was very important on this project, things like the routed back panel for a tongue and groove look, the curved edges to take it away from looking like an ordinary MDF cabinet and the routed detailing on the doors to give it a classic look. All of these details have helped make the cabinets look like they have always been there.

I was a definite newbie with the Bosch Router having never used one. I practised on offcuts which gave me the confidence to use – and I am now addicted – I want to add detailing to everything! Its one of those tools, that with practise it gets easier the more you use it and you can definitely become more adventurous. The tongue and groove panelling on the back was spaced at 14cm apart, my reasoning was due to scale. It is a large back panel and as we were using the shelves to accessorise, by setting them wider apart it resulted in them not being too fussy.

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Step 4 – Hiding The Unsightly Things

I had to think around certain factors such as how to conceal the TV boxes, cables and equipment. I wanted both sides to look the same as each other and that meant either leaving both as an open shelf or having two sets of drawers. The left side I made into working drawers perfect for all the clutter to hide away – as Ross is obsessed by somewhere to put the post?! (Ross here – that’s because I don’t want two months worth of post laying on the side every day!! My 2 pence, back to you Ian) On the other side, I made drawer fronts, these are on dowl pegs so they are easy to remove and it means we get to hide away the TV equipment.

There were also plugs and wires to consider, with the back panel in the base cabinets I left an opening which means I could access the sockets. I then drilled holes in the top which meant I could feed wires down the back so out of sight. By also creating a trim detail this means it sits in front of any wires and voila all hidden!

The TV was hung using a Large TV Wall Mount Bracket – 32in To 70in from Wickes – I created a cut out on the back panel, this meant I was able to attach the bracket to the solid brick wall rather than having to strengthen the back panel on the cabinet, also made access to the wires much easier and conceal them.

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Step 5 – Putting Everything Together

Throughout the project, I would do regular tests to make sure everything fit by working in sections. First I created the bases to make sure everything was square and level, so the top piece fits like a glove. Walls are never going to be perfect (especially in a 90-year-old house!), to get around this I made a front trim which could be scribed to the wall. Measure twice, cut once as they say! Assembling everything was the best part for me, to see it coming together and was really satisfying, I used wood glue and screws for all the fixings. For every screw I used, I made sure to pilot hole and also to countersink, this prevented any splitting of the wood and also meant it was easy to fill over the screws so they were not visible.

Step 6 – Sanding and Priming

This is a really important step as it would be the final finish before painting. I made sure to sand everything paying particular attention to edges of any cuts or routed areas, they need to be smooth to get the best finish. I used a mix of 80 and 120 grit sandpaper at this stage. I then washed it down, removing any dust and prime using a Wickes Trade MDF Primer White. Once primed I used a fine sand sponge on the edges and surfaces, you can feel the difference as there should be no roughness – don’t assume the final coat of paint will fill imperfections.

Top Tips/ What I learnt

Have a look whats out there for inspiration, I pulled together a list of what we wanted to achieve on Pinterest, which I then sketched out to have a good starting point.

Think about your space, what will suit the characteristics of your home, is it more of a shaker style, modern, or traditional? This will help you decide on the detailing to suit your room and make it a timeless piece.

Longevity, think about the shelf supports to prevent the wood bowing over time. Using a flexible TV bracket meant the TV could be adjusted to the use of the room. Access to sockets and points, things might need to change in the future so make sure you can gain access easily.

Practise and gain confidence, although you may be doubting your ability or have someone questioning “are you sure my love, do you think its better we get someone in my love, you’ve never done it before my love?” It all boils down to giving it a go, I have done a couple of other smaller projects recently (boxing in some pipes as an example) and this really helped my confidence with this project, I did make a few mistakes along the way but they can be fixed. Having the right tools and materials readily available from Wickes, I was able to completely transform the room in a short period of time.

It has been great fun creating these built-ins and it has given me the confidence to go onto other DIY projects. By doing it ourselves we have been able to create something unique and at a fraction of the cost of someone doing it for us. I would definitely recommend giving it a go yourselves – the sense of achievement is second to none!

If you have any further questions please feel free to get in touch by leaving a comment.

4 Comments

  1. Katrina Dippyduck
    February 10, 2020 / 7:12 am

    Lovely. Explained really clearly. Now I need my own power tools🤣😘

  2. Donna Yeates
    February 10, 2020 / 8:08 am

    Great thank you for the MDF Primer tip, hubbie off to purchase now 😊👍🏻 Looks stunning.

  3. Sophie
    February 10, 2020 / 10:43 am

    This is amazing! What resources did you use to teach you the basics? It would be amazing to see a step by step of how you actually put it together and in what order

    Super impressive!

  4. Clare Pickles
    February 10, 2020 / 4:49 pm

    Can I ask what thickness of mdf you used for the cupboard doors etc? Thanks!

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