When we moved into our house, we doubled our living space. The main floor of our house is very similar in space to our old rental but this house came with a basement that has a huge open space and I was so excited about what to do with it.
The only problem is that it came with some major eyesores, namely (1) terrible smelly carpet, (2) ugly red brick, and (3) an oppressive stone fireplace.
fThe carpet was dealt with pretty easily when we had synthetic wood flooring installed. The brick was a little trickier. I actually love brick in homes but this brick was a strange orange red and the mortar was the exact same color so it wasn't fun to look at. We ended up painting it white just to get it to calm down a little bit.
It stayed white for almost a year and I could have definitely lived with white brick, but the problem was that the white made the weird stone fireplace stand out even more. The fireplace (which is non-functional) is paved with very uneven rocks that jut out at strange angles and aren't particularly attractive up close. We debated painting that white as well but we just didn't know if it would help.
Finally, I decided that the only thing to be done was to totally get rid of the fireplace. Unfortunately, demolishing it was going to be a lot of work and we were worried about actually damaging the structural integrity of the house, so we went with the next best thing: a big fat bookshelf to cover it up.
My stepfather took some measurements and ended up custom making a shelving unit that's about as deep as the mantle on our fireplace and high enough in the center to hide most of the stone. We didn't go floor to ceiling with the whole thing because there isn't a lot of light in the basement and I didn't want to lose our two windows (tiny as they are).
There was a little bit of space on the top of the shelving unit where the stones were still visible because the support beam cuts right into the center of the fireplace but I found some great baskets at Homegoods that fit that space very nicely and once the shelves were styled the stone fireplace really wasn't noticeable at all.
I love having all the extra storage and I don't miss the brick mantle or the fireplace at all. We divided the shelf so that the center part is a mix of our family with more of my office stuff on the left side and more of the kid stuff on the right.
The left side of the shelving unit is next to my desk area so it holds my printer, camera gear, extra paper, and random office things like that.
The other side of the unit is in the part of our basement that we use for craft projects and homework time so we put all of the reference books, art supplies, and other school-related-kid stuff over there. It's great because we can work at the table and most of what we need is within arm's reach.
Overall, it's my favorite home project to date and it's making me want to build more shelves for other non-functional spots in our house. Our bedroom in particular has a small off-center window and I'm seeing a few shelves in my future...