Marissa Ponikowski

Guest Blogger

Marissa Ponikowski

Marissa Stapley-Ponikowski’s work has appeared in numerous outlets including The Toronto Sun, The Globe & Mail, TV Guide and Today’s Parent. A mother of two, Marissa strives to make the world a better place through writing on lifestyle and green living, as well as completing a novel, Saving the World (In Sensible Shoes).

Real People Reno: Built-In Bookshelves, Part Two

Posted by Marissa Ponikowski Tuesday, April 23, 2013 10:17 AM EST


It took about five weeks from project start to finish, but in the end, we got exactly what we’d envisioned: a refreshed, functional and truly attractive living room that our family naturally gravitates towards, television in the room or not! (In our case, not. And we don’t miss it at all! There is still a TV in the basement, though. We haven’t gone completely tech-free.)




The built-in cabinetry, mantel and wall panels, constructed by S.H. Contracting are the focal points of the room. These are quality, long lasting elements that our family will be able to enjoy daily, and that will also add to the resale value of our home.


It was also important for us to make ethical choices when it came to a room we would be spending so much time in, because we care about the health of our family and the planet and want this to be a conscious part of our lives. So we sourced sustainable materials for the cabinets: MDF and particleboard from Rayette Forest Products in Toronto. Both products are made using a curing process that keeps formaldehyde emission levels low, meaning we wouldn’t have to worry about damaging the air quality in our home. (Still, to help offset this, we also put Boston ferns in the room, which are pretty, but are also known to clean the air of pollutants associated with paint and new products.) The wood is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and Eco-Certified Composite (ECC), too. We also got the handles on the drawers and cupboards from Rayette.


We sourced most of the furniture from Urban Barn, a Canadian furniture company that makes its furniture here, thus lessening the carbon footprint and giving us peace of mind. Plus, many of the options available at Urban Barn are made from reclaimed, sustainable materials. The sofa we chose was called the Piper Custom Sofa. We ordered it with Dawson Graphite fabric and it arrived within six weeks.




We chose two Groove Custom Chairs with fresh green fabric in Lewis Cypress to offset the rich grey of the sofa.


My favourite items in the room (aside from all the books, books, books!) are the coffee table and end table, made from solid, reclaimed marine timber salvaged from shipyards. The natural grooves and divots are unique, and help me to relax. If the kids dent them, it will just add to the charm!


Our designer, Valerie Clubine (with Signature Interiors by Jennifer Fowler), told us one of her favourite elements in the room (aside from the amazing bookcases, of course) was the table lamp. It’s large and eye catching, but because it’s glass and see-through, it doesn’t appear to take up as much space as it does. Plus, even if we decide to repaint or redecorate in the future, the lamp will fit in with anything.




I also surprised my husband, Joe, who loves a good recliner—let’s face it, what guy doesn’t?— with a wingback from La-Z-Boy. It’s custom covered in beautiful fabric that fits into the room and adds an element of comfort. Because we so often have company, we wanted an extra seat, and the ottoman we chose can double as this.


And isn’t the chandelier fun? This was my four-year-old daughter’s suggestion. She wanted “something with crystals and rainbows” and I found one at Home Depot for a great price.


Since we had spent so much of our budget on the bookcases, mantel and paneling, I couldn’t afford custom drapes, but I found an alternative to having to do the drapes on the cheap. FaAB Home Fashions redefines “ready-made”: you can custom order different options, and they’re made in Canada.


The paint on the walls and built-in unit (including mantel) is Dune White (Benjamin Moore). On the ceiling and above the plate rails, Valerie chose Revere Pewter (Benjamin Moore), to help pull in the grey from other elements in the room, like the couch.




Another highlight: Our Eco-Feu fireplace! This was Joe’s find. I thought I would have to find another oh-so-boring electrical insert, but he discovered Eco-Feu while hunting online for sustainable options for our room. This fireplace burns ethanol, meaning we can enjoy the benefits of an attractive flame without having to refit the chimney.

See the dramatic transformation and check out the before photos.

Topics: Renovations, Real People Reno


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