Project Highlight: Adding Character to a 1970s Home

Built in shelving

Unfortunately, many homes built in the latter half of the 20th century were not built with an eye to character. Architectural elements such as moldings, coffered ceilings, built-in cabinetry and detailed fireplace mantles prevalent in many of Indianapolis’ late 19th and early 20th century homes were left out. Owners of these newer houses are investing in visual interest as they remodel, adding the details that bring personality to a space.

These homeowners removed a bow window adjacent to their kitchen to incorporate the space into a sunroom and office addition. Included in the design was creating a small seating area that would add character to an otherwise bland space. The design also had the added benefit of enlarging the kitchen and dining room.

decorating a bookshelf ideas

Space planning played a large part in creating the look and functionality of the seating area. Filling a large rectangle in such a way to create beauty and function was the goal; understanding the parameters of the space was central to achieving it. Ceiling height, square footage, height of tables and seating – all of these elements needed to be considered in the design or the space would not function well. For example, the seating was built at a bench height AFTER a 4” cushion was placed on it. Building without incorporating that added detail would leave the seating too high and therefore uncomfortable! Scale and balance must always be addressed in every interior design project.

Built in seating area

We worked with a local carpenter to craft custom built-ins that would maximize both the vertical and horizontal space while creating the desired look and functionality. Using the natural L created by the intersecting walls, we created two seating areas with storage underneath, and flanked them with side tables to serve as areas to place drinks, etc. Built-in bookshelves increased storage options and gave the homeowners a place to highlight treasured photos and accessories. Open shelving along the top helped bring the ceiling height down to a human scale for a cozy feel. Also, we added a window to allow more light into the space.

Built in shelving

The details of the design are what allowed the built-ins to add the character the homeowners were looking for. Finished edges, such as the beading and routing on the front of the shelves, made the cabinetry look like a piece of furniture. The crown molding added a hutch-like look, and the warm, rich red color enhanced the furniture feel. The v-groove on the wall between the bookshelves offered textural interest, and served as a beautiful backdrop for artwork.


The artwork, lighting, and fabrics were chosen to create a French Country feel. The sconces and lamps also support this look while adding much needed light in the evenings.

The homeowners report that they use the space all the time now. Beyond serving as a space for storage and highlighting family memories, the kids will hang out there while mom cooks. It is also a popular landing spot when they entertain. And, they are happy to have continued their quest of adding character to a home 1970s home they love.

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest


Leave a comment