Removing Wall Shelves And Patching & Spackling The Holes

Let’s talk about breathing room. One thing we learned from our last house was that we prefer to let rooms “breathe” a little. Which means resisting the urge to fill every corner and span of wall with furniture and plant stands and coat racks and storage baskets and everything else that you can stick in there to crowd the perimeter of a room. So after a bit of deliberation we decided that letting the previous shelf-riddled corner of the fireplace breathe was the best choice for us. I actually attacked them after only a few days of living here and realized I never shared the pics while writing my list post– so here they are.

We’re planning to add storage ottomans and to build or buy a new media cabinet with lots of storage space in other areas of the room, so we’ll still have a nice amount of stash spots in there without potentially forgoing the whole balance thing by keeping those shelves.

See balance is key to us because it seems to keep spaces feeling more inviting and relaxing. And we knew that a shelf full of baskets, books, and stuff on one side of the fireplace would make that small niche feel heavier while the longer bare expanse of wall on the other side would feel, well bare and unbalanced by comparison. And we didn’t want that wall to feel lopsided. Especially since it’s such a small nook. You know how you wouldn’t try to stuff the smallest corner of your bedroom with the largest piece of furniture (like a floor to ceiling bookcase?) and instead you’d save that for a larger expanse of space (and would probably leave that smaller corners well enough alone)? That’s why we thought those shelves had to go.

Different strokes for different folks though- I’m sure some people would have loved to keep them around. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to break out the ol’ screwdriver-as-chisel method:

The wood shelves lifted right out, but the shelf supports turned out to be tough cookies thanks to super long nails holding the shelf supports in place on each side. But I was still able to get ‘er done all by myself while John was on Clara duty. Girl power (why do I always picture the Spice Girls when I type that?).

The walls were looking a little rough in some areas due to some particularly clingy nails. Yikes.

… but it was nothing a little spackle couldn’t solve. And the previous owners had sweetly left behind this lightweight kind so I gave it a try for the first time in my life (we always get the heavy duty traditional stuff, also by Dap).

The verdict? I loved it! It’s really airy and whipped, like shaving cream. And it’s easy to get a super smooth skim coat over every hole in the wall – even that insanely large one pictured above. Look how easily it cleaned up:

I just used a flexible metal putty knife and smoothed it on. Unlike the heavy duty spackle that I’m used to, this lighter stuff said that it didn’t even need to be sanded. But I gave it a good once over with some high grit sandpaper after it was fully dry just to make it as smooth as possible. I’m in love with how easy it was, so I already have a big tub of this new lighter spackle stuff on my shopping list. Now all we need are a few paint touch ups to make all evidence of those shelves a thing of the past.

If only we had the wall paint around to touch things up. Wop wop. We haven’t come across that yet (although it might be hiding in the basement somewhere) but if we don’t find it we could always bring home a bunch of white swatches and try to make the closest match. Or better yet, we could get our butts in gear and paint the entire room in the soft gray color that we have yet to settle on (and take the trim to a nice glossy white color while we’re at it).

That little corner might not look like much now, but we promise to share pics of the whole room from that angle as it evolves and we take on more projects (like painting, hang more stuff on the walls, and adding in more furniture). That small breath of uncluttered space in the corner will be a welcome break indeed. Plus we picture kiddos hiding there with their eyes squeezed shut who fully believe that they’re invisible. Ah youth. Remember when you’d close your eyes and hide somewhere totally obvious and fully believe that nobody could see you? Those were the days.

Pssst- We announced our random winner for this week’s giveaway. Click here to see if it’s you.


  1. says

    Great job, it already looks so much brighter and happier and I can so picture Clara hiding in there, probably with Burger at her side. Can’t wait to see it all painted and decorated in true YHL fashion.

  2. hdstoker says

    Can’t wait to see that room with white trim!! So glad you’re going to paint those beams… the dark trim just doesn’t match the rest of the house (or your style!)

    Question for ya (‘cuz I know you don’t have enough of those to answer)… have you guys always loved an all-hardwood floor house? Or do you ever yearn for some soft carpeting? We’re getting ready to put hardwoods in our entry & kitchen, and keep debating whether to carry it into our currently-carpeted living room & den. I love the look of hardwoods, but the softness of real carpeting (vs. throw rugs.) Also, our living room has vaulted ceilings, so I’m worried about the echo factor.

    • says

      We are hardwood floor people to the max. An area rug can cozy things up, but we’re not really fans of wall to wall carpet (we had some in an old apartment and just found that we had a much easier time keeping the hardwoods looking cleaner (whereas the carpet always looked a little worse for wear). If it was us, we’d add in some big plush area rugs for your living room & den (which will definitely cut down on the echo factor). Good luck!


  3. says

    Looks much better now! Isn’t it funny how older homes have quirky details like those shelves? Adds to the character! Can’t wait to see how you guys transform this home! Oh…can I make a teeny suggestion? In my humble opinion, I think you should remove the green shelves under the wreath. Let it just be the wreath on the wall, IMHO. :)

  4. Katrina says

    Any chance you would be willing to paint the walls your choice of gray before painting the trim and beams? My husband and I are having the “paint the trim” debate and you trim is just about the same color as ours. There is definitely a lack of pictures out there of wood trim with walls painted something other than the norm (sage green, warm beiges, and off-white – great colors, just not us). I’m for indulging him and not painting the trim (right away anyway), but am feeling a bit challenged in the color department.

    I also think I have that same shelf, which now lives in our daughters room. Definitely need to choose a fun color to spice that up!

    • says

      Hey Katrina,

      We’ll have to see what order we tackle things in, but you know we share lots of progress pics so we’ll def. post pics of the wall painted without the trim if that’s our order of attack!


  5. Marilyn says

    Institutional white with brown beams, what were they thinking.
    Everything is looking so much better now. It would be neat to take down that whole wall behind the fireplace and just let the fireplace (backside) be the architectural interest.

    • says

      Yup, the plan is to get them refinished along with some of the other hardwood varieties that we have going on so they all tie together. You know we like rich cohesive flooring…


  6. meggie says

    Yay for (relatively) small easy projects that make a big difference!
    I was trying to do something similar last night….taking the old brackets from the blinds out of our window trim. do you have any tips for removing stripped or painted over screws?

    • says

      Hey Meggie,

      This might sound like the caveman solution, but sometimes I just dig them out with a screwdriver and then spackle over the holes I leave in my wake. As you can see from this post, big missing chunks aren’t too hard to repair. But when it comes to your window trim you might want to be more careful. Maybe google around or hit up yourtube for some ideas when it comes to dealing with stripped screws?


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