Bookcase Makeover

bookcase makeover

I love books, (big surprise, right?) and I have always wanted to have a library. Like a really big one, à la  Belle’s library in Beauty and the Beast. Obviously, I wasn’t going to get that in our little 2 bedroom apartment, but I could start. That’s when I discovered a horrible truth about this world we live in. Bookcases are expensive. Like, even the laminate, “maybe wood, maybe cardboard, maybe you should appreciate the mystery” ones. So, dreams stunted, I started my little library armed with a hand-me-down bookcase, and my collection(hoarding) of books.

When my mother-in-law told us she’d found a bookcase for our apartment, I was ecstatic.

I had been dying to do a pattern on the back of a bookcase, and this was my opportunity. My first idea was to use fabric or contact paper, but the back wasn’t removable. That sucker was solid. So I decided I’ll just paint it. Easy peasy, right? As far as a pattern, I looked around for a while, and finally found a perfect herringbone in the right colors on Pinterest.

How To Stencil A Wall:
Source: myblessedlife

Whether you’re painting a bookcase or wall,  I highly recommend using a stencil. I really can’t stress that enough. I decided to just wing it and use masking tape. Folks, just let me tell you, that added at least 5 hours to this project. It’s still doable, but I can only imagine the guess work and measuring and effort I could have skipped out on. I will absolutely be using a stencil next time I do anything like this. With that said, I was really stinking impressed with how well the pattern ended up turning out, considering I took the hard way.

The official before picture:

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So without further ado, here’s how I painted this thing:

  • The best thing about this bookcase is that it was totally bare wood, which means no sanding. Yay! I started off painting the inside and the front face white.
    2015-05-20 17.31.20
    This project is from May of last year, so there’s a few shots of tiny Elliot helping out.
  • I quickly realized this wood was thirsty, and it was going to take quite a few coats of paint for this, so I decided it would be best to do a base coat of white over the whole thing. I put about 3 coats on the inside, and one coat on the outside.

As you must be aware, Walmart is world-renowned for their expertise in the paint industry. Buying two quarts of paint and (ultimately) one can of spray paint took roughly an hour. My plan was to get a quart of paint for the grey as well, but they were sold out of all the grey paint. Seriously, all of it. So, spray paint it was.

  • Because I was using spray paint, I needed a way to cover up the beautiful white insides I had spent so long on. My solution? Cut up the remainder of my drop cloth and put that sucker to work! The process was a little convoluted, but basically I used masking tape to attach the drop cloth to the inside of the shelves.


  • Spray painting was fairly easy. It was a little time consuming waiting for each layer to dry so there were no runs in the paint. I ended up using almost two cans, so make sure to grab an extra one.
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About halfway through, looking pretty grungy at this point
  • The whole process of spraying, waiting to dry, and spraying again took about 6 hours from start to finish, with most of that being waiting.
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I was really REALLY tempted to leave this as is. I love the effect and simplicity of just the grey and white. I’ll probably use this look in the future.
  • After I got the drop cloth off, I left the whole thing to sit overnight. The next morning, I started working on building the pattern and coming up with an efficient system. To keep things as simple as possible, I made the height of the pattern the same as my masking tape. I made the length about 1/7 of the width of the backboard, so it would start and end going the same direction. If you’re using a stencil, this is obviously not a decision you would have to make. However, if you want the pattern to begin and end on different directions, you should use an even number, like 1/6 or 1/8 the width you are working with.


  • This was the process I continued across the back, one row at a time. the distance between each row was too much for one width of masking tape, so I went with half.


  • One this I would go back and adjust would be my masking tape. I used store brand, and a higher quality would probably have yielded better results. The paint tended to run through the tape and occasionally the tape peeled off the paint, so I had to do a lot of touch-ups along the way.
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Never compromise on your masking tape, folks

Depending on your lifestyle, how much you plan to use this, and how long you want the paint to last, you may want to add a clear coat for strength. I chose not to, and we haven’t had any chipping or peeling so far. Make sure to go back over and clean up any rough spots before calling it quits.




4 thoughts on “Bookcase Makeover

  1. You bookcase came out great! I have a filing cabinet that I want to repaint and had thought of doing free-hand. I will definitely be getting a stencil now 🙂

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