DIY Bookshelf Makeover

When decorating on a budget, it's helps to get a little creative and try to make the most of what you already have. We had a perfectly good bookshelf from Ikea that I used to furnish several of my apartments before M and I moved into our home, but the dark color and simple style just didn't work in our den, which is transitioning to an airy, clean cottage feel. (The sheer volume of crap on the shelves, coupled with the eye-sore that is a DVD rack, also wasn't helping.)

I had a vision, I discussed it with M, and we brainstormed exactly how to execute the Bookshelf Makeover Project. [Insert fanfare here.] This was our first DIY together (and definitely the most ambitious DIY I've attempted). So here goes...!


Step 1: Prime*
We applied one full coat of Aqua Lock primer, which we had leftover from repainting the many stained moldings of our 1930 bungalow. We used small rollers, and went back over the most visible areas with a quick second coat to provide more coverage. We let this dry for a few hours.

Step 2: Paint
We also scored by finding an almost-full quart of flat white interior paint in our storage closet from the previous owner, which was just enough for this project. We used small rollers to apply a solid coat over the entire bookshelf, and let it dry overnight.

Step 3: Scuff
We wanted to soften up the harsh lines of this Swedish beast, so we took a medium grit sanding block to the edges to give it some rustic wear. (M was much better than I at this step.) This part creates a surprising amount of dust, so I'd recommend covering your space with a drop cloth to make clean up easier.

Step 4: Clear Coat
I didn't actually anticipate doing this step because we really wanted to keep the finish pretty matte and figured the paint alone was fine. But we quickly learned that primer + paint does not a hearty surface make. I researched some recommendations online and decided to go with a poly sealer. (I used Rust-Oleum's Satin Polyurethane Varnish.) I applied one solid coat with a natural bristle brush and let it cure overnight. This step made a huge difference, and the bookshelf is now quite durable. (Trust me, I tried to scratch it.) 

Step 5: Wallpaper Shelf Backing
Oh, wallpaper. The directions make it seem so simple. It is, in theory, but the mess is something else. We purchased a large piece of plywood at the hardware store and had them cut us two panels to fit the upper and lower half of the shelf. (We probably would have gone with a single sheet, but we couldn't fit it in our car. Seriously, giant bookshelf.) If I did it over again, I'd probably prep the plywood with either a wallpaper primer or just a coat of the paint primer, but, again, we weren't going for perfect, so on went the wallpaper in two strips apiece. (We lucked out that the dimensions and pattern lined up nicely, so it was a lot simpler than it could have been.) We let it dry overnight, and used some heavy books to anchor down a few stubborn seams.

Step 6: Mount Backing to Bookshelf
I actually can't give too much detail on this step because M surprised me when I came home from work the next day, and already had it assembled and the mess cleaned up! But I do know that he used plywood screws to secure the boards in place, and did so with the bookshelf laying on its front.  


I'm so, so pleased with how well it came out. It's just as we imagined it...better, really. Finding the perfect wallpaper at our local hardware store was a huge bonus. I figured that would be the bear and considered just using fabric. But the wallpaper looks so polished and compliments our wall color perfectly! I revisited the styling, got rid of some of the bulk, and tried to keep it functional while still contributing to the overall feel of the space.

I hope this was helpful and inspires you to tackle some projects that you've been contimplating. As intimidating as some of these DIYs may seem, it's worth taking a stab at it, especially if you can give yourself some grace in the process (like when you're covered in paint dust and wallpaper glue, sassing your sweet husband in a fit of tiredness) and be willing to learn from the endeavor. 

Apologies for the iffy photos. I was exhausted when most of them were snapped, but you get the gist.

We probably should have sanded the bookshelf first, but I wasn't striving for perfection and opted to for-go this step. (If you're working with a significant piece of furniture--say, one that weighs over 15 pounds and costs more than $150--sand it first. There are lots of DIYs out there that cover this step.)

If you're feeling crafty, be sure to check out my DIYs for a Rifle Paper Co.-inspired Recipe Box and Coffee Filter Flowers!

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