You don’t need to buy a brand new bookcase, you can upcycle your old furniture with a simple color change and some wrapping paper. Learn how painted bookshelves can make a big difference and can transform your decor space into a more pretty and modern place.
I was happy to visit my sons in New York in 2017. While there I made a number of changes. In fact, it is safer to say that I wreaked havoc. I made sure to repurpose and upcycle a whole bunch of things.
But my biggest job was the dining room bookcases upcycled with chalky paint and gift wrapping paper. This was the mess in the dining room of my son’s apartment. And it could only have gotten better after I painted the bookshelves with my chalk paint.
I had meant to simply organize the books but it looked just awful. Too much dark wood and too many colors. You can see on the right that one of the bookcases has a blue background. It does serve to break up the wood a bit. But I wanted to paint! Painted bookshelves can really transform a space.
My dad was not too happy about this turn of events. He asked me why I wanted to put myself through such a headache. After all, it was the dead of winter and here I was wanting to paint. I started by moving the bookcases apart so there was space between them to fit something else. I had a plan in mind.
What I Used to Paint the Bookshelves
- Left over latex paint
- Plaster of Paris
- chip brushes
- sand paper
- scotch tape
- Creme Wax
- Wrapping paper I used this
How to Paint Bookshelves
Using the white homemade chalky paint I had made for the dictionary stand, you can read all about how I made the homemade chalky paint here, I set to work. I should point out here that these are cheap bookcases, nothing special. These are not even wood, they’re particle board covered in laminate imitation wood grain. It would have been impossible for me to ruin them.
Here is what the wall looked like once the bookcases were removed. I positioned the dictionary stand in the center.
The bookcases were painted, sanded and waxed, just like the dictionary stand. All in all it took three coats of my homemade chalky paint to cover them well. And as before I only sanded at the end of the painting process not in between or before the chalk paint. Because I’m lazy that way? No, because I didn’t want to remove the laminate. Also between coats of paint it was not necessary since they were not at all smooth, thanks to my chalk paint.
This whole process took me a few days because I wanted to let the paint dry thoroughly in between coats. It was winter after all!
I then flanked the stand with the two bookcases like this. Well, in the picture you can see one of them.
That’s when I had an idea. I wanted to add a bit of interest to this all white painted bookshelves.
I had bought a pretty roll of gift wrapping paper which looked like birch. Now you all knowI never use wrapping paper to wrap gifts in. No, I repurposed it and placed it on the inside of the bookcases as a backdrop to add visual interest.
The interesting thing about these inserts is that they are removable. Yes that’s right because just like with everything else in my life nothing should be permanent. If I get bored I simply remove the inserts. You know i do this all the time, as with my recent Framed Heart Craft and my Card Displayer.
It was very easy to do. I measured out the back of the bookcase and cut pieces of cardboard to fit in perfectly. Then I cut the birch paper and folded it over the cardboard and taped it on the back. Below you can see a piece of blue cardboard that is folded over for extra strength and the birch paper taped to the back.
It was super easy to do and four out of the six inserts were the same size.
Now isn’t this more interesting than the plain white backs of the painted bookcases?
And then I had fun styling the bookshelves. I added a brass candelabra.
I also added a clay cooking pot that I had bought over from Greece. Let’s not forget my coffee with tea light.
I even added a vintage gas lamp that I found in my dad’s basement. Yes, he has one of those too!
Here you can see a small sampling of my son’s books. The little milk pourer is unusual. At least I think that’s what it is. Correct me if I’m wrong.
And for all of you who have been following me on Facebook, you know what that blue thing is.
For the rest of you folks, it was a craft that I made with my son years ago. And yes, it is a dragon egg. We made it using clay and then placed way too many thumb tacks over it to give the illusion of scales. Finally it was painted silvery blue.
In the center of the painted bookshelves I placed the dictionary stand and even added a big art book. The storage underneath is two big cardboard boxes that have been covered in fabric. I really like the fabric for the boxes and they serve to anchor the whole composition.
I chose not to distress the bookcases like the dictionary stand because I wanted a simpler look. Anyway the birch effect gives it all the glamour it needs.
To finish things off, I added one of those frames that are so popular now. I think they look kind of cool like that, so that the whole bookshelves will not be too busy.
I didn’t put anything inside them, just left them with a grey background. They have dimension if not lots of color, but I like that.
But I have to confess this is all staged. I am working on a piece that will go there permanently, it should be ready soon. And then you will see how things really look in this room.
At this stage it is worth reminding you of the before. The new white color really transformed the whole room. It looks so much larger and brighter now. Even my dad was super impressed with the end result and that is saying a lot!
And that is the story of how my bookcases were upcycled with chalky type paint and gift wrapping paper. Now my dad is happy and so am I. My son, on the other hand, cannot find his books. But that is a subject for another post. “wink”.
If you’d like to see where the books went you can visit my project on the mirror and see the bookcases and the books. No books were harmed in the making of this project.
To see where the bookcases are now click here.
Are you like me, do you wreak havoc every time you visit your kid’s apartment?