Fix It

How to Paint and Customize a Bookshelf

We all have ideas in our heads of what we want our homes to look like, but we also need them to function in a practical way that fits our family’s needs.

Our family just moved into a new place. It’s a rental, which is limiting, but there’s still a lot we can do to make the space our own. We decided to have our kids share a room, which opens up an extra bedroom for us to try and create a space that’s functional.


Our extra bedroom needs to be a guest room, toy/game room, music room and food storage area.  We’d like it to have a homey feel so guests are comfortable.


Things we want the room to have are:

  1. Piano
  2. Bed to sleep 2 adults
  3. Bookshelf to hold books/video games
  4. Large table to play board games on
  5. Something to hold thousands and thousands of Legos
  6. A place for food storage

The last boxes we still had to unpack were the ones with all of the kids’ books, so the first project I wanted to get finished was the bookshelf.

If you’ve ever seen Pinterest, you know it’s no secret that you can transform ugly, old furniture with a little bit of paint. And adding a few unique personal touches can really take it over the top.



If you already have something at home you can work with, go for it! If not, hit up some thrift stores, craigslist, Facebook buy/sell groups or garage sales. Having patience is the best way to save money. When you need the furniture RIGHT NOW, it limits your options. Take some time until you find just what you want for the price you want.

I found this for $30 at a thrift store and didn’t realize until I got home that it was handmade, which made me love it even more because someone put a lot of love and time into this at some point.


If you are chalk painting, you can skip all of the prep. You can see my favorite chalk paint recipe here.

If not, sand the entire piece, wipe it down, and fill any holes with wood filler. To go from a dark color to a lighter color you’ll want to use 2 coats of primer.



New to painting furniture? Click here or on the link below for a more detailed tutorial!

How to paint furniture. Farmhouse console.

It seems like picking a white paint would be easy…it’s just white, right? Oh, there are SO many different whites. Decide how much yellow you want to have in your white. For a country feel, you’ll want a bit more yellow for a warmer looking white. The white I bought had WAY too much yellow for me, so I grabbed a can of stark white paint and mixed the two until I achieved the white I was looking for.


I have tried using fabric to the back of bookshelves, and I’ve also tried patterned paper. For both of those I took the entire back off the bookshelf, which is a pain. This bookshelf was handmade and the back was nailed on REALLY WELL, so I didn’t want to mess with it and chance cracking it, so I decided to just cut the 5 rectangles I needed and attach those.

This is my first time trying contact paper on furniture. I measured and cut each piece and was loving how it looked.

Then I came home from an errand to see this…

Contact paper really isn’t what it used to be. I remember my mom lining drawers with contact paper when I was little and once you had that stuff touch something else it was there to stay, haha. Plus, this contact paper is removable, so it’s even less sticky than regular contact paper.

If you completely take the back off and put one long sheet of contact paper on, this won’t happen. But taking off and replacing the back is a pain. Pick your poison.

I looked closer and saw that most of the corners were about the start peeling off, so I grabbed some liquid nails and put it on the loose corners and edges. We’ll see how long that lasts.

You can also customize your furniture with new hardware. Usually I’ll paint the hardware the furniture comes with, but I really didn’t like the little knobs that were on this thing. I searched a lot of stores and finally picked up these at Hobby Lobby. They were 50% off, but still cost $15 for 4 of them. I usually wouldn’t spend that much on hardware, but I really loved these!


You could also add a mirror or chalkboard to the side of the bookshelf to add another feature to it.


I don’t know about you, but whenever I finish a project like this I repeatedly pop back into the room to just look at it. It’s so worth a little time and effort to create a piece you really love and save a ton of money doing it.


So is this bookshelf Pinterest perfect? No. This bookshelf needs to be a functional one, not just a pretty one. One of the bins is holding video games and the other is holding remotes. Now I don’t have to look at them:) I didn’t want the woven basket scratching the paint, so I put 4 furniture pads on the bottom of it.

The bottom shelf has books we own and the shelf on top of that has our library books. Our family has library problems. The library is not free for us. Late fees abound here. The plan is to have the library books live here and each kids can have ONE book at a time to read and the rest STAY THERE so we don’t lose them and/or forget that we even have them and rack up the fees.


Below you can see a little more progress in the room. We got a big 8’x10′ rug to cover as much of the yellow/brown carpet as we could. For the bed we got two of the $99 mattresses from Sam’s club and stacked them on top of each other so when a family comes in town they can grab one of the mattresses and lay it on the floor, giving them 2 beds instead of just one.

Work in progress:


I’m still searching for a comforter for this bed. I want to go with white or cream, but when we don’t have guests this is going to function as a daybed for the kids to sit on when they play video games. It probably wouldn’t stay white for long. Eventually I’ll build a wood bed to connect to the metal frame, but that’s low on the very long list of things I have to build. Someday!


Don’t forget this idea!

pin it

You may also like:


For more DIY ideas and FREE printables sent to you once a months, subscribe below!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *