The Ugly Bookshelf Makeover

You've all seen them, whether in your own home or someone you know, drabby brown laminate bookshelves.

No offense to anyone who still uses them, but the two bad boys above that we inherited with the house needed a face lift just like everything else around our house.

My original goal was to paint them and mod podge scrapbook paper on the backing, but I changed my mind and decided to use wallpaper instead. Here's a rundown of the project.

First, we decided we should spray paint them (without priming). After wasting through 4 or so cans of spray paint though and seeing my never-ending spotty results, I realized that the spray paint method was a terrible idea.

Then I decided to prime and paint the shelves...

...but only by using the most nifty sponge rollers ever.

After making it through the prime and paint stage, I then brought the shelves inside to apply the wallpaper. The wallpaper I used was a roll of $20 Allen + Roth Spanish Tile Pattern paper from Lowes.

Step 1 was to measure the surface areas of the bookshelves’ backings in order to determine the correct amount of paper to cut. The most tedious part while cutting was aligning the pattern to ensure that it would flow seamlessly once applied.

Since I needed four pieces for each shelf, I made sure to label the corners on the backside of the paper so that I would not forget which piece went where and to which shelf.

As far as application, I just followed the directions on the wallpaper packaging. The kind I used called for submerging the wallpaper strips in water, letting them rest for 5 minutes, and then applying them to the "wall," making sure to flatten out any bubbles while doing so. Since I was applying it to a small surface, I just used a credit card to flatten it out.

Then, to clean things up, I used a razor to cut off the excess wallpaper around the edges. It was much easier to do this after the wallpaper had dried.

And after I thought that the bookshelf project was complete, assembling the shelves with the new extra layer of paint proved a bit disastrous. The extra thickness caused the shelves not to fit right, which scraped off some of the paint.

Oh well, they were cheap shelves, so I didn't have a heart attack. I touched up the paint and added the refinished pair to our office.

Not too shabby for a pair of shelves that were free! For the meantime, I think I'll enjoy them in my office, focus on the remodel and take a small break from DIY furniture :)

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  1. Great job! I love that wallpaper patter. It's amazing how we can refurbish something that otherwise would have been discarded. Now following, would love for you to visit and follow me too :)

    Hugs, Tanya

  2. Now that, my friend, is where wallpaper belongs! I've been knee deep in "green" methods, chemicals, scrapers and the like trying to get the gold wallpaper off our dining room walls. This post lessened my hatred and bitterness for wallpaper, however. VERY cute bookshelves. Rock on!


  3. Wow, this came out great! That's so funny that you crashed and burned on the spray paint...I did too (just posted about it this week!) I'm thinking about wallpapering the back of our family room shelves and if I do, I'll reference this post. I'm most concerned about lining up the pattern correctly. Thanks for the inspiration!


  4. Oh My Goodness - i have the EXACT same shelves all over my house. i have 3 in the kid's playroom and one in my son's bedroom. You have completely inspired me to paint the one in my son's room red! Thanks

  5. SO SO cute Kenners! Love them! :)

  6. NICE job!!! I reeeeally need to transform some of ugly book shelves!!! These are great inspiration!

  7. I linked your post to mine here: Your ugly bookshelf inspired my new home office workspace; so thank YOU!

  8. Would you HAVE TO paint and prime? I'm paperin all over....?

    1. Not necessarily, especially if you're papering all over. Priming just helps your paint go further and enables you to paint less coats over dark colors. I especially did it because the original plan was to spray paint (fail). However, that is totally up to you. A lot of paint today is paint/primer in one, which also eliminates the need to prime.

  9. Yes, not priming was a bad idea. Priming is necessary if you want to achieve a flawless finish. Particularly with wood; it will initially absorb most of your paint, causing a ruined finish and requiring more coats of paint. Latoya Quinn @ Texture Coating

  10. That makeover is so awesome! One wouldn’t think it’s still the same bookshelves. Who needs to buy a new one, when a little paint and creativity is enough to get you a furniture that’s as good as those you see in stores? Haha! Thanks for sharing your amazing DIY skills!

    Hubert Cole @ Pear Workplace Solutions


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