A New Lease of Life for a Boring Bookshelf

3 Materials
$20
4 Hours
Easy

Plain wooden bookshelves are beautiful, when the condition is perfect. But once there’s wear and tear, a splash of paint can give it a new lease of life.


The piece


This was my favourite price, free!

A sneak peek at the final result.


If you like the look of this bookshelf, take a look at my navy bookshelf makeover too!

It was in pretty reasonable condition. There were some dings on the top lip and base but nothing that wasn’t easily solved.


I can only assume that the backboard was shoddily replaced at some point because it didn’t fit all the way to the bottom.

I bought some hardboard to replace it and it was lucky that I got it home at all. It involved quite the Tetris yoga situation to get it into my car.

Fortunately the piece is long enough to use for a sideboard which also needs the backing replacing, so it’s an additional cost in materials of about £6 each.


The prep


I used Dixie Belle’s Mud wood filler to cover the various gauges. It’s easy to get carried away and fill every little ding which wouldn’t be noticeable when painted over. But it’s also quite therapeutic to use.


By adding filler above the surface, there’s a smooth finish when it’s sanded back. If you can still see the lip of the ding, then it will need a second fill once dry.

The original backboard broke easily with a bit of force as it was made up of thin planks. The piece was a lot less stable without the backing holding it straight, so it tended to wobble.

With the more fun prep stages out of the way, it was time to clean.


This piece has grooves down the side of the front and the cloth shows just how much dirt was in them. This photo was from about swipe seven of one groove, it was that dirty.

Even if it’s your own furniture and you know where it has been, it’s important to give it a thorough clean before refinishing. This could have been in a shed for years or had years of furniture polish built up on it.


The once clean water was suddenly less so… I washed it with diluted sugar soap and then rinsed it with clean water to get rid of any leftover soap.

Back to the start


By sanding with a coarse grit sandpaper, you cut through the existing finish quickly. But you then need to continue to sand with higher grit papers until you reach a finish which is smooth to the touch. I started with 80 grit to get rid of the varnish and then used 180 and 220 grits.


Progressing through the grits is boring but the only way to effectively get an even surface. I hand sanded after the initial 80 grit pass as it’s less noisy and makes for happier neighbours!

A lick of colour


When you find a product you love, it’s so tempting to use it on everything. I didn’t resist that temptation.


For the top and shelves I went back to my trusty Cappuccino Stain and Finishing Oil by Fusion. This was after one coat.

I did two coats of Lichen by Fusion Mineral Paint and a third coat on the outer sides, which are the most likely to get bumped. 


Fusion doesn’t require a sealer and is rock solid after 30 days curing.


The paper


I found this beautiful wallpaper, Elderwood Natural by Laura Ashley during their closing down sale. If I remember correctly, it was £6 a roll instead of £40.


I didn’t have a plan for it but knew a project would come along that it would be right for.

It was wide enough to need two pieces to cover the backboard. I placed the wallpaper underneath the backboard and used an exacto knife to cut along the edge.


To match the pattern, I placed the second piece of wallpaper on top of the backboard and made two small cuts at the top and bottom to line it up.


As wallpaper is heavy paper, I used wallpaper paste rather than decoupage glue to make sure it stuck well.


I then used a brayer to roll out any bubbles or creases, starting from the middle and moving towards the edges.

Finishing touches


I staple gunned the backboard back into place and it finally stabilised the unit again.


It also needed a wobbly foot glueing back on which I did with wood glue. I also stained the feet to create a nice balance of the cappuccino brown at the top, middle and bottom.

The nature-inspired colours of the paint and stain really complement the colours in the wallpaper.

Thanks for reading!


If you like decoupage projects, please take a look at my others and let me know which your favourite is.

Suggested materials:

  • Paint   (Fusion)
  • Wallpaper   (Laura Ashley)
  • Stain   (Fusion)

Rachel
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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Frequently asked questions

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  1 question
  • Jennifer Jennifer on Aug 14, 2021

    What color is the Fusion Paint on the bookcase?

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