I want to paint a bookshelf and need suggestions on color

by Tami
I have a large lawyer bookshelf that takes up a whole wall in a room. I have beautiful Oak trim in the room, but the shelf is really dark more of a walnut color and I would like to paint it. And need ideas of colors. The room has a light green on the wall, but I could change that. Most bookshelves that I see painted are white with a dark on the back and I am not sure about doing that since I have Oak trim. Since this picture was taken we have put in wood plank flooring and need to know what to do lighten up the book shelf.
  15 answers
  • Tami, I would go with white or a light cream or gray. Gray is very current, I would go with a warmer gray to not clash with the oak trim. You'll be astonished how much it will brighten up the room!
  • Tami Tami on Jan 30, 2015
    Would you do back of cabinet one color and shelves and facings a different and if so which would you do light and dark
  • I would paint the whole thing light because you have wood floors and walls, I'm afraid if you paint the backs of the shelves dark it would suck some of the light out of the room.
  • Country Design Home Country Design Home on Jan 30, 2015
    Hi Tami! It took me a couple of minutes to realize that the picture is upside down-lol! That being said, since you have dark floors now, I would paint the bookcases creamy white and the back wall of them a slightly lighter or darker green to co-ordinate with the wall paint color. Or you could wallpaper the back wall of the bookcases for more interest and design. One thing that makes a bookcase look darker is stuffing it with books. You need to take out about 1/2 of them and add vases, clocks, figurines, framed pictures and other artifacts that will contrast with the back color but add interest to the entire wall.
    • Marianne Marianne on Mar 10, 2015
      @Sue@CountryDesignHome I didn't know it was upsidedown til you said it...lol
  • Myrna Engle Myrna Engle on Jan 30, 2015
    I'd leave them be. They are always this shade of wood and it spells out what you have. If it is looks you need, try rearranging all the book with an eye to placing the lightest ones to the center. Turn some pretty ones straight forward. Every unused spot can have light colored picture frames,white vases,pale floral arrangement. Set a floor lamp in front, with light body and shade. Put a bench in front with pale cushions. If these ideas don't help then paint away, but I feel you will be surprised how much weight will be lifted with small effort.
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Jan 30, 2015
    @tami hahaha, I didn't even notice it was upside down until I read Sue's comments. I agree with the above comments - needs to be a light colour, I think some kind of ivory, light grey or light taupe would be good. I love Sue's idea of papering the back, but again it should be light in colour and not to busy a pattern. It is a good idea to decrease the number of books. I see you have some stacked on their sides which adds interest and makes space for some decorative pieces.Create the spaces sporadically through out the bookcase, that is not to say that you can't have some shelves completely full. Play with it and you will know when you get to your tastes. Thanks for posting the question, I love these challenges and looking to see what others suggest - so much learning to be had on this site.
  • Sandra Stromstedt Sandra Stromstedt on Jan 30, 2015
    I would paint the bookcase a light color to coordinate with your color scheme...then wallpaper the backs of the shelves with a nice wallpaper. When you grow tired of the paper just remove it and put up some other paper for a whole new look...this is easy to do as I have done it many times. Also, break up all of the books by stacking some of them flat and putting a vase or picture on the flat ones. There are almost too many books and it makes the shelves look too heavy. Thin out some of the books and put more decorative pieces on some of the shelves. Hope this helps.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jan 30, 2015
    Usually not a fan of painting wood. Are the bookshelves good wood? If so, I would go with a non-permanent solution such as wallpaper or such on the back and shelves. Is your oak trim light or dark oak? Is your flooring dark or light wood? Think you have a lot of wood In the room. If there isn't much contrast, I would experiment with some various coloured tissue papers or similar until you get a colour combo that works for you. That way, you don't commit until you are sure about the colour(s).
  • JC Sipes JC Sipes on Jan 31, 2015
    Tami, You could first try just painting the front a light color and see whether that is enough of a change before you cover the beautiful walnut up.
  • Vickie Vickie on Jan 31, 2015
    I would paint it a very light shade of Taupe. Neutral enough, but it would lighten up the room and it won't give other colors you use a muddy shade to them.
  • Betsy Woolford Betsy Woolford on Jan 31, 2015
    Tami, unless you just want to paint your room, try getting paint chips from a paint store (or Home Depot, etc.). Choose a color that looks good with your Existing wall color. A shade of white or ivory would be pretty, But don't limit yourself. I like the look of bookcases with wallpapered backs, but you could attach it to foam core cut to fit the case behind the shelves, so changing out the design would be easier. Good luck.
  • Jillian Seymour Jillian Seymour on Feb 01, 2015
    Try a sample sanding back to the underlying wood somewhere discrete, it may have been stained the dark colour and with a full sand it could lighten up.
  • CK CK on Feb 01, 2015
    First, do you want the bookcase to 'stand out' or 'blend in'? If you want it to be a noticeable feature, then paint it a color that brings in some other color already used in your room. Example: Is there a color in your draperies that you like? Use that color. If you want it to blend in, paint it the same color as your walls. I might also suggest if possible removing some of the books, etc. It'll look a little less heavy without so many items on it. Styling a bookcase really makes it a great feature in the room. Then, after some of the items are removed, if you like that look, some day you can contemplate painting the back of the bookcase in a pretty color also used in the room.
  • Terry Terry on Feb 01, 2015
    Post an after whatever you choose to do!
  • Vickie Miles Vickie Miles on Feb 02, 2015
    Definitely white! Organize books by height, and when possible, take jackets off of any books that look more beautiful without them. Leave little open nooks for favorite vases or photos, and try to do frames in same color choices. Stack books on their sides, then stack some flat on top of each other, and do this in every case. Decorate with small items on top of the stacked books and lean books in different directions in each case. Good luck and I hope I helped a little!