Before and After: A Bold Living Room Bookshelf Transformation for Less than $100

published Nov 19, 2019
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A wall full of built-in bookshelves? Why, that’s a bookworm’s dream! And Karie Frost knew the full wall of solid wood shelving in her mid-century modern home was definitely worth keeping. What she didn’t love about it: the white paint job, which—while nice enough—made the wear-and-tear of the decades-old wood more obvious.

Karie knew she wanted to bring some color to the space, especially since it’s the first area guests see when they arrive. “This is a mid-century modern house, and I knew that a color that had real depth with punch would bring some of that era’s quirk back into the room,” says Karie.

First up: dismantling the shelves so that Karie and her husband could re-paint them in a semi-gloss white, chosen because it’s easy to wipe clean. For the back, Karie picked a bold blue in a matte finish (Bosporus by Sherwin-Williams). “My husband was resistant because this bookcase is such a large part of what makes the house special. I told him I could paint it back to white if it didn’t turn out well—and that never became an issue,” Karie says.

Two things that made all the difference in the couple’s success? Choosing a rich color for the backdrop—something not quite primary, so it didn’t feel kid-ish—and using high-quality paintbrushes and rollers. “You can use a good roller for the center of the backdrop and door fronts and shelves, but the corners need to be finessed with a paintbrush, and high-quality ones glide nicely, provide good coverage and streak less,” says Karie. “It’s so worth it to pay the few extra dollars.” Karie achieved this high-impact look with just $90 in paint and supplies; after the couple was done, they filled the shelves with art, books, and vintage toys they already owned.

“It has become the centerpiece of the house, and I couldn’t be happier,” says Karie. “I particularly love that my husband and I have a stunning place to display items that carry meaning for us: childhood toys—both from our childhood and our parents’—pieces from our departed grandparents, trinkets from our travels around the world, and my photo projects that I’ve created throughout the years.”

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