Good Questions: Painting Melamine?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Hello AT,

My boyfriend and I recently bought two wonderful and inexpensive heavy and very tall (8 ft.) bookcases. The only problem is that they are an ugly color and are covered in melamine veneer.

I cannot afford to get other bookcases right now (as I am a recent college graduate and am eeking out a poor existence as a freelance writer), so I would like to paint them a nice color…

I don’t know how to deal with painting melamine and don’t know what color to choose. Our walls are white and I thought of painting them a nice ecru, eggshell, or perhaps saffron color–bad idea? Most of our wood furniture is a honey pine color and the living room area is a mixture of mustards, reds, and honey.



The Therapist says that time is money, but money is more like money. We can understand your dilemma. Unfortunately, melamine is a very resistant surface. To really have a go at getting paint to stick, you want to use a toxic oil paint with primer. Use an oil primer first and then a semigloss or eggshell enamel (if you are really intrepid, a light initial sanding would also help).

Having said that it you can TRY latex, and it would be wise to experiment on the bottom side of your shelves first. Then you would know exactly what the benefits of oil or latex would be.

As for color, we believe a warm white would be your best bet. You don’t want to draw any more attention to these shelves, so paint them to blend into the wall, just change the shade slightly for style. We love CHINA WHITE for this type of thing. Also, DOVE WHITE and BONE WHITE are very beautiful (all Benjamin Moore). Good luck with the painting and the writing! MGR