Before and After: A Thrifted Bookcase Gets a *Third* Life with a Colorful $90 Redo

published Apr 28, 2021
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Closets & Storage
Art Deco
Mid-century Modern
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: Red painted bookshelf with bottom two shelves empty

You already know that great, solidly made pieces of furniture can go the long haul — but so can cheaper pieces, if you give them a little TLC. Take it from Ashley Chesser (@myhealthyhabitat). Eight years ago, she and her husband Peter brought home this particle board bookshelf from the thrift store, where someone else had dropped it off. It served them well, providing the perfect place to hold their projector and speakers in their living room.

But once they had kids, and those kids became toddlers, anything on the lower shelves was fair game to pull down or out. Out of caution, the bottom shelves sat empty, and the upper shelves looked more like haphazard storage than a styled display. “It became a dark, sad and messy part of the living room,” Ashley says.

“I wanted to paint it a cheery color to brighten up the space and add some pattern to the back to make it more unique and playful,” says Ashley. She also wanted to add doors to the bottom part of the cabinet to hide DVDs and store board games.

So over two weekends, Ashley and Peter turned the plain shelf into something that better matched their needs and style. First, they gave the shelf an all-over teal color (Behr’s Ocean Abyss), then added new doors, also painted teal. Using raw wood to make their doors cost only $15 — way less than they’d pay if they bought them ready-made.

“The doors were a bit tricky because we chose hidden slow-close hinges that had to be inset into the inside of the doors by chiseling out the wood,” says Ashley, but the choice made the cabinet look even higher-end, especially when paired with sleek gold knobs. (That said, “If you don’t mind your hinges showing, it’s much easier to go that route,” Ashley notes.)

That’s not wallpaper on the back: Ashley hand-painted a scallop pattern using the same teal from the cabinet’s frame, plus a lighter blue. “I was pleased with the hand painted pattern since I didn’t pre-draw anything. I just went for it and embraced the messy nature of the lines,” Ashley says. “Hand painting wallpaper can save you some money if you are considering buying wallpaper for a project.” The hack helped her keep this project to a small budget — just $90 for the paint, hardware, hinges, and wood.

The once “sad” shelf is now a room highlight. “I love the cheery colors, fun pattern and being able to display some of my favorite books and movies in a tidy way,” Ashley says. And maybe in eight more years, this standby shelf will get another loving refresh.

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