One Room Challenge

See How a “Dark Hole” Bedroom Transforms with Dreamy Built-in Bookshelves

published Feb 16, 2024
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Often, built-in bookshelves are in living rooms, dens, or basements, but who says they can’t be in bedrooms, too? DIYer Shalonne Luke’s (@thebackuphouse) bedroom makeover certainly makes the case for bringing the wall-to-wall library treatment to the bedroom. 

Before, Shalonne’s bedroom “felt like a dark hole,” she says. When she first moved in, she painted it a deep gray shade. “I wanted a cozy, monochromatic space, but ended up with an unimaginative, dark room,” Shalonne says. 

In addition to the dark gray paint, Shalonne also added IKEA velvet blackout curtains to enhance the space and started (but never completed) a gallery wall above the bed’s high-backed headboard — or at least, in the space that wasn’t taken up by a mostly blocked window. “The original fir floors with a Swedish finish were the only redeeming feature of the room,” Shalonne says. “I was uninspired by every piece of furniture, and the covered windows were depressing.”

Shalonne wanted to brighten things up, and she did so during the fall 2023 One Room Challenge.

Credit: Andrea Starr Photography
Credit: Andrea Starr Photography

 A “restrained palette” keeps things calm. 

The rest of Shalonne’s home is full of color, but for this space she “wanted the room to read sophisticated, luxurious, classic, and calm,” and this meant using  “a restrained palette of creams and browns,” she says.

Shalonne kept her paint choices light and bright this round: Valspar’s Mystique for the walls, and Sherwin-Williams’ White Sesame for the trim. 

Credit: Andrea Starr Photography

The built-in bookshelves were a first-time DIY.

In addition to sophisticated and calm luxury, Shalonne says she “had this vision of antique leather-bound books sitting behind a low headboard” for her bedroom. The headboard is still in progress, but the leather-bound books are all in place.

After getting rid of some of the old furniture in the room, Shalonne got to work on the wall-to-wall bookcases. “There were quite a few setbacks, from running out of wood, switching materials because of costs, drilling the shelf holes incorrectly, and the entire units shifting out of square when I screwed them in place,” she says. 

Shalonne had never built bookshelves before. “It was an adventure,” she says. For anyone else taking on the project, “Don’t be afraid to pivot and change some aspects of the design during the process.” (For instance, Shalonne’s bookcases ended up being only 9 inches deep to work for the measurements of her bedroom instead of the standard 12. And if she were to do things over again, she might make them even shallower!)

Credit: Andrea Starr Photography

New trim adds old-school charm.

“This room had rounded corners, so I had to figure out how to add trim — especially window trim — and how to conceal the space that the rounded edges created,” Shalonne says. “I ended up using drywall mud and had to re-mud the window jambs. I’ve always struggled with installing crown molding, but this time I found a helpful cutting tutorial that worked wonders and made the job a breeze.”

Credit: Andrea Starr Photography
Credit: Andrea Starr Photography

Secondhand finds complete the vintage-inspired bedroom.

Shalonne’s entire project cost less than $3000 (a number that includes the furnishings). The nightstands and the mirror were from Facebook Marketplace and just needed a good clean. The Drexal four-drawer chest was $20, and the antique writing table was $130 (both scored secondhand). The ottomans and the secretary came from estate sales. Shalonne’s mom, Carol Allen (@buzylaidy), sewed the pillow shams and lumbar pillow cover. Most of the book sets are from Goodwill, and almost all of the accessories are thrifted. Two new items are the rug from Amazon and the chandelier from Lowe’s. 

“The room is so much brighter now and feels like it is truly me,” Shalonne says. “Most of the furniture in the old space was either my husband’s, moved in for my kids (rocking chair), or purchased because it was inexpensive but not necessarily what I wanted. In this new space, each piece of furniture was curated over time and purchased because I loved it.”

This project was completed for the fall 2023 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.