Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Transforming Outdated Bookcases From Ugly To Beautiful

Last week the finished bookcases for my youngest daughter's room were revealed. 
They came out better than I expected. 
The bookcases didn't always look like this...
bookcases, diydesignfanatic.com, upcycle, cottage, craigslist

I love bookcases
They give you a place to display your collections and pretty things and also give to great storage. I was looking for bookcases with shelves on top and closed, hidden storage on the bottom I searched for several months and finally found the perfect ones to transform.

This is what they looked like when we bought them from someone who listed them on Craigslist. 
We paid $150 for the pair. Not a bargain, but the doors were solid 5 piece raised panel with applied molding and mitred corners. We don't have the ability to make something so fabulous and to have them made would cost at least $150... or at least that's how I justified spending $150 on two really ugly bookcases.

First off, the bookcases were not as tall as I wanted them to be. I wanted them to be taller than the windows and they needed to be tall enough so that the curtain rods could be installed between them. It would have looked too awkward to add all of the height to the top, so I had Mr. Fanatic build up the bottom of the box. It was going to be covered anyway with furniture base. Here's the bottom before:

The old base molding was removed...

... and an inch and a half was added with a couple of pieces of plywood.

He did the same with the top...

The crown molding was removed

... and the box was built up. I wanted a bead so that the seam between the bookcase and the added height on top wasn't so obvious.

Then a box was added on top of the bead.

Here's looking into the box on the top of the bookcases. Later, Mr. F added a shelf closer to the top so that the lights would sit closer to the top of the crown molding. Crown molding was also added to the top of the box.

After the bookcases were constructed, it was time to prime. It's times like this when I'm so glad we have a basement!

Here's a good look at the top of the bookcase...

After priming, came the paint. We used Valspar Semi-gloss in Brilliant White. The brass hardware was spray painted silver.

If you notice, the crown molding was added so that the bookcases can be used either together or separately against a left and right wall.
bookcases, diydesignfanatic.com, upcycle, cottage, craigslist

At this point, the bookcases  looked pretty good, but I thought that they would look even better with the backs painted a contrasting color. I thought blue would look great, but my daughter picked out a really bright color that I thought might be too "loud", as my mom used to say...
bookcases, diydesignfanatic.com, upcycle, cottage, craigslist

Boy, was I wrong!
bookcases, diydesignfanatic.com, upcycle, cottage, craigslist
The backs of the bookcases are painted with Valspar Nautical in Satin

After the bookcases were finished, there was still wiring to do. Mr. F had to go into the attic during a couple of really hot days. He was able to bring the cable wire and install a new outlet up through a space between the floors from the attic.
He's so clever.

In order to give the bookcases a built in look, he cut out the baseboards so that the bookcases could fit up against the wall.

I'm going to share a little secret with you... The window is not centered on the wall and the right side is 4" wider. You can't tell because the curtains cover the space.  Gotta love that!    
On the right side of the window
there's a four inch gap
On the left side of the window the bookcase
is right up against the casing

So, there you have it:
Before <--- and After --->
bookcases, diydesignfanatic.com, upcycle, cottage, craigslist

bookcases, diydesignfanatic.com, upcycle, cottage, craigslist

bookcases, diydesignfanatic.com, upcycle, cottage, craigslist

That's how we transformed two ugly outdated bookcases into beautiful storage!

You can find Bookcase reveal for the whole room  HERE.

P.S. The total cost for these bookcases was around $300. We paid $150 for the bookcases and spent about another $150 on paint, wood, molding, wiring, and lighting.

Disclaimer: The above post is how we upcycled our bookcases. I don't take any responsibility for any errors or results obtained from using this information. Using power tools can result in injury, when using power tools, use safety equipment.


  1. Pam, your husband did a great job with his handy work and the colors you chose are perfect. Great way to disguise that window.

  2. Wow they look amazing! I do think you got a bargain...what a custom look!! Great job! We just painted my younger daughter's room a similar color to the back of your bookshelves and she loves it.


  3. I have similar bookshelves at my booth at an antiques mall. I've been thinking about painting them white... and now I am convinced this is the thing to do. Thanks!
    Ladybug Creek

  4. Very impressive Pam, The bookcases are fabulous. It amazes me what some paint and TLC can do..

  5. Pam this is AMAZING...yall are so clever and cutting the baseboard to get the built in fit was a great touch that took this from wow to WHOA BABY.

    Blessings Kelsie

  6. Wow Wow Wow! They are stunning! Totally look like they were custom built - amazing! Congrats - you should be very pleased with your transformation! Enjoy!

  7. All that hard work paid off Pam because they look beautiful!! Martina

  8. Wow Pam, they look great!!! I love craigslist for finding things too.

  9. The book cases look fantastic. I have a set of expensive cherry bookcases in the living room that may one day get a very similar treatment, I am getting a bit tired of cherry after all these years.
    Beckie in Brentwood, TN

  10. Its a big big wow Pam... what a prettiest transformation... you have done trullu inspiring job...
    Wish if you can pay a visit to me at

  11. They are a fantastic addition to your your Pam!

  12. Pam, this is just a wonderful transformation. Its amazing what you can do with some trim molding and paint. I love the interior color of the shelving. Thanks so much for sharing.

  13. This is a stunning result. Congratulations

  14. Your bookcases are just gorgeous - can't believe the difference! Linda

  15. What a difference! I love it and especially the bright aqua inside!

  16. Just had to say how fabulous these bookshelves now look. Very bold and smart of you guys to extend them the way you did. Keep up the grea work!
    Kristy @ 4 the love of WOOD

  17. I still can't get over how incredible those look Pam!! Adding the "boxes" at the top and bottom make it look so custom and your daughter definitely has her mother's design instints because the paint in the back is perfect. You done good! :-)

  18. that is the best transformation I have ever seen ! congrats on that project

  19. Wow, this is absolutely the greatest. Great job.

  20. Wow! Can I borrow your hubs for an afternoon, he did amazing work! They look fantastic with that teal background!

  21. Absolutely positively SPECTACULAR transformation!! WOW!!!

  22. These are absolutely positively GORGEOUS! You are a genius for adding the height to them like you did and your hubby's a genius for cutting the trim out! Why hasn't MY hubby ever thought of that? LOL BTW, in my opinion these would only be half as beautiful without that lovely pop of color inside! FABULOUS!

  23. Those are simply gorgeous! I love the cut-outs, which would have been hard to do yourself… you made them perfect!

  24. What a gorgeous transformation! Very handy and willing hubby you have there. :) Love the colors as well!

  25. These turned out wonderful Pam!

  26. Pam,
    What an awesome job you both did! All the extra modifications really made these over-the-top! I really love the aqua. What a blessing that your husband is so handy and helpful. You make a great team.
    Have a great weekend,

  27. Wow, those are just lovely and definitely make a focal point in the room! I really like the teal backs - sets off the white and adds some girlish playfulness !

    thanks for sharing,

  28. I came over from Savvy Southern Style and am your newest follower! I LOVE these bookshelves and can't wait to see what you come up with next!

  29. Beautiful! What a bargain. You and your husband did a fantastic job. They look perfect. Kathi

  30. These are gorgeous! They look completely different. I'm following you now!

  31. This is such a great post!
    Oh how lucky you are to have a handy husband!
    Love the color, love where they ended up flanking a window and the room looks winderful.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Your newest follower.
    (Through Kim, at SSS)

  32. Question: I always want to paint old ugly wood things. My husband is constantly arguing that it will NEVER work because it will yellow the paint due to the lacquer or finish or something. Any experience with this??? I figure once you prime it's done. I've always painted things!!! We grew up thrifting and garage saling like crazy!!!

  33. Hey Alisha, You have your "no reply blogger" on so I couldn't email you back with the answer. The bookcases haven't yellowed at all. The bookcases were sanded down and I put two coats of primer on. After that, we painted the white. I put a coat of water based polyurethane only on the top of the shelves so things wouldn't stick to it. The poly makes the top of the shelves only slightly yellow, but you can't really notice it.

  34. OMG...these 2 bookcases look amazing...loved the blue color , and you husband did an amazing job too...and thx God someone is paying reasonable prices on furniture on CL because on blogland all the women are teasing me with these imaginary prices like 10$ and 20$ one big furniture pieces lol
    Rasha @mychampagnetaste

  35. OH. MY. GOODNESS. These are SPECTACULAR! Bravo! I'll be featuring you on Facebook today! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Igottacreate/100573240032625?sk=wall

    Thanks so much for sharing this amazing makeover at The Mother Lode linky party over at I Gotta Create!
    <3 Christina

  36. I can't help myself. I'm Featuring you on the blog tonight along with the details of my Inspiring Creative Women feature series <3

  37. Those look fantastic!! I would have never thought about adding the height to top or bottom but i LOVE the outcome GREAT DIYing


Leave a comment and let me know you stopped by! If you are not on blogger, leave me your email or some other way of getting in touch with you in the comment. That way I can reply to your question or comment.