How to Turn an Old Bookshelf into a Colorful Masterpiece

If you have an old wooden bookshelf sitting around, don't let it go to waste. By refinishing it with a coat of paint, you can give it a colorful new look and turn it into an artistic masterpiece that showcases not only your painting talents, but also your favorite books. Follow these directions to turn a worn wooden bookshelf into a two-colored piece of furniture that's fit for a casual office, living room, or bedroom.

To tackle this project, you'll need

  • Oil-based primer
  • Two matching colors of latex paint
  • Three medium-sized paint brushes
  • A sash-style paintbrush
  • Old sheets to protect your floor
  • Sandpaper
  • Stir sticks
  • Painter's tape

Step 1: Sand down the bookshelf.

Sanding will remove most of the remaining finish, and it will also ensure you have a smooth surface to work with. You may want to sand your bookshelf outside, so you don't get the wood dust everywhere. If you have to sand inside, place the old sheets underneath the shelf before you begin. Make sure you shake the wood dust out of the sheets before painting, so it doesn't end up sticking to the bookshelf. Don't worry if you don't sand away all of the finish. The oil-based primer will seal it in.

Step 2: Apply the primer.

Use one of your paintbrushes to apply an even coat of primer all over the bookshelf. You may have to paint a few areas, let them dry, and then turn the bookshelf over to reach the other areas. If there is still a lot of finish on your bookshelf, let the first layer of primer dry, and then apply a second coat to ensure the finish is properly sealed in.

Step 3: Paint the top and the sides.

If you don't have a steady hand, use painter's tape to outline the top and sides of the bookshelf. Choose one of your two colors of paint, and use it to paint these areas. Let the first coat dry completely, and then apply a second coat.

Step 4: Paint the shelves of the bookshelf.

Remove your painter's tape, and apply new tape on the top and sides if needed. Then, use your second color to paint the shelves of the bookshelf. The sash brush is useful for getting into the corners where the shelves meet the sides. Let the first coat dry before applying a second coat.

Once your masterpiece is dry, pull of the painter's tape and admire your work. For best results, let it rest for a few days before loading it up with books—they tend to stick to newly applied paint. For assistance, contact a professional like Granddad's Refinishing, LLC.