{Living Room} Bookcase Makeover

We’re off to a good start on the Living Room projects! I decided to tackle the bookcases first, since they have annoyed me the longest. Also, I think painting them and the armoire will be the most impactful changes to the room, so I’ll get those done first, before deciding on the other elements.

Here they are, lurking behind the yummy sofa, ruining the whole shot.


I knew they’d eventually get painted, so I paid less and less attention to them. Then they became the resting place of all leftover and random decor in my house. You know what I mean, you just casually set something down, while turning a blind eye to how cluttered the whole thing has become? Could there be any more crap on these shelves?!?

Now you see why you never saw full pictures of these in my posts? That’s calledDeceptive Selective Blogging!’

I’m not a fan of the color or generic shape. And since they are the same height as the doors on either side, the wall looks like a row of soldiers. (In spite of my shoving crap on top to add more height.)


The first job was to completely empty the shelves and scrub them clean. Then stand back and gawk at just how much crap came out of such a small space.

Mr. Sugarplum is fussy about covering the air intake vent, hence the cut-out.

Then, to give them a more finished look, as well as add some height, we added crown molding to the top. I simply measured the sides and front, then had Home Depot cut my pieces 1/2-inch longer. They do the cuts for free, and the molding was less than $3. Mr. Sugarplum used a miter box and hand saw to cut the ends so they’d join at the corners. Then we filled in all the gaps with paintable caulking TWSS.

Picnik collage

Of course I only bought a quart of paint (Glidden Dove White, color matched in Behr Paint+Primer semi-gloss), and was assured I wouldn’t need to prime first. But after 4 coats on just the shelves, I opted to prime the base of the cases first, for fear of running out of paint. One coat of primer and two coats of paint later…


The backs of the cases didn’t get painted completely since I was adding fabric (but didn’t want the wood showing through). I fell in love with the fabric when making this tray, and immediately depleted JoAnn’s inventory. I’ve yet to see this particular colorway since. So needless to say, I measured 82 two times before cutting the pieces for each opening.

One at a time, I sprayed directly on the backs of the fabric with spray adhesive (do it outside, it’s stinky, and sticky TWSS), and mounted it to the cases. It takes a few tries to get it even, and smooth out all the wrinkles. Swearing tends to help me.


I am not a straight shooter cutter, so I always line the edges with strips of ribbon. It helps give it a clean, finished look.

Picnik collage

Not a huge difference, but better than seeing jagged edges. I’ve used Fabri-Tac to apply the ribbon in the past (messy), but this time I used a piece of double-sided tape every foot or so instead, and it was quick and easy. Hopefully I don’t wake to a pile of ribbon on the floor soon.


Here they are, minus a few places demanding a touch-up. Why oh why did I wait so long to do this?!? Ridiculous.


I chose a light color paint since I don’t want to bring too much attention to them. And the little piece of crown molding on top was just enough to break up the line of the doors.


Love how they pull the pink from the rug! The bookcases are a little sweet right now, but I have an idea of how to balance that out a bit. Now comes the hard fun part, styling all the shelves! What do you think…big change? Have you been giving a piece of furniture the stink-eye for too long? Paint it, it’s liberating!

Paint Armoire
Paint Brick
Paint/Fabric Bookcases
Re-Style Bookcases
Paint Table Tiles
Paint Hall Chest
Paint/Wallpaper Nook Walls
Paint Backdoor?
Add Nailhead to Wingchair
New Covers for Barrel Chair Cushions
Change Out Lamps
Clean Secretary
Gold Leaf Back of Secretary
More Coordinated Sofa Pillows
Determine Fate of Side Table

Leave a Comment


  1. Love the fabric choice, looks great!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  2. Oh my, that is one long list!

    I love that fabric you chose. Looks great!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  3. Oh, I love it. Would never have thought about the ribbon edging. genius! and hides a multitude of sins. Brilliant! liz

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  4. I LOVE it, especially the moulding at the top. You have inspired me to get my arse into gear and try and transform my skanky old ikea bookcase. xxx

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  5. I have two bookcases to paint and keep putting it off. You've motivated me to git 'er dun. Looks great. Can't wait to see what else you do.

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  6. Ms. Bright wrote:

    projects like this take gobs of patience and a bit of time, but afterwards it's always the same: "Why did I wait so long?!" They look great! I've been putting off adding fabric to my IKEA Billys. I'm inspired to do the dang thing!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  7. Oh wow I just LOVE them! Thanks for the much needed inspiration/ motivation to paint mine!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  8. WOW! What a transformation! It looks great now. Can't wait to see what else you are gonna do.

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  9. Kathysue wrote:

    It really is amazing what a coat of paint will do. It looks great and boy does it lighten and brighten that area of the room. Now you will totally have fun staging your bookcase. Good Job!!! Kathysue

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  10. Amber wrote:

    They look great so far! Can't wait to see them styled. And that IS a yummy couch!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  11. ooh, I love!! what a transformation! Everyone who has given away vookshelves is now wishing they had them back (including myself!)

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  12. BRAVO!!!! The crown molding is genius! I cleaned out my JoAnns on the same fabric (in khaki not pink though!). Twins.

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  13. jandjhome wrote:

    I love the fabric with your rug. I can't wait to see more.

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  14. Lili wrote:

    LOVE the fabric you picked and it does make a world of difference after you painted them! great job!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  15. The bookshelves look awesome! I love your fabric choice 🙂


    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  16. Jamie wrote:

    Love this! I have an end table, that I am itching to makeover… just not sure how to do it.

    It's wood, so i might just stain it all.

    Thanks for sharing!


    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  17. Ruby Girl wrote:

    what a great update! how fun! and bahh ha ha popcorn & milk duds are theee best movie theatre combo. 🙂 <3 rubygirlblog.com

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  18. What a great transformation – love it Cassie!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  19. Looks fantastic! Would you please tell me what glue you recommend usuing for the molding? I've recently tried something similar and have had trouble with adhesion. MANY THANKS!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  20. What a great new look! The molding really finishes them off nicely – great idea. And love the fabric!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  21. those went from drab to fab-u-lous! love them, cassie! i think it helps make the rug stand out even more, in a very good way!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  22. Simply LKJ wrote:

    Cassie, they turned out great! Love that you painted them white and added the fabric. And, it totally pulls the room together. Goes great with the rug!!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  23. What an incredible transformation. I have two boring bookshelves in our study just like this and you've definitely inspired me to do something so much more exiting with them!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  24. Looks GREAT!!! I love how the pink ties in with the rug. Cannot wait to see how you style it!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  25. Gorgeous. I love how the pink ties in with the rug. Can't wait to see it all styled up!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  26. HUGE difference!!! I think you might have just inspired me to get going on doing the itty bitty nightstand that I have been procrastinating for centuries, er I mean, months (c:

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  27. WOW WOW!! SO much better!! I think my mom has those very same bookcases, although hers are still bo-ring! I love how they turned out and I know you will stage them perfectly! When I did a mini-version of this for Hayden's room, i was able to take off the entire backer board and add the fabric all in one piece. I am not a straight cutter either 🙂

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  28. Lo wrote:

    Cassie that looks amazing!!! I think its a perfect starting point for you room! Can't wait to see how it turns out!!! Your blog is one of my faves btw ; )

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  29. Sarah wrote:

    Haha I love your to-do list at the end. I hear ya on that!

    The shelves look fantastic – great work!!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  30. TN wrote:

    looks awesome! did you have to sand the shelves at all or just started with the primer?

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  31. Total fabulousity!!! And as always, I completely admire the number of twss references you come up with in your posts!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  32. A fabulous re-do. I like that it is leaning toward the feminine side for now- can't wait to see how you end up balancing that out!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  33. They look amazing ! I have that exact project on my list too.

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  34. LOVE it! The idea with the ribbon is genius!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  35. I swear EVERY time fabric is involved. I think fabric brings it our of almost everyone! And I love the ribbon to hid the wonky edges – great tip! The bookshelves look amazing!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  36. Hooray for pretty shelves that now belong in the pretty girl's house 🙂

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  37. You guys are blowing me away with your response!!

    Kelly — we used good old-fashioned wood glue. The key was weighing it down (hence the books) and leaving it alone until it fully sets.

    TN — I did not sand, but they didn't have much of a finish on them. I just made sure to clean them of *most* the grime. The only time I sand is when the piece has a glossy surface. But that's bc I'm lazy!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  38. The bookcases look really sweet. I love the fabric and how it pulls from the rug! I hope you chooses some big and funky accessories to go on them…

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  39. Kelli wrote:

    Good job, girlfriend, good job – so excited for ya! I just finally painted our wood mantel in the family room and I'm like, what took me so long?? It's awesome! Can't wait to see the rest of the list get done 😀

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  40. Kelly wrote:

    Looks great:)

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  41. Delaney wrote:

    They look super adorbs!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  42. Christina wrote:

    I LOVE it!

    Posted 7.27.11 Reply
  43. Girl, I LOVE this! And you're right- totally pulls out the pink from the rug! And your sofa is yummy:)

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  44. Love the color of the fabric! So great with your rug!

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  45. Dani wrote:

    The bookshelves look great! I love the idea of using fabric in the back.

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  46. What a transformation! Who knew those bookcases could become so chic! Well done.

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  47. SO much better! And I love the fabric you chose 🙂

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  48. I just love your sense of style. Great post. Thx for inspiring!!

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  49. Repurpose wrote:

    Beautiful. I didn't think they looked bad before but the wallpaper makes a cool accent. I've seen this done before with old dresser drawers, stacked to make a bookshelf with paper or color backings. Keep the pictures coming.

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  50. What a great makeover! I'm itching to paint/fabric the backs of some bookcases (I just need to buy some first :))

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  51. Megan wrote:

    I've been wanting to do fabric backs for the shelving in my closet for a while. I'm going to do it – you've encouraged me!

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  52. Amanda wrote:

    yay!!! LOVE the new look! Great job girl!

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  53. The fabric looks stunning! and they look lovely painted white x

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  54. Shanna wrote:

    OMG! So super cute! I can't wait to see them all styled!

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  55. SERIOUSLY Amazing!!! I love it!!

    Emily Hewett
    A Well Dressed Home

    Posted 7.28.11 Reply
  56. I just finished painting my brown wooden shelves white. I blogged about it last week. I am in LOVE with the new look! Yours is great. I know what you mean, why did we wait so long!? LOVE your fabric!!

    Posted 7.29.11 Reply
  57. emily wrote:

    Those look fabulous! Can't wait to see them all styled up! And I love the TWSS references (of course).

    Posted 7.29.11 Reply
  58. Lisa wrote:

    omg, they look fantastic. I have two billy bookshelves that have different color backs and I've been procrastinating on getting them to match…this is inspiring!

    Posted 7.31.11 Reply
  59. Kristen wrote:

    My husband brought those same bookshelves into our home when we got married…and I've hated them ever since. I know I should paint them, but I always end up finding an easier project to procrastinate with. Thanks for showing me how awesome they'll look when I finally put on my big girl panties and get out the paint brush!


    Posted 8.1.11 Reply
  60. thanks for sharing..
    Photoshoot Makeover at affordable price..
    Photoshoot Makeover

    Posted 8.4.11 Reply
  61. stacy wrote:
    Posted 9.20.11 Reply
  62. stacy wrote:
    Posted 9.20.11 Reply
  63. paul wrote:
    Posted 9.30.11 Reply
  64. Nice job on your bookshelves – they look fabulous!! I've got this linked to my post today on bookshelves too, for inspiration.

    Posted 1.30.12 Reply
  65. Yes ma'am. I'm a big fan. Big!

    Posted 2.19.12 Reply
  66. This is wonderful. I have a few bookcases that could use this treatment. I'm always wondering about scrap book paper or a really nice gift wrap, but I never really thought about using fabric! Thanks for sharing, have a fabulous day! Ps I'm your newest follower!

    Posted 6.15.12 Reply
  67. Lara Ann wrote:

    you are so funny – the way you describe how you did it! love seeing these projects, and I do the same thing – pile stuff on a shelf over and over… haha! lining up some projects now!

    Posted 7.15.12 Reply
  68. becki wrote:

    I love the way you write.

    Posted 1.4.13 Reply