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How to Give New Life to a Bookcase with Paint

This is the story of a bookcase. It’s the story of a poor, ugly bookcase from a thrift shop. It’s a bookcase Cinderella story.  I painted it and I styled it and restyled it for every season and holiday. I thought it was the most beautiful bookcase ever. But a few months ago, I fell out of love with it. The bookcase that I thought I would love forever started looking like last year’s boyfriend. It finally occurred to me that restyling it or buying new accessories for it wasn’t the answer. The bookcase itself needed a whole new look. We know what that means ~ paint. My bookcase didn’t need just a new hairdo. It needed a new cut and color. So let me show you how to give new life to a bookcase with paint.

You know when you know you’ve outgrown your boyfriend and it’s time to move on, but you kind of feel sorry for him (or it’s 2 weeks before prom and you don’t want to be without a date) so you just let the relationship drag on? That’s how I felt about my bookcase.


For the longest time I couldn’t get myself psyched up enough to repaint the bookcase. The first time around it took a few weeks, 4 different colors of paint, a ton of Frog Tape and hours of painting. But in stepped my friend Amy Howard with a new paint sprayer for me to try and suddenly how to give a bookcase a new life with paint seemed doable.

How to Give New Life to a Bookcase with Paint

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The Original Bookcase

So here is the before, how the bookcase looked when I brought it home. (You can also tell by the photograph that this was awhile ago ~ summer of 2015.

vintage bookcase before painting

I used 4 different Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Colors: Paris Grey, Duck Egg Blue, Old White, and Linen. I painted the shelves simply with Duck Egg Blue and washed on a little Old White.The bookcase itself was the hard part. I first painted the whole bookcase in Duck Egg Blue (about this time Sweet Shark actually knew what Duck Egg Blue was and said he hoped this was the last he saw of that paint color.)

sample paint colors


Then I mottled (that’s what I called the process) all 4 colors in varying amounts, using a rag to blot on the color. And here is what I ended up with. And you can see more variations of how I decorated the bookcase.

styled bookcase


So fast forward to my decision to breakup with the old look and give the bookcase a new life with a fresh, clean look. I also hoped that by going simple white, my books and accessories would show up better on the shelves.

Painting the Shelves with the Paint Sprayer ~ Step 1

First I removed all the books, and pictures, accessories, lamp and frame. The living room looked like I was getting ready for a garage sale. You can see how big this bookcase is ~ almost 4 feet wide and 8 feet tall. The wall that it is on is close to 18 feet tall, hence the reason I needed such a tall bookcase.

Painting a Bookcase

I carried all the shelves out to the garage where I had set up my HomeRight Large Spray Shelter. When you have big items to spray paint, this piece of equipment is a must. In the spray shelter, I set up 2 of my hay bales to sit the shelves on. (Here is my first experience with the Large Spray Shelter.)

TOTAL ASIDE: Sweet Shark asked if I was going to paint the hay bales white. No, I said, I left the plastic wrapping on them!

painting bookshelves

Now I unpacked my new Amy Howard at Home Paint Sprayer. It comes with a thoroughly written brochure, explaining how to set it up, attach the parts and prepare the paint.

paint sprayer


I would be using Amy Howard at Home One Step Paint in Bauhaus Buff, the same color that I used for transforming my French doors into my barn door for our laundry room. I love this color; it’s a pure white without yellow or blue or grey undertones, but it’s not stark white.

You do need to dilute your paint by 15 ~ 20 %. I used my scale to dilute by weight, but you can do it by volume. This way seemed the easiest to me. I poured in half of the quart of paint (16 ounces) and added 3.2 ounces (20%) water. If you are diluting by volume, there are 32 tablespoons in 16 ounces, so you would need almost 6 1/2 tablespoons of water. Make sense?

measuring paint


Outside in the garage, I opened both garage doors for as much ventilation as possible. You know how spray paint from a can smells? I’m not sure if it’s from the paint or the aerosol needed to get the paint out of the can. It can be dangerous at worst and a little overpowering at best. Fortunately, Amy Howard One Step Paint has absolutely no smell or VOC to cause problems. And the paint sprayer is airless which is even better.  The paint sprayer is powered by electricity, so you will need an extension cord.

I set the nozzle adjustment to horizontal spray and started slowly going back and forth across the width of the shelf, keeping the sprayer as level as possible. The nice thing about the nozzle is that it can be adjusted if you need to paint vertically. The tube inside the container that feeds the paint in the sprayer can also be adjusted, which I thought was a nifty feature.

spray painting


As I finished painting one side of a shelf I moved it to my table in the garage to dry while I continued with the other shelves. As you can see, I already had a drop cloth on the table from all my fall DIY projects. I set the shelves on 4 cans of sample paint.

painting bookshelves white

By the time I had finished painting the 2nd set of 2 shelves, the first 2 were dry and I switched them out. One Step Paint dries so quickly which made this job go so much faster than painting by hand. It literally took just a few minutes to paint one side of the shelf. And with the sprayer, I got a smooth finish. I gave the 4 shelves a 2nd coat of paint to insure complete coverage.

I can’t tell you exactly how long it took me to paint the shelves. It was really hot that day and so several times I went inside to cool off. I think if I had been able to work straight through, the job would have taken less than an 1 1/2.

Painting the Bookcase ~ Step 2

Here’s where breaking up with this boyfriend of a bookcase got difficult and sort of funny. After the shelves were finished, I asked Sweet Shark to help me carry the bookcase out to the garage. He wasn’t keen on the idea ~ the bookcase is very heavy ~ even though that’s where I painted the bookcase the first time. Then I looked up and saw the brackets we had used to attach the bookcase to the wall for safety. Darn, Sweet Shark really did not want to unscrew the bookcase and move it. So Plan B.


painting bookcase white

I was going to have to paint the bookcase in place. That meant taping off on the floor and wall with Frog Tape.

prepping bookcase for painting


Amy Howard recommends using a synthetic brush with One Step Paint and I had one on hand. I knew that I would take at least 2 coats to cover my French mottled look. The first coat acted almost as a primer. The white brought out some places where there were gaps in the molding, so we (Sweet Shark) used caulk to feel and that was a great improvement.) I also used a couple of smaller brushes to fill in the cut~outs on my wood embellishment at the top of the bookcase. One thing that made this project go faster than the 1st one ~ I didn’t bother to tape around the metal inserts for the shelf brackets. That had been very time consuming and I realized it didn’t matter if they are painted.

painting bookcase white

For the 2nd coat I again followed Amy’s advice and used a low nap synthetic roller. This was a great choice. The 2nd coat went on quickly and smoothly.

painting bookcase white

After the 2 coat dried, I did go back and fill in around the wood embellishment with a couple of small brushes and painted the top of the bookcase since you can see it from our 2nd floor landing.

painting bookcase white

Now the bookcase looked like the new boyfriend I wanted.

painting bookcase


I had already waxed and buffed the shelves and the sides of the bookcase, and now I put the shelves back in the bookcase. I had a little paint left in my tray, so I gave the top one more coat.

painting bookcase


I was done. I didn’t get to use my new painter sprayer on the whole bookcase, but I love how it turned out. I’ve never applied a chalk paint with a roller before, so this was a learning experience that paid off. Using the Amy Howard Paint Sprayer was easy and clean up was a breeze. I can’t wait to use it again.

Did you like how I gave the bookcase a new life with paint? I hope you won’t be afraid to show your old boyfriend to the door and give him a new life. I love my new boyfriend who is shiny new and clean~cut and I’m ready to show him off. Just in time for fall decorating and accessorizing.



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