Book Shelf Makeover: From sad to fab!

I never met a bookshelf I didn’t like.  If it’s well constructed, the aesthetics really don’t matter.  I can fix ugly.  A while ago I came across a nice size book shelf sitting alone in the twilight awaiting it’s demise.  I could not in good conscience leave it there.  I brought it home and tucked it away in the garage knowing I would eventually find a new purpose for it.

I have been on a cleaning/organization binge for about 9 months.  Recently, it has become a sort of wild eyed, hair frazzled, insane attempt to minimize, minimize, minimize.  I often think back to the days of single life when I barely had furniture to fill up a tiny apartment.  How I longed for pretty, custom pieces that fit my style and walls full of shelves, books, and art.  Dear Lord!  That doesn’t seem like that long ago and at the rate I collect, it’s a wonder you haven’t seen me on hoarders.  I seriously can not pass up a lonely chair or bookshelf waiting for the trash truck to smash them to bits.  Nope.  They must come and live with me if only long enough for me to give them new life.  My husband would have probably had an intervention long ago if I didn’t have a personal mission to help others through the beautiful act of donating.  This inspires him and so he lets me do my thing even if it means the garage is a complete mess for months at a time.

And here we are with a nice little blond colored laminate bookshelf that never did anything to anyone.  I would have donated it months ago, but something held me back with this piece despite that it was laminate and not my favorite medium to work with.  The shoe situation in our house is out of control.  I have three little people and one big person who leaves their shoes all over the house.  The shelf would serve it’s destiny to house all the stray pairs of shoes, tucked away nicely in a dark corner by the laundry room.

I tried it out for a few weeks to make sure I liked the situation and wouldn’t change my mind as I often do when I get the “cleaning bug” as my grandmother calls it.  It would be ideal if my one-year-old didn’t have an obsession with pulling them all down so he can try them on, but still worth it to have a way to quickly toss the shoes left at the door to get them out of the way. 

Here are the goodies I used to transform the free sad little blond shelf.

  • Bulls Eye 123 PRIMER FOR ALL SURFACES (I’m not screaming at you, it’s in all caps on the can) $9
  • Valspar ULTRA Paint and Primer.  Not sure the color.  It was a full OOPS can at Lowes and was perfect.  It’s a sort of a creamy khaki color. $5
  • MINWAX Wood Finish in Dark Walnut.  This is my go to stain for everything.  Everything. $9
  • Annie Sloan SOFT WAX in clear. $25
  • Gorgeous wrapping paper from Walmart $4
  • 4 foam brushes (one for primer, one for paint, one for stain and another for Mod Podge)
  • 2 rags (one to wipe off stain and another to wipe on wax)
  • super fine grit sand paper
  • Mod Podge (I used glossy because it’s what I have on hand)

So I didn’t go out and buy all these products for this project.  The only thing I purposely went and purchased for this project was the Bulls Eye (something I will use again and again) and the wrapping paper (which let’s be honest, I will so use this again).  The other products I just so happen to have in my stash because I am always transforming furniture to suit my needs.  


Before the fun started with painting, I popped off the back.  This is easier said than done.  I ended up leaving all the original finishing nails in the back and just adding my own at the end when reattaching.  If you attempt this, be careful not to rip it.  It’s essentially a giant piece of cardboard. 

Step 2: PRIME IT
I started with  Bulls Eye 123 PRIMER FOR ALL SURFACES.  I applied three coats with a sponge brush since it’s laminate and wanted the paint to stick nicely.

Step 3: PAINT IT
Once the primer was fully dried (I primed it as dusk and left it alone until the following afternoon) I used the Valspar ULTRA Paint and Primer.  Using a sponge brush, I gave the piece two good coats (letting the first coat dry completely before even attempting a second one). 

*I do not have picture of anything else until the final product.  I painted outside and became so soaked all I could do was run for the shower instead of my camera.  Honestly, this was my first attempt to paint with the Bulls Eye Primer on this type of surface.  I wasn’t exactly sure how it would turn out and thought I’d botch the attempt at some point, so why document.

Then, once the paint was dry I do what I love most.  Aging it (the piece, not me).  Using the stain, I brushed on where I wanted it and wiped it away.  I got a little more carried away with this step than usual.  Once the whole thing was “antiqued”, I immediately got the sandpaper out and started lightly sanding the too dark and too streaky bits of stain.  I did not let the stain dry completely for this step.  If you attempt this, be careful as not to remove all the paint and primer down to the veneer.

Step 5: WAX IT
After the stain was totally dry, I wiped on a thin coat of Annie Sloan’s clear wax to give it a nice seal and finish.  I don’t always use wax as a finish, but wanted to for this piece.  I also like to use Minwax Polyurethane to finish pieces off that get lots of wear and tear for a more durable finish.

Step 6: COVER IT
While the shelf was drying, I tackled the back piece.  I laid it on the kitchen table and cover it entirely in Mod Podge with a sponge brush.  Then, ever so carefully, I lowered the wrapping paper and tried to keep it taught to keep it as smooth as possible.  The trouble with using wrapping paper for this type of project is that it is super thin.  You will most definitely get bubbles and will have to work them out gently or you will rip the wet paper.  If you are patient (no) and determined (yes) you will have success.  I ended up with a couple of spots that were crinkled, but you really and truly can not tell.  Plus, I aged it with stain in the end anyway, so the hiccups just added to the charm.  To age, sponge on stain to desired areas and immediately wipe away.  Repeat as desired.

And here it is.  The free sad blond shelf turned cutest little shoe shelf ever.

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