Step-by-step bookcase makeover at

When we moved to The Barn one side of the fireplace was used as a TV alcove and fitted with black CD shelves. As we wanted to install a second log burner and bring the fireplace back into use (I’ll be sharing more about this in a later post) we removed the shelves and I quickly realised we could turn them into a great storage solution for the kid’s rooms.
Old bookcase from fireplace

Original bookcase in need of a makeover!

The first step was to wipe away the dust and sand down the wood to create a surface for painting. Top tip: to make an easy-to-hold sanding pad, just get an old sponge or block of wood and cut the sandpaper to the same length before wrapping it around.

Makeover tools

Preparing your sandpaper

Next to match the themes in the kids’ bedrooms I chose a bright blue and bright pink quick dry satin water-based paint which would be easy to apply and give a semi-matt finish.

Our paint choice for the bookcases

We painted the bookcases on the patio as it was a gorgeous sunny day. The first coat went on really well as you can see below, but we needed a second to completely cover the old black paint and achieve the bright colour I was looking for.
Painting the first blue coat

Painting the first coat

First coat applied to bookcases

If you’re a regular reader here you’ll know we’re passionate about repurposing original elements from The Barn and I’m really pleased with the results of this bookcase makeover. As the shelves were originally for CDs they make quite narrow bookcases which are perfect for smaller books and knick knacks. The blue bookcase fits in perfectly with the blue/lime/grey theme in the Little Man’s room and I brought up the lime beanbag from our playroom makeover so that he can sit and read in comfort.

Blue bookcase in Little Man's room

Blue bookcase

In our daughter’s room the new pink bookcase is the perfect home for her dinosaur family and sits well within the pink/green/sky blue theme we’ve gone with. I’ve topped it with a cute original painting – one of a set of three I found when we were living in China.

Pink bookcase in situ

Do you have any old shelves that you’d like to bring new life to with a bookcase makeover? It really is a simple and effective DIY project that I think anyone could turn their hand to. Want to save this post for later on Pinterest? Here’s a pinnable image just for you x

Step-by-step bookcase makeover pinnable image

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  1. Jenny September 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm Reply

    Upcycling at its best I love it. Love the blue and pink for his and hers. My two need something like this. I love a good diy project. Thank you ever so much for linking up to Share With Me. I hope to see you again soon. I apologize for my late commenting, just catching up on a hectic week. I appreciate all the blog support. Look forward to reading more of your SWM link ups. #sharewithme

  2. mummyofboygirltwins September 8, 2015 at 7:48 pm Reply

    WOW! I adore these! How bright and so much better than the dull, boring whites you see! I have a bookcase to do next and am stealing this! Thanks for sharing, so inspiring, as ever. Jess xx


    • Michelle Reeves (The Essex Barn) September 9, 2015 at 6:39 am Reply

      Thanks Jess! I saw the ombre style chest of drawers on #HomeEtc this week and I’m itching to get going on another project now – it’s addictive isn’t it! Thanks for your kind words x

  3. Fionnuala September 4, 2015 at 4:59 pm Reply

    Ah, just my kind of thing! I love up cycling furniture. Half our house is furnished with salvaged items I have renovated.
    Your shelves turned out really well.#TheList
    Fionnuala from

  4. Studio Kaufmann September 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm Reply

    Michelle you have done such an amazing job. Looks fab! The cow art is totally adorable too! #brilliantblogposts

    • Michelle Reeves (The Essex Barn) September 9, 2015 at 6:41 am Reply

      I love the cow art paintings too – they’re originals we picked up in China when we lived there and they really bring this colour scheme to life I think. Thanks for your lovely comment!

  5. Kirsten Toyne September 3, 2015 at 9:41 am Reply

    This looks great. Would it work in a lighter colour?

    • Michelle Reeves (The Essex Barn) September 4, 2015 at 6:17 am Reply

      Hi Kirsten thanks for your question! Yes I’m sure it would although depending on what colour the bookcase was originally you might need to use a primer. Or you could use a chalk paint like Annie Sloane which is thicker for minimum prep time.

  6. Honest mum August 31, 2015 at 12:22 pm Reply

    Oh Michelle you are so clever and creative (this I knew already) but wow, wow, wow I adore the colours, so vibrant and bright and how cute is your daughter’s dinosaur family, where are they from, I want to buy them for Xander. I love upcycling too and it’s so therapeutic to paint things yourself. Loving your beautiful blog so much x

    • Michelle Reeves (The Essex Barn) September 1, 2015 at 6:58 am Reply

      Thanks Vicki! I love bright colours in the kids rooms and these go perfectly with the colour palettes we’ve chosen. We collected the dinosaurs from a part-work magazine called Dinosaur Friends by Diagostini. You can still buy them on back order I think although I haven’t seen them in the shops for a while. Thanks for your kind comment too darling, means so much x

  7. Elena August 28, 2015 at 9:02 am Reply

    Those bookcases look amazing!

    Really enjoy reading your posts and your pictures are always gorgeous


  8. Kaye August 28, 2015 at 7:33 am Reply

    Gorgeous bookcases, they look amazing! I’m always fearful of trying DIY but the outcome must be so satisfying. #binkylinky

    • Michelle Reeves (The Essex Barn) September 1, 2015 at 6:55 am Reply

      Hi Kaye! This was a really easy DIY that only took a couple of days including drying time. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go! (P.S. if you use chalk paint like Annie Sloan then you don’t even need to do the preparation…) x

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