A bookshelf is a great piece of furniture to update. With a little paint and some wallpaper, you can give it a whole new look for just a few dollars! More experienced do-it-yourselfers may also consider adding doors, feet, or casters to their old bookcase.
We have curated here a wide array of bookcases makeover ideas to get you started and tried to systematically provide you with before/after pictures. Also, make sure to check the links: most case studies are providing step-by-step directions and the materials used to reproduce the same look.
Here are our best 15 bookcase makeover technique ideas with over 25 examples.
Table of Contents
1. Choose a bright color
One of the easiest ways to give your old and boring bookcase a brand new look is to paint it a bright color paint. Pick up your favorite color, grab your paintbrush and you’re good to go! Look how this old-fashioned bookcase went through a complete change thanks to this yellow paint.
2. Two-tone makeover
One of my favorite makeovers! It’s stylish and easy to do. All you have to do is pick up two colors, paint the outside of the bookcase using one color and paint the back wall with a different color. Look at the result!
And here is another small bookcase I painted myself before I started blogging (sorry no before nor step-by-step pictures). A combination of pink and white was perfect for my daughter’s former bedroom.
3. Adding Wallpaper
Wallpaper is an easy way to add delicate patterns to your bookcase without the need of being a respected artist. With “peel and stick wallpaper”, this kind of makeover has never been so quick and easy.
You should check out this small bookcase makeover I found on Pinterest. Very inspirational!
I’m also a fan of this classic damask-style wallpaper in “cream on orange” chosen by Erin Spain to redo her old bookshelf.
4. Upgrade a basic bookcase with DIY crown molding
Adding molding to a simple bookshelf makes it look more stylish. Discover how to upgrade your old bookcase with stunning DIY crown molding.
If you’re not convinced yet, check out this elegant black bookcase redo. Crown moldings give it a more expensive look!
5. Add casters for more convenience
Caster wheels make furniture more stylish and functional. They add height and allow the furniture to move freely where it is needed at any time. A modern vibe was added to this basic curbside bookcase just by adding four casters.
Check out the full article on this curbside bookcase repurposed into a farmhouse shelf (step by step).
Another great makeover is this cheap bookshelf makeover by Karen from Redouxinteriors. This basic MDF box became a lovely bookcase on wheels.
We all love stripes because they’re elegant and timeless. Painting stripes on the back wall joint is a great way to update your old bookshelf.
8. Even laminate bookcases can get a fresh new look
Another great makeover by Erin! This white laminate Ikea bookcase was completely transformed using high gloss latex paint and wallpaper.
9. Distress it for a vintage effect
Distressing is the art of making a new piece of furniture appear aged and older. Distressing the paint helps to highlight furniture details. Carvings and moldings are more noticeable when distressed.
This small bookcase was ready for a new life painted in black and distressed.
Do not hesitate to distress heavily your freshly repainted bookcase to give it a vintage and cozy look.
10. Replace the original backing with wood
Most bookcases have plain plywood backing. You can easily replace the original backing with scrap wood. It adds so much character to a basic bookshelf.
11. Wrap it with stained wood
A very original idea from John & Sherry: They literally wrapped the outside of this popular Ikea bookcase with stained wood to add some contrast. Well done!
12. Add legs to make your bookcase taller
Not only legs are a great way to create additional height, but they will also add more character to regular bookcases.
You can add wood-turned feet and trim for a classical look like Jenna did. You must check out this awesome weekend project.
Vintage legs are also a great addition to this old and plain bookshelf!
13. Adding a sliding door
Suzy gave this old cherry bookcase a farmhouse fab makeover by adding a DIY sliding door. She now has a place for display and a place dedicated to storage. All those ugly boxes and home office supplies happily go behind the door! Hard to believe this is the same bookshelf!
14. Transform it into a china cabinet
If you’re looking for a small china cabinet but can’t find one that fit your shoebox-sized living room, building a china cabinet with an old bookshelf may be a good option. Check out how this unfinished and boring pine wood bookshelf was dressed up to be used as a china cabinet:
15. Stencil it
Stencils are great to create unique and original furniture. Don’t be afraid to stencil the back of the bookcase to upgrade it! I’m a huge fan of Melissa’s makeover and I’m pretty sure this stenciled bookcase is the new highlight of her kitchen!
I am so excited to share with you one of my absolute favorite pieces of furniture to repurpose: Old hutch top! People tend to get rid of these, and either set them on the roadside or sell them for cheap. I found this one on Facebook Marketplace for $20.00. Read on to see how I …
Hello, all my fellow Junkers! I wanted to share my curbside bookcase find. Yep, someone actually was tossing it! Can you believe it? Here is the repurposed curbside bookcase makeover. Curbside Bookcase Makeover As you can see, it was blah. A big brown, well square. I turned it upside down and sideways trying to figure out …
While browsing at my local thrift store a couple a weeks ago, I came across this hutch top. It was priced at $14.99, which I thought was a little high. I decided to give it a week or two. And it paid off. The reduced price was $7.50, and of course, I could not pass …