The 15 Coolest Bookshelf Makeovers We’ve Ever Seen

published Dec 7, 2021
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Credit: Randi Froug

Beyond their obvious main purpose, books can be a terrific decorating tool, only made better by great shelving. Below, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best bookcase makeovers we’ve seen on Apartment Therapy, from painted Facebook Marketplace finds to newly-crafted built-ins and more. Scroll through these bookshelf refreshes and get inspired to upgrade your reading nook. 

Credit: Hana Sethi
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1. A Free Facebook Marketplace Shelf Became a Stylish Centerpiece

When Hana Sethi hit a snag while upgrading this Facebook Marketplace shelf for her dad, it could have spelled trouble for the project. But the geometric accents made of scrap plywood — which she added to conceal crooked doors — ended up pulling the entire piece together. 

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2. Stylish DIY Bookshelves Made This Living Room Extra Dreamy

Jessica Nickerson turned her catchall living space into an earthy-colored, welcoming reading area by adding a coat of green paint, tearing out the beige carpet, and DIYing a set of floating, wall-mounted bookshelves. The thick wood slabs add a warm contrast to the green walls. 

Credit: Leila Qari
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3. This Living Room Addition Is a Bookworm’s Dream

Looking to add some character and entertaining space to her small living room, Leila Qari hired a local craftsman to create built-ins around her large window, complete with a window seat. The shelves allow her to display books and souvenirs, and the seat offers a cozy reading spot or extra seating for guests. 

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4. A Blah Bookshelf Got a Big Dose of Happy

To dress up drab built-ins, Nicole chose slate blue paint for the shelves and brought in a carpenter to build two drawers for file storage. “We also added gold hardware and I gotta say, the bookcase is now the star of this room,” she told Apartment Therapy. 

5. A Bland Bookshelf Nabbed a Colorful New Look

Removable wallpaper, navy and turquoise paint, and a pair of hairpin legs saved Anam’s wobbly, paint-splattered piece from getting tossed. “I could have just given it away for recycling, but I thought to myself that I should give it a makeover and a second chance,” Anam told AT. “And I am glad I did!”

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6. These Built-in Bookshelves Got a DIY Hack and Style Upgrade

At first, Ashley Poskin just wanted to alter the spacing between the shelves of her her fireside built-ins. “But… then I got to thinking and scheming and ended up on Pinterest and started obsessing over this one particular bookshelf that Emily Henderson styled and I was a goner,” she wrote on AT. With the help of a friend, Poskin devised a version of the shelf’s diagonal inserts

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7. These Bookshelves Received a Thrifty and Whimsical Makeover

Sahana nabbed this pair of once-basic white bookshelves for $20 and decided to dress them up with some paint, contact paper, and fabric to store her craft supplies. “I added some curtains to protect my supplies from dust and sunlight!” she said. 

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8. A Bold Living Room Bookshelf Transformation Cost Less than $100

Karie Frost loved the wall of built-in bookshelves in her mid-century modern home, but its white paint job that showed off the wood’s wear and tear? Not so much. Painting the shelves a semi-gloss white and the backing a bold, matte blue added a punch of color and quirk to the space. 

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9. Bland Bookshelves Became a Crisp Credenza

When Maggie saw this $10 pair of bookcases at a garage sale, she realized they were perfectly credenza-sized when placed side by side. “Knowing these guys would help me save time and money, with the easy addition of paint, trim, and tapered legs, I created a mid-century credenza for a fraction of the price,” she told AT.  “In the end the entire project cost me under $40 and only a minimal amount of work, mostly in the painting.” 

10. This Was a Billy Bookshelf Revolution

Two awkward nooks became the star of the show in this room when Jenny smartly popped IKEA Billy bookcases into them. She then built a wood base to make the shelves look more substantial, added molding to fill in the gaps between the bookcases and the wall, and painted it black to add some contrast. 

Credit: Randi Froug
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11. These Basic Brown Bookcases Got a “Harry Potter”-Style Makeover

Randi Froug and her daughter, Mira, wanted to add storage to Mira’s room with a “Harry Potter vibe” in mind. Randi spotted these laminate shelves for $125 on Facebook Marketplace and got creative — including making an intricate sun and moon pattern on the back with gold paint and a stencil. With materials, the set’s bewitching makeover only cost $235 total.

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12. A Thrifted Bookcase Got a *Third* Life with a Colorful $90 Redo

After eight solid years of use, Ashley Chesser and her husband, Peter, revitalized this thrifted bookshelf with teal paint, a set of doors, and a scallop pattern, which Ashley hand-painted on the backing. “Hand painting wallpaper can save you some money if you are considering buying wallpaper for a project,” she told AT. The trick kept the entire refresh to just $90 for the paint, hardware, hinges, and wood. 

13. This IKEA Bookcase Went on an Epic Epoxy Adventure

While looking to spruce up his classic IKEA KALLAX, Nick told AT he knew he wanted the front of the piece to have the look of super high-gloss black lacquer. Achieving this, however, turned out to be the longest part of the bookcase’s transformation. After multiple trips to Home Depot and experimenting with various materials, self-leveling epoxy proved to be the winning method. 

Credit: Erica Ashe
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14. These IKEA Shelves Look Like Custom Built-Ins (for a Fraction of the Cost)

After finding out that adding custom built-ins to their TV room would run Erica and Chris Ashe an estimated $8,000, the couple instead rolled up their sleeves and got to work. With the help of some IKEA bookcases, white paint, and leather pulls from Etsy, the couple was able to pull off the project for just 10 percent of the estimated custom cost. 

15. These Bookcases Were Lightened Up for a Kid’s Room

In order to give a pair of tall Goodwill bookcases some personality for her son’s room, Soffia took them from a rich brown to a semi-gloss white, and had a local company print a wall decal of a world map for the back. “It was a fun little project that really…came out better [than] I hoped,” she told AT. 

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The 15 Best Bookshelf Makeovers We’ve Ever Seen