Before & After: A Basic Bookshelf Gets a Smart, Cheap Upgrade

published Sep 24, 2021
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A childhood friend of mine, Dan, and his family recently purchased an absolute time capsule of a home here in the Midwest that sat empty for 20 years. While the property has been well maintained, it needed some updates. Most of the interior was covered in wood paneling, a feature the family really loved, but they decided to paint a few rooms to brighten things up. Since the kids’ playroom doesn’t get much natural light, that space seemed like the perfect place to start.

Chelsi, Dan’s wife, found some really cute train cases to inspire the color palette in the room. Most of the walls got a coat of bright white paint, and the family painted an accent wall in a pretty green shade (326-4db), along with the trim and bookcase. It looked nice and fresh, but it was missing a playful element, so I suggested a peel and stick wallpaper with a fun pattern. Dan and Chelsi wanted something the kids would like, so they chose the blue “Dinosaurs” print from Chasing Paper. The light blue dinosaurs were just the right size for the bookcase and added an extra element of silliness to the room.

How we did it

The wallpaper was extremely easy to hang and took very little prep time. 

Must-have tools for the project include:

To hang the wallpaper, we measured the interior of the bookcase and cut the first sheet, adding an extra 4” for an overlap at the top and bottom so we could trim it and get a clean line with the utility knife. I laid the first cut on the table, lined up the pattern and cut the second sheet and set it to the side. I hung the first sheet in the top left corner and used a level to be sure it was hanging perfectly straight, then worked my way down, pushing the backing paper off and smoothing with a squeegee from the center out as I went. Once the first sheet was up, I trimmed the excess off the second sheet (again, allowing a few inches extra so I could later trim down the right side of the bookcase and get a really clean line!) and hung the paper. The second sheet took a bit longer to hang, but it was still surprisingly easy! The best thing about peel and stick paper is that you can lift it and reposition it until it’s perfect.

If there’s one place in your home to be extra silly, a kids playroom is it! We figured since we were hanging dinosaur wallpaper, we should probably have dino drawer pulls as well — so we gathered up the kids and had them DIY some dino drawer pulls! Goodwill came through with perfectly sized dinosaur figurines (they were approximately 2” x 3”). Chelsi chose a red clay paint color from the original train cases that inspired the colors of the playroom.

She set the kids up outside with paint and brushes, and they painted all the dinosaurs the same color, giving them a cohesive look. Once the dinos were dry (and sprayed with a clear acrylic coat for extra protection!), we drilled small holes in the back of each and used the existing drawer pull screws to hold them in place. If you don’t have screws you can reuse, just pick up some hanger bolts, washers, and nuts at the hardware store. Dip the end of the bolt in some very strong glue (E6000 is great), and then screw that end of the bolt into the dinosaur. Once the glue sets, you can place the drawer pull, then screw on the washer and nut on the inside of the drawer. That’s all there is to it!

The bookshelves are definitely a focal point. They’re kid-friendly and brighten up the room in a major way. The room is still a work in progress, but it’s quickly becoming a place the kids can feel comfortable in while work is going on in the rest of the house. Follow along with the family and see the amazing transformation at ThisOldHolidayHouse.