bookshelves reno

Sometimes you just have to work with what you have. A lesson I’ve learned over and over with our house.

As you may know our house was not pretty when we bought it. It was in okay shape – the bones were good, but it really needed a massive overhaul cosmetically, on top of things like the roof, the appliances, all the floors, and other odds and ends that you never want to spend money on.

The bookshelves in the living room were one of the first cosmetic projects that we took on. They were in ROUGH shape when we first moved in. They needed a lot of love and I wasn’t sure if they were worth saving. But Andrew convinced me that we should try to love them first before we tear them out. That slightly broke my father-in-law’s heart who came over with a sledge hammer and crow bar one morning hoping to do a little demo work.


Instead, we took off the doors that were pretty beaten up and painted the room and built-ins all the same color. A fresh coat of white paint did wonders (even on the wood paneling walls) and we bought a bunch of baskets to line the lower shelves and made them useable for a good nine years.

It wasn’t until recently that I decided we should do a little more work on them. As much as I liked the baskets, we weren’t using the space as well as we could and if there is one thing that we lack in this house, it’s storage. I’m convinced storage was NOT needed in the 1950’s.

Thankfully, we met someone over our years of working on our house that could easily make us some doors for the lower half. I decided that we should have him bring the shelves up to the ceiling, too. I knew that would make the entire room feel larger (much like the curtains to ceiling effect). Our carpenter also pointed out to us that we would need new drawer fronts as well since the doors would be thicker than the old fronts and he knew that would drive me crazy. (Below are the in progress photos that he sent me. Always find a contractor that will send you photos.)


Eight doors, three drawer fronts and two days of work on the upper parts of the bookshelves later and he was done. And that’s where we picked up the project. We had to take ALL the books off the shelves (757 of them if you followed our stories a couple of weekends ago) and get to work painting.

We kept the same color as before (Benjamin Moore Decorators White), but decided to change the finish and went for a semi-gloss on the shelves hoping it would show less scratches and markings.

And we took down the plantation shutter. We replaced it with a roman shade from Select Blinds. We chose the Simply White fabric from their ‘Classic’ line.

It only took a Saturday and we were done. AND THEY LOOK SO MUCH BETTER. Like they were always a part of the house and they were meant to be in the space. We love them and it was worth every penny we spent on them.

As for the hardware. I went to my favorite, Rejuvenation, and bought these knobs and these drawer pulls. The chair is a vintage schoolhouse chair that we bought from a local university for $20. And as a fun side note, it took me FOUR hours to put all the books back on the shelves – 757 books is NO JOKE!

See all the sources for our family room here.


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