Most of us have been the recipient of a piece of “hand-me-down” furniture at some point in our lives. I know I have been…NUMEROUS times! It just makes sense. No need to throw away perfectly good furniture, especially when you can make it look BETTER than new! My daughter Britta recently gave this hand-me-down bookcase a whole new (and much-improved) look! The results were so great, I may just have to take it back! ;-)
My parents gave me their old bookcase about a year ago when they did their big living/dining room renovation project (which you can read about here). As a book-lover with no bookcase of my own, I was delighted by the gesture and it immediately took up residence in the living room of our apartment. (Obviously this is not the living room, but I forgot to take a photo of it there!)
Over time, however, it became somewhat of an eyesore for me. Most of our furniture is very dark in color, so the “honey oak”-style bookcase didn’t really match with anything in our home. As you can see, it is was a perfectly good bookcase, so I had no intention of getting rid of it, but I really wanted to do something about the color. So I did some research, tried it out, and now I’m here to show you how you can do it too! :-)
But before we go any further, let’s talk about the difference between laminate furniture (like my bookcase) and solid wood furniture. Solid wood furniture is super heavy and usually quite expensive. Most experts highly recommend staining a piece of solid wood furniture, rather than painting it, to highlight the beautiful natural grain of the wood rather than covering it up! But with laminate furniture, wood colors and textures are mimicked on paper through a printing process, and then the printed paper is covered with a hard plastic coating and glued to a particleboard base. So while laminate furniture may look like it has a wood grain, it’s not actually real, so there’s no reason not to paint it to your heart’s content!
Now back to the bookcase. :-) To paint a piece of laminate furniture, as with any painting project, you’ll need a few supplies, like disposable paint trays, plastic drop cloths, and painter’s tape. For brushes, you’ll want a small roller brush for the large, flat areas (I used a 6″ foam roller), and an angled nylon brush for the trim. And finally, you’ll need the two most important supplies: primer and paint (more on those later).
I started by cleaning everything really well using a combination of microfiber cloths and cleaning wipes, and removing the shelves and hardware. Once everything was clean and dry, it was time to prime.
Based on several recommendations I read online, I chose to use Zinsser Oil-Based Primer. This primer is a great choice because you can use it on anything, and you don’t have to sand it first. That’s right: no sanding AT. ALL. (Since I was doing this project in the dining room of my apartment and wanted to minimize the mess, this was a very attractive option!) I used the foam roller and the angled brush to apply one coat of primer to the bookcase and shelves, and allowed it to dry for an hour or so.
Then it was time to paint! Based on some really positive online reviews, I chose Sherwin Williams ProClassic Acrylic Latex Paint for this project. I got two quarts of Semi-Gloss in two different colors: a warm greyish-beige called Sand Dollar for the outside, and a bold, mint-y green called Julep for the inside. I used my painter’s tape to tape off the front edges, and then I used the foam roller to apply the green to the inside of the bookcase, and to the top and bottoms of the shelves. I did one coat the first night, and then applied a second coat the next morning. Thanks to the awesome primer, that’s all I needed to get complete coverage! So as tempting as it is, don’t skip the primer! :-)
Once the green paint was dry, I removed the tape and started on the exterior. I painted all of the trim on the front of the bookcase using the angled brush, and then used the foam roller to do the sides. The sides needed two coats, and the trim only needed a few touch ups.
I also taped off the top and bottom of the shelves so I could paint the front edges to match the rest of the exterior, and then I let everything dry overnight, just to be safe. At this point you may wish to apply a protective finish to your paint job, but since my bookcase doesn’t get much abuse, I decided it wasn’t necessary.
And that’s all she wrote! I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. And honestly, all the credit goes to the primer and paint. The primer, as crazy sticky and smelly as it was, made the paint stick to the bookcase like I had sanded it for hours. And the paint itself was super smooth, dried quickly, and was easy to clean up when I made mistakes. With a little time and effort, I was able to turn my drab hand-me-down bookcase into a unique piece with a ton of character.