24 DIY Bookcase Makeovers

Small black bookcase updated with blue and orange wallpaper in back next to houseplants and books

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

If that bookcase you found at the flea market looks like it needs rehab, you can probably give it some TLC and breathe new life into that hunk of junk. What you need is new bookshelf ideas, not new bookshelves.

Here are 24 DIY bookcase makeovers that can take an old shelf and give it a renewed purpose.


Transform a Boring Bookcase with Just Two Items

  • 01 of 24

    Add Legs or Feet

    Short bookcase with legs repurposed as a nightstand with books and toys next to a bed.
    Impressions by Jani for Make It & Love It

    The tapered legs with metal tips give this bookcase a midcentury modern look. Use bun feet instead if you prefer cottage style. Or, opt for chunky square feet for a contemporary or transitional feel.

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  • 02 of 24

    Update a Bookcase With Paint

    Thrift store bookcase updated with DIY chalk paint adorned with knickknacks.
    Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer

    This thrift store bookcase was dark and dated when Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer's Christy spotted it. She took it home and gave it a coastal-inspired makeover with paint. She started with a beachy blue enamel and then used her own recipe to turn it into chalk-finish paint.

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  • 03 of 24

    Dress It up With an Applique

    Bookshelf makeover with a custom valance and applique.
    Rustique Restoration

    Before painting or staining, make a plain bookshelf prettier by attaching a decorative applique. The finished look resembles carving. For this dreamy makeover, Jen from Rustique Restoration cut a custom wood valance to back her appliqué. After attaching both, she finished the bookcase in a distressed creamy white. To add raised decoration to a larger surface, such as the bookcase sides, opt for furniture overlays instead.

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  • 04 of 24

    Paint the Shelves a Contrasting Color

    DIY bookcase makeover with contrasting painted shelves and books lining those shelves.
    Chicken Scratch NY

    No rule says you can only use one color on a painted bookcase. Chicken Scratch NY's Alecia opted for a barn-red bookcase with mustard yellow shelves. The result is vibrant and cheerful—and the burlap back adds a rustic touch.

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  • 05 of 24

    Paint the Bookcase Back Wall

    White bookcase with a painted blue-green back
    Crafts by Courtney

    Painting the back wall of your bookshelf draws attention to the objects inside. It's also a smart way to incorporate a color that's too bright or bold to use on the entire piece. Crafts by Courtney showcased a striking makeover featuring colorful bookcase back walls. Courtney replaced the original backs with beadboard and painted them a minty blue-green.

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  • 06 of 24

    Paint the Back With a Pattern

    Sponge painted cheetah spots on the back wall of a bookcase.
    Centsational Girl

    You're not limited to a solid color when you paint the back walls of a bookshelf. Just ask Centsational Girl's Kate, who sponge painted a pattern onto hers. Though the design looks like cheetah spots, she executed it in a crisp blue on white.

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  • 07 of 24

    Stencil the Bookcase Back

    Bookcase with herringbone design stenciled onto the back wall
    Lolly Jane with Kelli Mullins and Kristi Jansen

    You don't need a steady hand to paint a pattern on the back of your bookshelf. Stencil it instead. Lolly Jane's Kelli stenciled a stunning herringbone design onto the back wall of her craft room bookshelves. Vintage suitcases, old crates, and handmade bunting complete the look.

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  • 08 of 24

    Wallpaper the Bookshelf Back

    Green painted IKEA bookcase with wallpapered back
    Erin Spain

    With its new top, base molding, and intense green paint, you'd never know this bookcase by Erin Spain started as an IKEA Billy bookshelf. However, it's the wallpapered back that makes the piece special. Erin chose a scenic wallpaper with an unusually large repeat (the repeat is the pattern's scale) that spans the entire back. Though less dramatic, small- and medium-scale patterns also look good. Since the back panel of a single bookcase is relatively small, it's a fantastic place to use vintage wallpaper scraps.

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  • 09 of 24

    Cover the Back With Patterned Fabric

    White DIY bookcase makeover with a patterned fabric back
    My Third True Love

    If you not have any wallpaper on hand and don't want to invest in an entire roll, no problem. Cover the back wall of the bookcase with patterned fabric. My Third True Love's Ali (now the creative force behind pop-up shop The Garage Collective) spotted this small bookcase at a flea market. She painted it white and added a fun floral fabric to the back. It went from Early American yuck to cottage charmer.

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  • 10 of 24

    Add Texture to the Back

    DIY bookshelf makeover with a burplap-covered back
    Driven by Decor

    A fabric-backed bookcase doesn't have to be busy. You can also use fabric to add texture. Driven by Decor's Kris used upholstery tacks to attach the burlap to the backs of her living room bookcases. The effect is casually elegant. For a similar textured look, you can also use grasscloth wallpaper.

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  • 11 of 24

    Lighten the Interior With White

    Chalk paint bookcase makeover with a white interior.
    Jennifer Zuri, contributor to Jennifer Rizzo Design Company

    As lovely as chalkboard paint looks on furniture makeovers, its matte finish doesn't reflect light. That means the shadowy interiors of bookshelves seem even darker if you paint them with a medium or deep shade. On this charming blue-gray bookcase makeover, Jennifer Zuri for Jennifer Rizzo Design Company solved the problem by painting the interior in a soft white. Both books and accessories show up beautifully.

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  • 12 of 24

    Replace the Back of the Bookcase

    DIY bookcase back made from repurposed fence pickets and a vase of white flowers on top.
    Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer

    Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer's Christy completely replaced the dull back of this thrift store bookshelf. She repurposed fence pickets, a free curbside find, for the new back. After sawing the pickets to size and color washing them, she installed them horizontally for a shiplap-like effect. If you don't have any fence pickets on hand, get a similar look using pallet planks or horizontally installed beadboard.

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  • 13 of 24

    Add Molding to Make It Look More Expensive

    IKEA Billy bookcase makeover with base and crown molding.
    Centsational Girl

    Fine furniture is usually finished with as much trim and molding as the style allows. Thus, you can make a cheap bookcase look more expensive by adding molding—even if it starts as an everyday laminate piece. Kate from Centsational Girl made a pair of IKEA Billy bookcases unrecognizable by installing base and crown molding. She also added a lattice trim to make the sides and shelf fronts appear thicker.

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  • 14 of 24

    Age the Finish for an Antique Effect

    Painted and stenciled bookcase sanded for an antique look.
    Polka Dot Chair

    If an antique bookcase isn't in the budget, you can age the finish a newer piece for an antique or vintage look. Before repurposing this wooden bookcase for kitchen display, Melissa from Polka Dot Chair painted it white and stenciled the back with a design. Then, she sanded both ends for a distressed vintage effect.

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  • 15 of 24

    Turn the Sides Into Chalkboards

    Kid's bookcase makeover with chalkboard sides.
    Kelly Leigh Creates

    Kelly of Kelly Leigh Creates updated this flea market bookcase for use in her son's room; she didn't just do a cosmetic makeover. She also gave him a space to create by spraying the side with chalkboard paint. A bookcase with chalkboard sides could also come in handy in a kitchen or craft room.

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  • 16 of 24

    Replace the Top With Planks

    Laminate bookcase makeover with a new planked top and wood trim
    Simply Beautiful by Angela

    Simply Beautiful by Angela showcased a bookcase transformed with a thick new top made of planks. Angela also beefed up the overall look with real wood trim on the front and sides. You'd never know this sturdy beauty started as a flimsy laminate piece.

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  • 17 of 24

    Build a Custom Storage Top

    Old schooldhouse bookshelf with a new lift-up storage top.
    Thrift Diving

    In this remarkable makeover, Serena from Thrift Diving updated an old schoolroom bookcase for her sons' playroom. However, she did far more than just paint. She also added a custom storage space for Legos with a handy lift-up top.

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  • 18 of 24

    Attach Wheels to the Base

    Red IKEA bookshelf makeover with wheels and a new top.
    Redoux Interiors

    Before painting this bookcase in a cheery cherry red, Karen from Redoux Interiors built a new top, added base trim, and installed a set of casters. Casters are furniture wheels. They add visual interest and make it easy to move the bookcase from place to place.

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  • 19 of 24

    Add Doors to Create a Cabinet

    Bookcase makeover with DIY doors
    Simply Designing with Ashley

    At Simply Designing with Ashley, a bare-bones bookcase became an incredible industrial-inspired cabinet with casters and closing doors. To build the doors, Ashley of Simply Designing encased acrylic panels in hand-built wooden frames.

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  • 20 of 24

    Turn a Bookcase Into a Bar Cart

    DIY bar cart made from a basic white bookcase.
    Sugar & Cloth

    In this easy IKEA hack, Sugar & Cloth's Ashley turned a low shelving unit into a DIY bar cart by adding casters to the bottom and handles to the top. If you already have a bar cart, follow Ashley's instructions to transform your bookcase into a coffee station for the kitchen or a craft room cart.

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  • 21 of 24

    Turn a Basic Bookcase Into a Built-In

    IKEA bookcase hack for making a built-in bookcase with bench
    Addicted 2 DIY

    In this bookcase makeover, Katie from Addicted 2 DIY transformed a basic laminate bookshelf into a custom built-in the half wall in her den. She also built and attached a matching bench, which turned this once-boring bookcase into a cozy reading nook.

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  • 22 of 24

    Turn a Bookcase Into a China Hutch

    Bookcase repurposed as a china hutch with a blue background.
    Crafty Nest

    You don't have to use your bookcase just for books. You can always repurpose it for other storage needs in your home. Crafty Nest's Monica turned a plain pine bookshelf into a charming china hutch. She increased the height by building a custom base with legs. A painted beadboard back adds the perfect finishing touch.

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  • 23 of 24

    Repurpose a Chest as a Bookcase

    An old chest repurposed as a bookcase with a slide-out desk.
    The Domestic Heart

    Shelly from The Domestic Heart repurposed a $10 chest of drawers as a bookcase. She also installed a slide-out shelf, so the new bookcase doubles as a desk. She finished the piece with painted stripes inspired by the designs on old grain sacks.

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  • 24 of 24

    Mix Multiple Bookshelf Makeover Ideas

    Bookcase makeover with restained wood and a stenciled back.
    DIY Passion

    You're not limited to a single project for your bookshelf makeover. DIY Passion's Erin and Dan mixed multiple ideas with great success on this thrift store bookcase. They refinished the wood on the exterior to make it lighter, painted the interior, and then stenciled the back wall with a design.