Updating a Book Shelf


I wonder, do you have one of these book cases? or one very like it? Wanna give it a face lift? For $20.00 to $60.00? It’s easy…. come check out updating a book shelf.

I had two of these babies. These cheap bookcases, are like the stepping stones to furnishing your house, it is almost a requirement that you own one at some point in your lifetime. I guarantee that most of you have one, more than one or have had one in the past… Am I right? …well, maybe you are just cooler than me.

Moving on, for those of you that do have one, I have an idea for you. Actually, I have been working on this one off and on for about a month as part of my craft room makeover. Technically they weren’t in the original plans. But, when I banished the exercise equipment from my craft room (see now I don’t feel guilt about sitting on my rump crafting all day!!) I had all this extra room.

I decided to find all craft like objects and corral them into one room. … is it okay to admit I am a bit of a “stuff to craft with” hoarder? And I had these thing in every spare closet… NO more!

Anyway, I had two of these book cases from my last house. Since moving here they had taken up residence in two closets. The other day (Christmas Eve to be exact) I thought it would be fun to have my sewing desk flanked by two book cases, but I am sorry to say, they looked ugly. That and showed too much of my junk.

Hence my makeover, so for your DIY pleasure. Now you too can make that 25.00 bookcase into a thing of beauty! I am not fully done, but when I reveal the full craft room, you’ll see it all decked out.

What you need
Hand saw and miter box, or miter saw
4 pieces 6′ foot long 1″ x 2″ mdf or pine plain square boards
wood glue
finishing nails and a hammer
L bracket (to secure bookcase to wall)

(optional stuff)
4 wooden legs and screw plates
Piece of mdf same size as whole base of bottom of shelf unit
A piece of 1/2″ 4′ x 8′ mdf board, cut to width and length at the lumber store (I know H.Depot does this)
Small, most inexpensive baseboard approx 10′ linear feet per door, 20′ total!!
4 hinges
Top- (either)
Crown molding enough to wrap front and sides (optional)
or a piece of the 1/2″ MDF (from doors) in the dimensions of the shelving unit plus 2 inches in length and 1 in width
Decorative paper for back

You could go more expensive on the wood, but it really wouldn’t prove anything. The book case was only 25.00 after all, and you might as well save the money for something funner! (cause that’s a word!)

This sounds a little complicated to begin with, but I promise it is not. I will show you our little scrap book of creating it, then I will show you the breakdown.

The bookshelves and all their junky glory- (there is a blanket in there that I have been crocheting for about 3 years…)


Now start collecting supplies:
If you choose to make doors, you can have them cut at the H.D.


Here are your 1 x 2’s (which actually measure 1 1/2″ x 1/2″ don’t ask me why)
Cut them to the lengths explained in worksheet (below).


If you would like to add legs, you will need a base piece that is the same measurements of the whole bottom of the bookcase. This way the weight of the book case won’t be concentrated on just the bottom shelf, it will distribute to the sides as well.


You can purchase little legs and screw plates that are easy to install.

Cut the face frame pieces to their proper length according to you bookshelf dimensions. Begin to glue the pieces together at the corners. We clamped our because we own the large clamps, you can just hold them together for a few minutes and then let the wood glue dry for at least 30 minutes minimum. I added the arrows to show you what seams you glue, at each rail.

Now add your moldings to the mdf door.
Using your miter saw to fit it exact. (or as close as you can get)


By the way… I built the doors! I have proof. Dang hot!
We screwed the bookshelf onto the base platform through the bottom shelf (It won’t show with doors).
Then nailed the face frame to the front of the shelves.
Now patch holes and caulk all large cracks, then paint.
Hang the doors. We found it was easiest to lay them on their back to hang the doors.


You need to attach the bookshelf to the wall with an “L” bracket
to keep it from tipping over on you or any climbing children!!
They usually come with the bookshelf when you buy it.
But if you don’t have it you can buy a new one.
The doors make this a little heavy in the front so you cannot skip this step.


I decided to add some color to the back. I am not going to keep this particular paper.
I wanted to try it out til I can buy something else. It just feels a little juvenile, what do you think?


P.S. I didn’t waste my time painting the inside of the shelves that are behind the doors,
since they have a laminate finish that looks just fine and is in good shape.
Here it is basically finished.
The final image will be revealed someday when I clean out and organize the craft room all the way!

Feel free to save the instruction for your own personal projects, but you may not reproduce them without my permission. If you would like to link to this project, please contact me! Thanks… We worked hard on this!


1st – Measure your book shelf.
My book shelf is 5′ tall x 3′ wide x 1′ deep. Just to give you an idea.


2nd – Cut all wood to proper size
According to your shelf’s dimensions!!


3rd Glue Face Frame together, assemble doors.
4th Install legs to base piece,
and bookcase to base platform.
5th Nail Face Frame to Bookcase,
Patch, caulk and paint all pieces.
6th Hang doors to face frame
7th Secure Book Case to wall.
Add any decorative touches you please!


Here is a little animation of how it all goes together. Thanks Honey!


Let me know if this was a useful idea?
Do you have any questions?
Please email me or drop me a comment!
Website | + posts

Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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  1. >Nice job. I have three, yes three, of those shelves in my garage right now! I'll have to decide if I want to give them this cool upgrade…

  2. >That's so impressive…and major props for building the doors yourself! I have one of those bookcases…I guess I won't toss it out after all. Thanks for linking! You always have such incredible ideas!

    Poppies at Play

  3. >Wow, fabulous. It looks great! I love the new doors. I just did something like that to a hutch and used decorative paper — well, more like Christmas wrapping paper….!

  4. >Fantastic!!! I love them. You did such a great job on the tutorial too.

    I do have one question. I have tried to paint those bookcases before and it never turned out well. What kind of paint did you use? Did you sand them down before you painted?

    Thanks! I came here from Skip to my Lou.

  5. >That looks great. Unfortunatley my last bookcase like that collasped a couple of month ago! I will have to be on the look out for one at the Goodwill. Great job.

  6. >Big wow! Look at your, girl, with your power tools and stylin' protective gear. The two of you did a wonderful job taking this ho-hum bookcase and making it a special piece of furniture. Your tutorial is well done as well. Thanks for participating in FFF. I just love your blog and look forward to seeing more.

  7. >I love it! I can't wait to see YOUR craft room too!! The brown color is nice as well.

    Thanks for linking up your victory for VOTW @ Design-Aholic. Make sure to come back again, I can't wait to see what you have next!


  8. >those are amazing! I really want a built in type entertainment center for our bohemeth of a tv, but of course, can't afford one. We have a stand, but all of the bookcases are UGLY or $$. This would be aweomse!

    Do you think you could use the premade cabinet doors instead of building your own if you find the right size?

  9. >Hi from a fellow Texan! Love the final look of these sooo much better than the original *ugly* bookcase we all own. Since I am a little more *tacky* than you I would have made the doors tackboards so I could totally crap up the fronts sticking up notes and swatches, but otherwise LOVE the idea 🙂

  10. >Hey I am wondering if this bookshelf was that fake wood? If it was how did it take paint? I want to do this to my bookself and I want to paint the dreser we have but they are both fake wood. I am scared it will bubble. Did it for you?

  11. >Hey Jess-

    I wanted to answer your question about the bookshelf, and make sure you got it… I will copy this onto my blog too.

    Anyway, I did have some problems with the paint, not bubbling but pealing later on.

    I should have SANDED first! I totally didn't and it should have been pointed with an oil based paint, sprayed or brushed on..

    I never prime oil based, I have never had luck with primer, (unless it is oil based…) Just make sure that if you paint them with oil that you are in a well ventilated area and that you wear a mask…

    Good luck!

    I am actually thinking about trying to repaint these babies, and changing them up a bit already… so I may be doing the same thing soon!