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Painted Bookshelf

Step by step guide on how to achieve this painted bookshelf look.  When I started looking for bookshelves for our home office, I knew I was going to paint them.  I wanted our home office to be masculine and give off a sort of old-school vibe.  I’m not saying we’re going to start smoking cigars in the house, but that’s the feel I wanted the room to have!

painted bookshelf

Working on this project with my mom was so fun and so rewarding! These bookshelves were truly so ugly when we picked them up!  I am so thrilled that we were able to turn them into exactly the vision I had for the office.  A big part of the transformation is the paint we used, Magnolia’s Step Stool green.  Joanna had used this color in their transformation of The Castle in the upstairs bathroom.  When my mom was watching that episode, she saw this paint color and knew it was exactly what I had been looking for! The price for the Magnolia paint is slightly more than a standard can of Behr, but it covers really well and has such a lovely finish.

Step 1: Take Doors & Shelves off

Before getting started, I took apart the bookshelves as much as possible.  I removed the adjustable shelf and then took the doors off.  Then, I removed the hinges, door handles and magnets.

painted bookshelf

Before you remove all the hardware, take pictures! This way you know how it all goes back together.

Step 2: Remove & Replace Top Piece

After I had the bookshelves taken apart, I removed the top piece.  I wanted to give the bookshelves a slightly more modern look.  It was screwed into a board on the top which made it very easy to remove!

Once I removed the top piece, I used a 1 x4 primed board and cut it to size.  Then I screwed it on where the original top piece had been. 


Step 3: Apply Wood Filler & Sand

To prep the bookshelves for paint, I filled a couple of holes with wood filler.  I then sanded these spots down.  I also used a nail gun to firm up any areas of the backing that was loose.

Step 4: Wipe down with Denatured Alcohol

Next, I wiped the bookshelves down with denatured alcohol.  Once they were fully cleaned, I was ready to get started with paint!

Step 5: Prime

The Magnolia paint claims to be paint & primer in one but I wanted to be sure the bookshelves would fully cover, so I primed first.  I primed the bookshelves with Rust-oleum Flat Grey Primer and the hardware with Ace Premium Gray Spray Primer.  Ace primer is the cheapest primer I’ve found and I like it better than the name brand.  I allowed the primer to fully dry before beginning to paint. 

painted bookshelf

Step 6: Paint

Finally, I began painting with Step Stool Green paint by Magnolia.  I’ll start off by saying, I absolutely loved working with this paint! I used my mom’s Graco battery-powered paint sprayer.  The sprayer created a super smooth finish and looks professional.  I added one ounce of Paint Easy Latex Paint Conditioner when filling up my paint sprayer. This thinned the paint the smallest bit to ensure it would not clog the sprayer. I did two coats to get the bookshelves fully covered. If you do not have a paint sprayer, don’t worry!  You could use a foam roller and still get a lovely smooth finish on your bookshelves!

painted bookshelf
Can we just admire my outfit?!
painted bookshelf

For the hardware, I used Rust-oleum’s Pure Gold Spray paint.  This covered really well and gave me exactly the look I wanted.

I moved the bookshelves in the shed to dry for 24 hours and then moved them into the house.  Once in the house, I allowed them to sit for 5 days to ensure the paint had fully cured.

painted bookshelf

Step 7: Reassemble

Now it was finally time to reassemble! I made the mistake of not taking pictures and/or labeling the drawers and shelves when taking everything apart.  Therefore, I did struggle a bit figuring out which way everything went back together.  After a few trial-and-error moments, I was able to get them fully reassembled.

I absolutely love the way the bookshelves turned out.  When I picked them up off the street (literally), I was worried I wouldn’t be able to save them!  I actually considered throwing them out and trying to find another set.  Boy, am I glad I didn’t!!  I am obsessed with the green color and cannot wait to try different colors of the Magnolia paint!

refinish bookshelf
bookshelf flip

Interested in more furniture flips? Check out our Furniture DIYs here!

Painted Bookshelf Links

bookshelf flip

Painted Bookshelf

Prep Time 2 hours
Build Time 16 hours
Dry Time 2 days


  • Drill
  • Miter Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Rags
  • Paint Sprayer (OR rollers, paint brushes & pans)


  • Wood Filler
  • 220 Grit Sandpaper
  • 1" x 4" Primed Trim Board
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Rust-oleum Flat Grey Primer Spray Paint
  • Ace Premium Grey Spray Paint
  • Rust-oleum Pure Gold Spray Paint
  • Paint (Magnolia Step Stool)
  • Paint Easy


  • Take Doors & Shelves Off
  • Remove & Replace Top Piece
  • Apply Wood Filler & Sand
  • Wipe down with Denatured Alcohol
  • Prime
  • Paint
  • Reassemble
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