Progress Report: Painted Book Shelves

Progress report- Painted white book shelvesA little over a year ago, we closed on this 1970s ranch style house and started a long (and sometimes painful) renovation. It was a crazy year full of stories I only tell when I’m drinking with friends. Haha! But we’re on the other side now, and I can honestly say we LOVE this house. And we never want to leave. So I guess it was all worth it, right?

And as an added bonus, I now have dozens of progress reports to share with you guys!!!! Wooooo!

So let’s start with our dark red and green den. First, a walk down memory lane…

BeforeThis room had a very dark color scheme, dark wood shelves and a dark stone fireplace. You can see the before version of the whole room here. The fireplace was actually a deal breaker for me. I told my husband if he wouldn’t let us paint it, that I didn’t want to look at the house. He was definitely hesitant about painting the stone, but he agreed.

The bookshelves are BIG and they were very pretty. I fully expect at least a few of you to say you like the “before” better. It’s cool. 🙂 However, as pretty as they were, they didn’t fit my vibe and style at all, and I knew I wanted to paint them bright, fresh white. Sometimes you just know!

It was a big project and a risk, but I am SO happy with the result!

Progress report- Painted white book shelves We did paint them ourselves, and my only tips are to use a stain-blocking primer (blocking 40 years of furniture polish is hard, you guys!!!), and get advice from a professional when choosing your paint.

Progress report- Painted white book shelves We decided to contrast our mostly white room with a  dark charcoal gray on the walls. The shelves, the white stone fireplace and one white shiplap wall take up most of the visual space, so a little pop of dark wall color seemed to fit. I could write a book about how much I hate choosing gray paint. This one is pretty, but it comes off as navy in some photos, and I still think I might change it in the future (and this is the second gray color we’ve had up!). Uhhhhh! It’s pretty for now, though.

My bullet planter is from Hip Haven, by the way. The “factory irregular” ones are the way to go. You can save, like, fifty bucks for the teeniest little scratch!

Progress report- Painted white book shelves Side one.

Here’s a pulled back view! Fresh, clean, bright.

Progress report- Painted white book shelves Side two.

I am really happy we chose to go white!

Progress report- Painted white book shelves For the hardware, I went with our favorite Schoolhouse Electric hexagon knobs. We have them in about 3-4 different rooms in our home.

Progress report- Painted white book shelves Progress report- Painted white book shelves One of the things we discovered after closing on the house was this AMAZING 1970s feature – a built-in record cabinet. I LOVE it. I spent a night recently alphabetizing all our records like a huge dork. SO FUN.

Progress report- Painted white book shelves Here’s my Penny art! She’s my angel.

Progress report- Painted white book shelves Well, that’s how it’s coming along! I hope you enjoyed this little update. We are having so much fun making this house into a home! xx- Elsie

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson, Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Looks great! Could you share which paint you used for the bookshelves? I have the same project ahead of me and have been scratching my head about it. Thanks for the post!

  • I love the white!!!!! Totally would have painted over them if I had your house 🙂
    And I love the navy in the grey, it’s beautiful xx

  • Hello,

    I love the cactus sculpture that you have on the shelf. Can you tell me where you found it?

  • Stunning transformation! It really brightens up the room.

  • Hello..
    Again great innovative idea. Wow.. It looks really great.

  • I really LOVE how the book shelves turned out in white!
    But.. will you let us see the painted fireplace too? I’m sooo curious!

  • Oh my goodness. Every detail is perfection. Please tell us where you got the adorable painting of your pups!

  • OBSESSED with that deep wall color. What’s it called and who makes it? I am in the white-is-an-upgrade camp, for sure. So modern. LOVE.

  • Seeing your home progress is probably my favorite thing on the internet lately. It’s incredibly inspiring. I’ve never seen myself being financially stable enough (thanks to student loans and being a public school art teacher) to buy my own home…but the more I see of your renovations, the more I hope it happens for me someday. So thank you for sharing all your incredible hard work. I wish we were real life friends so I could see it in person. Your photos are completely gorgeous though, so that feels close enough!

  • I just wanted to inject here that I would also love to know what color and brand of paint you used! My husband and I just bought our first house and I am looking for a paint color just like that one! The room is beautiful.. xoxox

  • I am so against painting wood but I love this – definitely the right decision!

  • Did you replace the hinges too? How are they almost invisible in the white photos? Sorry if that’s a newbie question!

  • I would have left the wood because painting such a huge bookcase seems daunting, but it does look a million times better with white paint! Now I’m tempted to paint our fireplace and bookcase white!

  • I love it SO much!!!! A million times better! That bookshelf is gorgeous and I love how you styled it!!!!

  • Elsie, I love what you did, it’s nice and bright. and that record cabinet! lucky you! Our Record Collection is still in our basement – waiting for a place upstairs. Looking forward to seeing more.

  • I love it! Painting the bookshelves white made such a difference. lools fabulous!

  • You really need to do a post on how to style shelves, because I am the worst! Your shelves are SO pretty! I love all the mixes of books and plants and colours! I actually really like the colour of the wall – I keep wanting to go dark walled in our bedroom, but the room is just way too dark to cope with that.
    xo April | April Everyday

  • It’s amazing how good a coat of white paint can make something look! Love the styling as well.

    Julia –

  • That is SO COOL that the bookshelves had a built-in record cabinet! They look so much better. So fresh and so clean!

  • I totally love the white rather than the way it looked before! You certainly have been doing a lot of work on that house. I once painted s wall in my bedroom dark grey and I cried because it never looked right. So I can sympathize!!!

    Just remember your closer to your goal today then you were a week ago!

  • wow the white makes such a difference!

  • They look so classic and upscale now, and make the room so much brighter. Wonderful work!

  • Wow! Looks like completely new shelves! Love it!

  • Hi Antonella,
    We kept it! I need to post about that nook soon (it’s so cute!)
    xx- Elsie

  • I can’t remember, but I’ll check before the next time I post this room!
    xx- Elsie

  • I’m a new reader and I love your ideas and diy things. This room now looks so classy and open – very comfortable. Love the small pops of color. Where was this album storage when we had a million of them? We ended up giving them all away.

  • If I’d seen this a few years ago, I admit, I would have been one to think it crazy to paint over beautiful dark wood. However, after deciding to paint our dark paneled wood in our basement (that gets nearly zero sunlight) a bright white, I get it. I think the light wood flooring would have clashed with the dark wood of the cabinets too. The new look is gorgeous. Love that wall colour paired with the white cabinets, makes all those greens pop.

  • loved your cabinets! Great job on the painting and I sure do know what that is like. Lot’s of patience and some more patience!
    Great styling on the shelves! Very inspiring!

  • It’s true I like real wood when it’s good, but the after looks so fresh.
    I love the record cabinet! Isn’t there a lift-up hiding place for the turntable? They were stored that way to keep them safe from dreaded, LP-destroying dust.

  • It looks great! Such a nice update. I would suggest caulking the seams between the crown molding + beams and the ceilings. It will make it look 100% finished.

  • yes please share the paint color! love it! thinking of doing a bathroom in it.

  • Your room looks fantastic! I love the wall colour and the bookcase colour. The only thing I would have left unpainted are the beams. Beams baby!

  • Picking grey paint is really hard! We were picking a light grey paint to our new house and wanted to find a grey that wouldn’t shift to blue. We tried so many grey paints! Finally I figured out that there must be a way to understand the colors more and learned how to interpret the NCS codes and finally found the perfect grey. Understanding the code helped to put some “science” in to the color picking!

  • If you haven’t checked it out yet, look at Iron Ore from Benjamin Moore. Fantastic dark gray/light black color.

  • That makes an amazingly huge difference! Perfect white backdrop for your things!

  • They look amazing. Would you mind sharing the wall paint color? I am debating on painting our guest bedroom a dark charcoal/black and that color looks promising.

  • I love it! Those Air plant wall planters are gorgeous, where are they from?
    Health to enjoy!

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