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This cheap bookcase makeover has a secret.  It is also an easy DIY project that will transform your bookshelf background.  So let's get started with this bookshelf makeover idea.

bookcase makeover in a rustic white washed wood plank look

I love inexpensive DIY projects like this cheap bookcase makeover!  One of my favorites is the chalk paint and drop cloth rug, and another is this farmhouse flower vase DIY.

Okay so you get the picture I love me good, cheap, and easy DIY projects that look like you spent a million bucks. 🙂

Cheap Bookcase Makeover

In the world of decorating the details make a whole design amazing which is why I couldn't wait to share this bookshelf makeover.

My friend Susan came up with this idea, so all credit goes to her so let's jump right in and begin this bookcase makeover idea.


You will need a few things to transform the background of your bookshelf.

Let's Get Started

Start by checking to see if you have space behind your shelves in your bookcase.  If there is space measure it for the thickness of the wood.

Susan had 1/4″ gap behind the shelves, so her wood is 1/4″ thick.

Next, remove all the shelves in your bookcase.  If your shelves are not removable, you can still do this project but go with the thinnest wood possible.

Measure the back of your bookcase width and height and purchase enough wood to cut the stripes and height.

This is the wood Susan used in your bookcase makeover.

Measure and Cut

Next, measure again and figure how many stripes of wood you will need for the back of your bookcase.

Cut all the strips of wood to fit into the back.

Once you have all your strips of wood, I recommend placing them on the back to see if they fit nicely.


Now grab your stain and start staining the planks following the grain of the wood.

Once all the planks are stained, let it dry overnight.


Now apply some petroleum in random places.

Carefully and gently rub the petroleum along the edges in a random place and here and there.  No need to be generous add a tiny amount.

The petroleum will cause the paint not to adhere to the planks and give you that rustic distressed look.

Cheap bookcase makeover using petroleum jelly to distress the wood

If you do not want a distressed look, then disregard the petroleum step.


Next, mix up some chalk paint with the recipe link in the supply list or purchase some chalk paint.

Apply chalk paint to the boards in long even strokes.

Susan had to apply three coats, but it depends on your wood.

Cheap bookcase makeover using chalk paint over stain

Go ahead and add each coat back to back and then let the boards sit overnight until they are right and dry.

Cheap bookcase makeover using chalk paint over stain


Next, lightly sand your boards.

Wherever you applied the petroleum the paint will come off when you sand over it.

After you finish sanding take a cloth and remove the sanding dust.

Attach the Planks

You are going to be so surprised by this because all you have to do is place the boards in the back and put the shelves back into the bookcase.

Cheap bookcase makeover using chalk paint over stain

You are probably wondering what Susan used to attach the boards.  Well, she didn't use anything.

Cheap bookcase makeover using chalk paint over stain

The shelves are holding the boards in the back.

bookcase makeover in a rustic white washed wood plank look

Susan did put some paper behind the planks to protect the wood in case she decided to remove them one day.

If you need to attach, the boards try the double-sided 3M tape.  It removes easily if you decide to take the boards down also.


Now all you need are some accessories.

Susan placed all her accessories back, but soon I will be accessorizing Susan's shelves and writing a post about how to accessorize bookcases.

Cheap bookcase makeover showing cabinets with accessories

However, if you don't want to wait for the how to accessorize bookshelf post try this post on five steps to accessorizing. It is full of tips.


Well, here is a before.

Cheap bookcase makeover showing cabinets before project

And here is an after photo.

Cheap bookcase makeover

I hope this post has inspired you to jazz up your bookcases.  Now that you have an idea to refurbish your bookcases or shelves here are some ideas for perfectly styled shelves.

It is amazing how a simple DIY project can add so much character to a built-in bookcase.

Happy Decorating!

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6 Easy Steps on How to Decorate a Bookcase | LIFE ON SUMMERHILL

Saturday 4th of May 2019

[…] This is a great time to do a bookcase makeover on the back of your bookcase as Susan did with these rustic farmhouse style boards. For more information on this shelf, background DIY check out this bookcase makeover post. […]


Sunday 28th of April 2019

[…] if you plan to do any distressing check out my bookcase makeover for tips on how to distress wood. Again I would recommend doing this part in the beginning and […]


Tuesday 9th of April 2019

[…] Spice Up Your Bookshelf With This Bookcase Makeover is a post we recently wrote. We show how to add character to a build-in bookshelf. […]