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During our recent entry-turned-library transformation, I had my heart set on custom built-in bookshelves that stretched way into the wee yonders of our 12 foot high ceilings. But soon, reality set in, and Michael and I remembered that we aren’t carpenters, and don’t have unlimited budgets. I guess we thought that the pure adrenaline of the One Room Challenge would all of a sudden morph us into Ty Pennington, or else squillionaires.
So we went with plan B, and ordered some Target bookshelves, which looked like this:
In addition to the fact that I didn’t want to use that color, I wanted to make these laminate bookshelves look custom or built in. Here’s what we ended up with:
To do that, I used 3 simple tricks on these laminate bookshelves to give them a custom look.
I wanted white bookshelves in the library. Now when I ordered these bookshelves, they weren’t available in white (now they are, and tons cheaper than when I bought them!), but honestly, I would have painted them even if they were. While I LOVE the cost and convenience of laminate furniture, I’m really not a huge fan of the shiny finish, which is a dead giveaway for laminate. So, I bought some Rustoleum Chalked paint in Linen White and painted. The finish now is much more like real painted wood than if I had left it alone. Yes, it was a bit time consuming, but not hard, and totally worth it.
Also, notice how I left the shelves the barn wood color? That was a total last minute decision, but I decided that I really liked how it stands out against the white. Details matter 🙂
2. Add in built-in details where you can
Michael and I went wrong with this when we tried to overdo it with stuff that is beyond our capabilities. We had grand plans to add in an extension to the top of the bookshelves and all kinds of stuff- it’s exhausting to think about now! But when we paired down and just did a few very simple things, well within our limited carpentry skills, it made a huge difference!
See the desk area? It’s just a simple piece of hefty plywood supported by some lumber nailed to the wall and corbels attached to either bookcase. The corbels add architectural interest too!
We added another piece of plywood to the top to connect the bookcases on either side of the desk area and some simple and cheap 1 X 4’s on the front to bring it all together. Some caulk and paint makes it look like one built in piece.
Maybe you don’t need lumber. Maybe just adding some corbels to the top is all that is needed. Especially if you paint your piece, it will definitely give it a custom look, very easy and inexpensively. Amazon has an amazing selection of affordable corbels of all different styles!
3. Change the hardware
I love these Target bookshelves, but good gracious they had the most boring hardware imaginable on them!
I kind of love hardware. It is just such an easy way to make a HUGE difference for very little effort or money, and I like to make a statement with hardware on my furniture and cabinets (check out my kitchen with 4 different types of hardware, 2 being antique).
When I couldn’t find what I wanted for these bookshelves, I just made my own!
I don’t have a tutorial for that yet because honestly, I haven’t perfected getting it to stay on for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Still working on that part.
On the other hand, here are some beautiful options for door hardware!
Gah. Some girls like shoes or jewelry, but just give me a good door handle any day.
Just because you have an inexpensive or mass produced laminate bookshelf doesn’t mean it has to be boring! Give it a custom look with paint, easy built-in details, and simple hardware changes that will completely change the look!