My Home Office and Bookshelf Makeover

My Home Office and Bookshelf Makeover

I wanted a wall of built-in cabinets in my office sine the day we moved into this house.  I thought it would be the first thing done on my list. I got a quote for it, and it was so PRICEY. I couldn’t pull the trigger. So I had a huge bare wall in my office for nearly a year.

Then I happened upon these bookshelves at an ‘upscale’ secondhand shop here in town, and I loved them! And they fit perfectly in the space, and they cost a teensy fraction of what custom built-ins would have cost, and even though they’re not exactly what I had envisioned here, I am happy.

bookshelf wall in home office


They didn’t always start out looking like that.  I – try to contain your shock – painted them white.

bookcase makeover before

I’m awkwardly posing for your benefit to illustrate how tall these babies are.  Eight feet!

bookcase cracked veneer

Obligatory picture of damaged veneer so I don’t get hate mail for painting it.


If you are interested in the painting process, here are the details:

UGH! WOOF! It was a freaking beast to paint.  And I have a paint sprayer.  Two of them actually.  One of them farts out the paint so violently that the finish looks like the surface of the moon. I didn’t even bother with that one.

The other one is supposed to be a ‘fine finish’ sprayer, and it still gave me too much texture, and took WAY WAY WAY too long.  I’m talking like a two foot by two foot patch took around 45 minutes to get full coverage.  No thanks.  So don’t come looking to me for any paint sprayer recommendations, because I don’t have nice things to say about any of them yet. I’ve tried paint additives and all that jazz, and I think what it really boils down to is latex paint just isn’t going to give you the same results as an oil-based paint.

You know what kind of paint IS oil-based? Spray paint.  So that’s what I did. I hung up the paint sprayer and instead spray painted this monstrous set of bookshelves plus its four doors and sixteen shelves. That was really awesome and so fun. That’s not the paint fumes talking. Yes it is.

Here is an untouched side-by-side comparison so you can see the difference:

spray paint vs. paint sprayer

Here is a close-up:

spray paint vs paint spray copy


There’s no contest.  I used Rustoleum paint+primer in satin white, which is really durable and has amazing coverage. I love that I can skip a step since the primer is already in the paint. However, one can doesn’t go very far.  They aren’t paying me to say any of that, but I wish they did because this project took about 30 cans!

And then it was time for some fun decorating it!  I think I might want to paint the back a fun color someday, but let’s be honest with ourselves. It’s probably not happening.




brass giraffe

Look, it’s our friend divorced giraffe!

gold arrow cabinet pulls

I picked up these new pulls from Hobby Lobby, and I love them hard.


gold polka dotted candlestick

Just messing around with my paint pen, like I did on my polka-dotted unicorn.


magnifying glass bookshelf decor

I tried the ‘group all your books by color thing’ but I secretly wish they were all white.


roccoco bulletin board decor

That quote on my bulletin board is from Isaac Mizrahi and says “I’m all about exuberance. We only have one short life to live, and we shouldn’t waste it being tasteful.”  Obviously, it’s a struggle. I’m trying to teach myself to embrace more of that. Yes, I truly like white and lots of it, but I would definitely like to figure out how to have more exuberance in my home and my decor.


roccoco bulletin

My bulletin board is pretty fancy and it is from The Container Store.


gold homegoods decor

Gold knobby thing is from HomeGoods, and I bought that book from Goodwill just because it had gold lettering! I’m sure it’s a nice book or whatever.



white arched office bookshelves

Anyway, it’s a work in progress, but it’s SO much better than the huge empty wall it was before.  I think I need a rug in here.  I think it should be hot pink. How’s that for exuberance, Isaac?



  1. ladyhawthorne
    May 2, 2015 / 9:55 AM

    You could cover your books in white paper and write their titles with your gold pen. The shelves are fantastic!

  2. just justin
    May 2, 2015 / 10:26 AM


  3. Susan Johnson
    May 2, 2015 / 2:12 PM

    This turned out amazing!! I’ve been looking for bookshelves for my office that I don’t hate & can afford. Any suggestions of where to look? I love love how your office looks though.

  4. May 2, 2015 / 2:28 PM

    They look great. I was also going to suggest covering the books in white paper, of course, write the titles in gold pen. 🙂

    Please tell me you wore a respirator or at least had a fan pulling the fumes to the outside. Lie to me if you have to. LOL

  5. Jen
    May 2, 2015 / 3:09 PM

    Love it!

    I have a friend who turned her books around on her shelves, so they all have that uniformed page-color look.
    You should try it!

  6. Lynne
    May 2, 2015 / 3:35 PM

    I read your blog faithfully, more of a lurker than commenter. I had to comment though because I love your shelves! I put the arrow handles on a small dresser and I have that hello ordered! Lots of similarities in what we like. I love your sense of humor! Your blogs always crack me up!!

  7. May 2, 2015 / 4:33 PM

    Love it!! Also, I love your eye for arrangement! It looks awesome!! I noticed some of your objects d’art are from Hobby Lobby-I went there for the first time today. I. WILL. BE. BACK. It was too much to take in in one trip! Keep up the great work on my favorite blog!

  8. Barbara
    May 2, 2015 / 4:55 PM

    Those bookcases look great! I love your blog and all the before and afters, but your sense of humor brings a smile every time. Thanks!

  9. Sandi
    May 2, 2015 / 5:45 PM

    You did a beautiful job! Amazing the difference paint can make.

  10. LeeAnn
    May 2, 2015 / 5:59 PM

    You did a fabulous job on the bookcases. They are beautiful!

  11. Jessica H
    May 2, 2015 / 6:13 PM

    A magenta rug would be awesome!

  12. janet
    May 2, 2015 / 7:20 PM

    These are gorgeous! So are you and you make me laugh snort : )

  13. Marci
    May 2, 2015 / 7:42 PM

    I only get mad when people paint MCM furniture. Your bookshelves look gorgeous in white. I think paint really helps showcase the detail on furniture with moldings and carving.

    BTW – I used a paint sprayer for my laundry room cabinets, and when I was looking online for painting tips, I read a recommendation for a product called Floetrol. I think it really helped. I had issues with the wood grain, but other than that, the finish looked good.

  14. May 3, 2015 / 5:43 AM

    How many cans of spray paint did it take? I did a small dresser once and I was shocked at the number of cans it took. I think I am doing something wrong, but maybe not? Please tell, it looks fab btw.

  15. May 3, 2015 / 6:05 AM

    Holy wow! This is my most favorite BettetAfter post of all time! First, those bookcases are heavenly! Bravo! How sore is your spray pointing finger? And you totally cracked me up on this one – hilarity ensues. And don’t worry about the giraffe – it’s like he was meant to be posing on those books. I bet the wife was a “pain in the neck”! Get it? Giraffe humour! Fantabulous job!

  16. Karen
    May 3, 2015 / 8:15 AM

    Your office looks beautiful. Office? Who are we kidding? I’m sure it’s a great Mom-cave, a refuge from being “mommy” sometimes, right?

    PUH-LEEZE get a hot pink/fuschia rug. It would look awesome.

    Mommy mode kicking in-did you where a mask while painting? My Dear Husband spray painted the inside of the fireplace [black] yesterday and has been coughing up a lung ever since.

    Love the description of the farting spray paint gun.
    blessings, Karen

  17. Karen
    May 3, 2015 / 8:16 AM

    …WEAR a mask. :0)

  18. May 3, 2015 / 9:21 AM

    Thank you sooooo much for those closeup comparisons of spray paint v sprayer. I had always suspected as much! I will now eschew – yes, I said eschew – sprayers for the rest of my life. Your wall is amazing and you do embrace that quote – you are exuberant AND tasteful!

  19. Kim G
    May 3, 2015 / 10:00 AM

    LUHVE the shelves, you did an amazing job! You mentioned painting the backs of the shelves, what if you stuck down wrapping paper then covered that in clear contact paper? No masking off and no painting. It could still be a pain in the hind end, but worth a try. I found some really cute wrapping paper at my Dollar Tree store and HomeGoods has awesome paper!

  20. Heather M
    May 3, 2015 / 11:20 AM

    I love this so much!!! It looks so amazing!

  21. Janet
    May 3, 2015 / 1:28 PM

    Ha ha! I love the mental image of you pushing a cart into the spray paint isle and calmly clearing out the ENTIRE stock of white paint+primer in satin. I bought the SAME STUFF yesterday for my Mystery Thrift Off items! Of course, making scabies bear cool is more than simply spray painting. I’m doing some of my own rubbing my hands together and laughing a bit maniacally.

    Love your shelves. Your exuberance is your personality, and what is more exuberant than gold bling anyway?

  22. Deb-IL
    May 3, 2015 / 3:43 PM

    Looks FANTASTIC, and I can’t believe you found 8′ tall bookshelves – what luck!
    Now about that spray painting thing…… I’m just gonna say it – that’s an environmental disaster to say nothing of your health and a simple dust mask is NOT enough to protect you. Period. A quart of paint and a brush gives great results and learning how to use a brush well is not hard. People get scared but it takes literally one practice project to learn good paint techniques.
    That takes away nothing from your finished product – love it.

  23. May 3, 2015 / 6:27 PM

    I love those pulls. They are glorious. And white and gold are my fav!!

  24. May 4, 2015 / 6:48 AM

    Looks great–I love when you have your own work!

  25. Reenie
    May 4, 2015 / 7:29 AM

    WOW!! Those came out beautiful. Great job!!

  26. Bee
    May 4, 2015 / 7:39 AM

    NICE! I love those bookcases and how you merchandised them. (Remember Christopher Lowell? I learned that word from him.)

    Also, it’s good to see you doing real work instead of loafing at your computer and calling it work (like I do).

    Also, I hate paint sprayers too! Thanks for saying that.

  27. Meggan
    May 4, 2015 / 8:27 AM

    Love how it turned out! The pulls are awesome, I got some too 😉 I felt the same about my books and just flipped them around a la pottery barn catalog styling. So much better!

  28. May 4, 2015 / 10:55 AM

    LOVE! Looks so good. I can’t imagine spray painting all of those – wow. Good for you for getting that done. Instead of painting the backs, you can just get some cheapo wrapping people from the dollar store or whatever and use double stick tape or thumbtacks to put it it. Way faster than painting, much easier to change out, and you can get some fun patterns. You could even just get some thin cardboard or something to cover and then set in the back if you don’t want to tape the actual shelves. I’m a renter and I did this to the built-in bookshelf in the hallway and it looks super fun without being a huge time/money/permanent commitment. =)

  29. May 6, 2015 / 7:27 PM

    30 cans of spray paint!?!?!?!?! I never would have finished. You deserve a prize for sure! The end result looks fantastic so I’m happy for you that you powered through it. 🙂 Oh and now I don’t feel so stupid for not owning a paint sprayer.

  30. May 7, 2015 / 3:21 AM

    Just fabulous! You have such an eye for design. 🙂

  31. May 7, 2015 / 12:44 PM

    Just FYI…latex paint is a “dirty” paint (mind out of gutter) Seriously, that means it has a lot of “gunk” in it which is why professional painters usually paint with oil in their rigs…if they paint with latex, they actually strain it through cheese cloth. Anywho, I LOVE spray paint but find that it does indeed take a LOT to paint anything and working on projects for “resale” makes it a little cost prohibitive sometimes. I have started adding Penetrol to my oil based paint and I swear you would be hard pressed to find the brush or roller marks. Just for future reference!

  32. May 7, 2015 / 7:20 PM

    Your bookshelves look awesome Lindsey! I am getting ready to do some similar ones I got off Craigslist for my basement. I might have to go the spray paint route too. Thanks for letting us know and saving me the headache of a sprayer. Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

  33. May 7, 2015 / 7:28 PM

    I haven’t tried Penetrol, but I have tried Floetrol in my latex paint, with mixed results. I’ll definitely give that a try next time, and be sure to start out with more patience too!

  34. May 10, 2015 / 4:22 PM

    It looks fantastic! And I love the way you styled your shelves as well. Thanks for sharing the honest comparison of paint sprayer vs. spray paint too!

    Warmly, Michelle

  35. Stephbo
    May 16, 2015 / 9:57 PM

    Karen over at The Art of Doing Stuff just did a post on paint sprayers if you’re interested.

  36. Jennifer
    October 6, 2015 / 3:49 PM

    Did you sand it down before you painted and then what did you do to the veneer that was peeling off? Did you do the iron and wet towel to melt it off? I’m re-doing a table right now and just did that.. Debating on the spray gun vs spray paint too..

  37. October 6, 2015 / 4:53 PM

    Fortunately, that damaged area was on an inner edge of one of the sections, so the middle piece hid it. I just filled it with a little filler and painted it and didn’t spend too much time on it since no one will ever see it.

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