Sunday, February 9, 2014

Red Bookshelf Makeover

I bought this solid wood bookshelf for $5.00 about 12 years ago. We’ve been using it for books and movies, but when I recently gave my sewing room a make-over, due in part to my new obsession with milk paint, I decided to repurpose it into a supply shelf.

The first step was to strip the original paint. I tried to sand it but the paint/primer was just too thick, so I used Citristrip. Here’s a tip: This stuff works best on a horizontal surface. DON’T coat the whole piece. Instead, coat only the horizontal surfaces. Scrape it clean and then flip the piece and do the next side.

Here it is after two long days of stripper and scraping.

I started with 60 grit paper and worked all the way down to 220 grit. This was no easy task. It took about three days. That’s seven days of work so far. Notice that I removed the backing from the top shelf.

I stained it with Minwax English chestnut. Then we got five days of straight rain, cold, and humidity. I had to wait five days for it to stop raining and five more days for the wood to dry out. That’s seventeen days of working on this piece.

I used Minwax Quick Dry polyurethane sealer to coat the parts of the shelf that would normally wear out with age.

I had the guy at the hardware store cut a piece of ¼ plywood to fit the back. I sanded it with 220 grit and stained it English Chestnut.

Here’s the shelf with two thick coats of Miss Mustard Seed MilkPaint in Linen. Normally it’s best to mix this paint with a ratio of one part paint to one part water, but since it’s been so humid, and since I wanted it to chip, I went with a little less water. I’m not sure if it’s the water in St. Pete or if it’s the air, but milk paint doesn’t like to chip down here. We have to convince it to do what we want.

After one day of letting it dry, here’s what it looks like now. I scraped it with a putty knife and sanded the whole piece with 220 grit paper. Lastly, I gave it a very thin coat of hemp oil. I staged this picture because my sewing room never looks this nice. I’ll do a post on my staging room some other time.

This is not an easy look to achieve. It’s taken me a lot of trial and error, and nineteen days of stripping, sanding, waiting, and painting.  


  1. I love this piece but one question - why did you sand and strip? If you were going to use milk paint, couldn't you have just given it a sanding and then painted/ Thank you. BessinVA

  2. That's actually a really good question because you're totally right. I could have sanded it and the milk paint would have stuck to the sanded surface really well. But for this piece I wanted the chippy look. If I left it un-sanded, the milk paint would have chipped off, revealing red paint, which I really didn't want.
    I tried sanding but couldn't get all of the red paint off, so that's when I got out the stripper. Once the stripper did it's thing, the wood underneath wasn't very pretty, so that's why I ended up going with a fresh coat of stain as the undercoat. I hope this helps with your future projects.

  3. If you haven't already you need to post this up on Pinterest!

    The Style Boro

  4. Yes, I did that last week and it's gotten a good amount of interest. Thanks!