My parents gave us this beautiful Howard Miller mantel clock for our wedding, and when we got it home, we had no place to put it. I felt like the cheap black of all of our bookshelves wouldn’t do it any justice.
So we decided to paint one of them.
This is a cheap Walmart/IKEA bookshelf — plywood with a cardboard backing.
Step 1: Sand off as much black laminate as possible from the bookshelf.
Step 2: Prime the bookshelf. We used a Shellac-based primer (B.I.N. by Zinsser) based on an Apartment Therapy “reader intelligence report” I found. The guy at Home Depot confirmed this primer would be a good fit for this kind of project, but BE WARNED. We tried to use those
stupid inexpensive foam brushes with the Shellac, which was a disaster. (Rollers and paint brushes work fine, but the Shellac basically ate foam.)
Step 3: Sand down the first coat of primer and repaint.
Step 4: Sand down the second coat of primer, and apply the first coat of pigment paint. Rinse and repeat.
Creighton thought that primer was simply white paint, but here’s the truth: it’s not. Primer gives the paint something to adhere onto, and it’s made up of a different chemical composition than paint. Paint has pigment and is oil- or water-based. Primer, like this one, can be based on a few different materials and can play nicely with different types of paint. We figured all of this out by talking to the Home Depot guy about what we wanted to do for this project. We also chose white primer to really give this bookshelf a ground zero.
Also, repainting/refurnishing furniture, especially cheap furniture, is not easy. I had read that priming is an essential step to getting an optimal look, so we took the time and effort to do it well. I don’t regret it. And I’m glad we didn’t opt for a primer/paint combo.
We decided on a white panel backing that was a lot sturdier than the cardboard backing it came with. I was worried about finding something that would fit and that we wouldn’t have to paint, but we stumbled on the perfect solution at Home Depot. Unfortunately, you can’t even see the white, but it looked damn good.
Step 5: Profit.