Baby Bookshelf Redo- DIY Chalk Paint

One thing that makes me “whistle while I wait” is crafts.  I love me some DIY projects!  I think it is just magical to take something old and tattered, and breathe new life into it.

I had this shelf in my classroom for many years, but it had seen better days.  I almost threw it away…gasp!  Then, I realized it would be perfect for our baby room, but it needed a major face lift first.  This was my first chalk paint experience, and I think it turned out gorgeous!

First of all, this is not the first makeover this shelf has received.  When I first bought it, the fabric was colorful, but very thin.  It did not even last a full school year.  So I added the thicker polka dot fabric and it lasted another 4 years.

This shelf is not made of real wood.  It is made of particle board.  I was worried that the chalk paint would not adhere to it very well, but it turned out beautiful.  Wait until you see the detail I added to the sides!

I used the DIY chalkpaint recipe from One Project Closer.  The beauty of chalk paint is you can use it on pretty much any surface without needing to sand or remove stain.


Step 1- optional)  This shelf has very sleek and modern looking edges.  I wanted to soften it and give it more of an antique look.  I bought these wooden details (found in the molding section of Home Depot) and used wood glue to adhere them to the shelf.  Give it plenty of time to dry.


Step 2)  Mix the paint according to the recipe above.  I did notice my first coat was a little thick and hard to spread, so I found I had to add a little more water for the second coat. It is a trial and error process because the recipe can vary depending on the paint you use.  I kept it in a Tupperware container so I could reuse it.

Step 3)  For this type of shelf, I chose to remove the rungs and paint them separately to make it easier and avoid dripping.  My hubby was a genius and rigged up this contraption to make painting the rungs easier.  (This is not a necessary step, but did make things easier I think.) He basically just screwed each one into a scrap 2×4 board, using the screws that came with the shelf.  He then clamped the 2×4 to our workbench.  Sorry for the messy garage!

Step 4- optional)  Sand down/putty any scratches you want to cover (I had quite a few from classroom use).  Gauges can also add character though, so it is up to you.

Step 5)  With long strokes, paint the the body of the shelf.  Again, go back and check for drips throughout.  The paint dries quickly so you have to work quickly, but it means you do not have to allow as much time between each coat.  These pictures were after one coat.  At this point I wasn’t sure this was going to work…but have faith, it works!  I did 3 coats, but you may only need 2.

Step 6- optional)  I wanted my shelf to have a bit more of an antique look.  I started by trying out some Miniwax Special Dark Finishing Wax.  If you go this route, try it on the bottom first where no one will see it.  I found that it yellowed the color of my shelf and I did not like that.  Instead, I used the Miniwax Wood Finish Stain Marker in Black Walnut.  This requires some trial and error.  You basically draw a quick line where you want the stain and then wipe it off with an old rag.  I used it mainly on edges where I thought it would naturally get aged.

Step 7) Use a light grit piece of sandpaper to smooth the shelf a bit.  You can decide how smooth you want it.  I only sanded very lightly.  Then, wipe the shelf down with a damp cloth.

Step 8)  Give a couple coats of spray polyurethane.  The key to this is to keep your spray can 10-12 inches away from the shelf and move in long even motions.  I got a little drippage, if I lingered over a spot for too long or got too close.  I found the spray easier to use than painting it on.  This step will make the shelf a little more durable, which I need for a baby room.

Step 9)  Put the rungs back in and measure how much fabric you need. I took the old fabric out and measured it.  I needed about 2.5 yrds.

Step 10)  I do not yet know how to sew (I wish I did), so I cheated for this step and used a hot glue gun.  (It worked great in my classroom and was durable, despite a lot of 2nd grader use.)  I folded the fabric in half.  Then, I wrapped it over each rung so I could test out the length of each shelf.  I held each piece of fabric in place with binder clips (okay, honestly I used butterfly hair clips, but binder clips would work too).  Then, I hot glued each rung at a time.  This was probably the trickiest step of the whole thing, but have patience…you are almost done.

Step 11)  Fill with books…step back and admire your hard work!

This may seem like a lot of steps, but it really only took 2 days- one for painting and one for fabric.  I am glad I tried something new.  I am hooked on chalk paint and will be doing many more projects in the future!

Let me know if you have any helpful hints for DIY chalk paint or feel free to share links/pictures of projects you have done.  I love to make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, but the other is gold!  This shelf gets a gold medal from me, and hopefully my little one will one day agree. 🙂


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