How to upcycle a bookcase

This article is about how to upcycle old bookcases into beautiful items that will give any room a personal touch! It’s perfect for when you want to make something new out of something old. The design possibilities are endless, and if you like creativity like me, you’ll probably love this idea!

How do I upcycle an old bookcase?

To begin with, I’d like to show you what kind of bookshelves we’re talking about. It’s an old piece of furniture that has seen better days.

How to upcycle a bookcase, Zazzy Home

I found this old bookcase outside my parents’ house in the garden where it was on its way to becoming firewood. Yikes! I rescued it and brought it inside the house, intending to give it a new life. However, some friends of ours offered me some shelves they no longer needed, so I had spare pieces for upcycling as well!

The paint on it was peeling off, and some of the shelves weren’t as straight as they should have been.

We first removed all of the old, bad paint from it with a heat gun. You can also use chemicals for this kind of job, but I find that using a heat gun gives better results. In my opinion, you can never get all of the paint off with chemicals – no matter how many times you repeat the process. Then we gave it several layers of paint in white (the color I wanted to give it).

After each layer had dried (which only took about 30 minutes), we applied an adhesive sheet to make sure that the paper still stuck properly to the shelf after painting. It also prevents any ugly bubbles or paint from seeping in, and it can be used in places where you want to paint an object, like in the following picture.

In this step, we just wanted to have a smooth surface that was easy to work with. So far, no sanding has been done yet!

After all of the paint had dried, we started using the Dremel Multi-Max MM40 . But, of course, we could have used any other power tool for this job as well – it would only have taken a bit longer since they require more manual labor than a Dremel Rotary Tool does. And if you don’t have one at home, I definitely recommend getting one! It’s very useful for many different DIY projects around the house.

How to upcycle a bookcase, Zazzy Home

We dispensed some wood glue on the back of each shelf, making sure to spread it evenly. Then we placed the shelves on top of each other so that the glue could dry between them.

After some time (probably about half an hour or more – depending on how warm it is), you can carefully remove the adhesive sheet, which should be quite hard by now. The wood glue makes sure that all of the shelves stick together nicely!

We used simple brackets with screws to hold the bookcase together and keep it sturdy. You can find these kinds of brackets at just about every hardware store out there, but if you want something fancier than this, I suggest checking places like Habitat . They have lots of different kinds of brackets for indoor decoration purposes.

After screwing in the brackets, we placed a 4-pole electrical socket on each end of the bookcase (one more on top). You can get these at any hardware or DIY store as well. Then we covered some old fabric with wallpaper to create an appealing pattern. This is not something that’s necessary, though – you can leave it plain if you want to!

Now all that was left was to carefully hang some shelves above the sockets and put in some lightbulbs! We used about four separate light strings for this project since I didn’t have more 40 Watt SES/E14 bulbs available. But I suggest using at least five, so it doesn’t look dark inside your shelving area.

I know that there are also LEDs available in this kind of fitting, but I like the classic look and feel of this.

And here you go! A new bookcase and a lot more storage space for all kinds of things we want to display or hide – depending on our mood. 🙂

Why should I upcycle old bookcases?

There are many reasons why someone might want to give an old piece of furniture a new lease on life. First, it’s good for the environment because that way, you’re making use of what would otherwise be discarded or burned into ashes.

You can also save money by giving your house a brand-new look at less cost than if you bought something new! Plus, reusing materials is very eco-friendly and keeps things out of landfills. So here are some ideas on how to put your newly upcycled bookcase to use:

Put one or two bookcases together to create shelving units in your living room or bedroom, depending on how much space you have. Even a single bookcase can do a lot for your home decor if it’s in the right place!

On top of that, I absolutely love vintage-style furniture because it adds charm and character to rooms. And this upcycled bookcase is no exception! It fits beautifully into my daughter’s bedroom alongside her other pieces of furniture, as well as with our own bedroom set.

My personal favorite thing about this piece of upcycled furniture is the mirror it has on one side. If you want, you could attach a simple mirror frame around it to make it even more functional. That way, two birds are killed with one stone: a good use for an old bookcase plus an extra storage room!

But if you want to attach a mirror, I’d recommend attaching it while the bookcase is still lying flat on its back. You can then flip it over and put it in place later on by driving some screws through the wooden panel and into the bookshelf boards.

How to upcycle a bookcase, Zazzy Home

What else can you upcycle?

Many old pieces of furniture could be upcycled this way. Other items such as TV cabinets, coffee tables, CD or DVD storage units could all be used for something else! And if you’re concerned about recycling and saving the environment like I am, why not use some old wine crates or drawers to make yourself a small cabinet? It’s eco-friendly decorating at your best!

So that’s what I did with the little wooden shelf I found outside. It’s now upcycled into an excellent storage cabinet for my daughter to put away her toys, books, and other things. Using bookcases as cabinets is a really great idea that allows you to have your cake and eat it too – you can use shelves for storage instead of simply throwing them out or using them to burn firewood!

What are some unique ways to use old books?

Now you’ve sorted the bookcase, what about the books, especially old ones you don’t want to read anymore, or ones you have picked up from a second-hand store in bulk.

If you’ve got a few old books lying around, there are many interesting ideas on how you can reuse these items in an unorthodox manner.

1. Old books make wonderful gifts for friends and loved ones, especially if they like to read themselves. There are many ways you can use old books for this purpose:

a) Wrap them up in pretty paper and attach cute ribbons to the sides to make a lovely gift box that your friend or loved one will love opening!

b) Cut out pages from the book (carefully!) and glue them onto sheets of cardstock to create an attractive piece of art.

c) Make yourself some unique stationery using pages torn out from the book along with sheet protectors inside a standard-size notebook.

d) Use old book covers as a base to decorate other items such as vases, lamps, picture frames, or candleholders.

There are hundreds of different ways you can reuse old books, so get creative and see what you can come up with!

2. Another cool idea is to cut out the pages from an old book and create a replica of it on the computer using graphics software such as PowerPoint or Photoshop. For example, if your friend or loved one has always wanted yesterday’s newspaper, be sure to give it to them the next time they visit! Then, when they’re done reading it, tear out each page carefully (if necessary) and scan them into your computer.

Once all pages have been scanned in, rearrange them into a new order that looks like they were just printed today rather than 20 years ago. Then, save it as a jpeg file onto a memory stick or a CD and print it out for them to enjoy.

3. Here’s one more idea: old books can also be used to decorate gift bags! They look very good when placed on a scale with other items such as bottles of wine and wrapped chocolates.

Simply cut out pages from the book and arrange them neatly inside a gift bag before adhering it to whatever shape you want (for example, long rectangular page pieces – pretty little plants like aloe vera, cacti, etc. that grow wonderfully without needing much care or light! You can then use this as part of your room decor or give it away as a housewarming present for friends who are moving into their first home.

I hope this article has given you some inspiration.


Claire is a blogger, writer, and designer with a passion for making the most out of any space. She's worked in interior design and maintenance for over a decade, and has learned how to make the most of even the smallest room. Claire shares her expertise, where she offers tips and tricks for creating beautiful, functional spaces on any budget. When she's not blogging or designing, Claire enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

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