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Shelving - How to Renovate Old into New

Updated on July 15, 2013
Refurbished wood shelving unit "free" from the roadside. A few $'s for paint and trim creates a prettty organizational space for our dining room.
Refurbished wood shelving unit "free" from the roadside. A few $'s for paint and trim creates a prettty organizational space for our dining room. | Source

From Old to New

"One man's trash is another man's treasure"

It's true that sometimes the furniture others leave at the side of the road can be turned into just the right piece for your home. The neat thing is you end up with a unique piece that stands out for way less $'s than you would pay at a retro or "antique" store.

Recently we were looking for a narrow "something" for our dinning area to hold cook books and other paraphernalia that was cluttering up counter space in the kitchen, as well as provide additional space when we have guests for drinks/deserts etc.

We fell in love with a blue Mexican bureau but the "reduced" price tag of $800+ didn't suit my budget.

A couple of days later I spotted a book shelf, in almost the same colour with a "free" sign. I loaded it up and voila, with a spot of paint, some trim and a few hours of labour we have a fashionably retro piece that fits our space perfectly.

Here's how we made an old book shelf into something useful and attractive.

Step by Step from Start to Finish

Measure and select trim for the unit. Have the local wood yard professionally cut to size.

Wash the entire piece, dry and then lightly sand using a circular motion.

Wash and Sand the Unit

Old Shelf left at side of the road - sand with fine to medium sanding paper
Old Shelf left at side of the road - sand with fine to medium sanding paper | Source

Prime and paint the trim and shelving unit.

When the paint is dry on both unit and trim apply quality wood glue

and hold in place.

Prime and Paint the Unit and Trim

Once trim is glued in pace, sparingly use tacks to secure.

Filling and Finishing

Mix polyfiller and fill any gaps between trim. With older units, warping is probable and will need to be filled. In our case one of the pre-cuts was a little short. Once filled - usually the filler dries within 30 minutes, sand off excess.

Paint over polyfiller and tack heads when applying a light second coat or create a antique or textured effect to the whole unit.

Once completely dry, situate and dress. Adding baskets can also be a practical addition for storage of loose or non stackable items and to keep the shelves tidy.


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    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Scotland

      I would re apply gesso and when it is dry use a 2b pencil and press lightly. Good luck

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi, i've just started to learn how to paint on wood.I alpiped gesso on a plywood but when i start sketching on it, the pencil's lead scratched the gesso and took off some of it.It's the same when i tried to erase some sketches with the eraser, the pencil line will still be there.Instead, it's the gesso being taken off.I waited for the gesso to dry before i sketch on it.How do i do it correctly?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi Irene!When you seal your wood canvas with Gesso you have to allow it to dry colpeltemy. I usually do multiple ones that way they are ready to go when I'm ready to paint on them.I usually do at least 2 layers of Gesso on all sides including the back (3 layers is ideal) for longevity.Once the Gesso is dry, then you can sketch on on it.I sketch on Vellum or Tracing paper first so all the erasing and corrections are done on that and not on the wood. Once I'm happy with the drawing then I transfer it using another piece of Velum that I have rubbed colpeltemy with a 4B pencil, you can purchase transfer paper, but I just make it my self.By transferring the drawing, you keep the Gesso clean and then begin to paint.If you do not want to deal with transferring, you can always add a layer of clear coat to the pencil sketch that is on the wood, let it dry and then start painting. The lead will be sealed and will not mix with your colors.I hope that helps.You've given me a nice idea for a blog post and I'll be explaining it using pictures.Take careMaggie

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I really admire folks who can do this. Thanks for sharing!! ;-)

    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Scotland

      MDavisatTIERS thanks for the comment. This has inspired me to TLC a few of my items currently in the garage. Wood is so wonderful to work with.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      I'm also a treasure hunter for wooden items. It's amazing what a little TL C, paint, and imagination can do. Thanks for the detailed article and photos of the process.


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