Bookshelves Complete

November 7, 2011

Hey all!  Guess how I spent my weekend?  Filling up those bookcases we built a week ago, yippee!  I love books, and I love decorative objects.  This new wall of bookcases allows me to combine the best of both. I’ve heard such great things about the convenience of Kindle and iPad reading, but for me, there’s nothing like a book to touch and smell, and for savoring the words on a printed page.

How best to begin this project?  I had to start at the back. Grasscloth wallpaper would have been major cool, but expensive and time consuming.  Been there, done that.  Wrapping paper or scrapbook paper might have been fun I couldn’t find the right one. Stencils seemed too busy.  One thing I knew, I was going to pack it with a book + collectible combo and I worried with all the stuff, the background would compete.

I finally decided to paint the back of these bookcases a rich teal color, because 1. it’s a color I never get tired of, 2. it showcases all the white accessories, 3. it coordinates with the colors in the window panels in the room and 4. it was just so dang easy. 


I started this adventure Saturday morning, coffee cup in my left hand, paintbrush in the right. Painting the backs was the easy part.  (Tip: use a good angled brush!) The hard part was later in the day when it was dry.  After I put all the shelves back in, I was staring at piles and piles of my favorite books, and deciding where they should all go.  Very daunting.  Worse, I was distracted with the piles of books because I can’t help but crack the spines or peek at the pages I’ve tabbed in the past or flip through to see what I’ve underlined.  Do you do that?  Underline and tab and bookmark your favorite pages?  I wasn’t allowed to when I was little, but I do it all the time now, I can’t stop.

I finally decided just to organize them by category, like at a bookstore or library (wow, original concept!)  It just makes sense to group them that way.  Fiction, nonfiction, reference, design, faith, travel, etc.  I was only able to fit about 75% of my books because it was starting to feel too crowded, but so be it. I’ll either donate the rest or put them back in a closet where most of them lived before.

wall of bookcases cg


This was our blank wall before the built ins. 

kates bookcases before


For the full story of our IKEA Billys to built ins, read this.

kates bookcases during


Here they are all painted and filled with books + favorite things.

centsational girl bookcases after


I played around all weekend following some of the tips from this article, including stacking the books different ways, and hanging artwork on the outside.  I finally settled on what was visually pleasing to me. 

I bought a set of four butterfly prints at an antique faire years ago and they used to hang in the bathroom, but they fit so nicely on display on the bookshelves.  I added texture with my favorite shell ball, some faux coral candlesticks, and a simple oak tree branch. Pops of color come from other collected items like bowls, candles, and glass balls.

bookcase detail cg


Nothing like a few Goodwill finds to help out!  A few pinkish mauve dollar finds were primed and painted to create new bookends.

goodwill vases turned bookends


Some of my mister’s favorite things are on display too, like his mandolin (which he never plays but was a gift from a friend and it’s sculptural and beautiful) and his record player.  Baskets hold little extras like smaller books or travel guides.

white built in bookcases from left cg


Most of the white ceramics I’ve collected over time from flea markets, thrift stores, or in the clearance section of retails stores (like that lattice lantern, a discount Z Gallerie find).

styled bookcase detail cg


Finally, I changed the old boob light on the ceiling that was bugging me. I found this oval drum shade pendant at Lowe’s for 50% off, spray painted the metal parts antique gold, and hung it above the table. I’m still debating whether to paint those chairs and I’m on the hunt for a new rug, maybe sisal.

kates bookshelves and table


If you’re interested in the paint color, it’s a custom mix from my stash of paints.  It’s half ‘Pewter’ and half ‘Venezuelan Sea’, both by Benjamin Moore.  I’ll try to color match it with some of my paint fan decks later today.

** Update: The pendant is the Barcelona by Good Earth Lighting.  Three close color matches to the dark teal paint are: Dutch Boy ‘Turquoise Sea’ (slightly more saturated); Ben Moore Naples Blue (slightly darker); and Ben Moore Affinity Line ‘Fiji’ (closest match).



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185 Responses to “Bookshelves Complete”

  1. Debbie C says:

    Kate, this looks gorgeous! Can’t go wrong with dark teal and fresh white! Love your arrangement…I agree, the right set up can be daunting! We recently switched out our dining room light (it was a spray-painted ReStore find) for a drum shade too. Don’t you just hate boob lights? And why are they sold everywhere?

  2. julie says:

    ooh. la. la. Experiencing book shelf envy…that is gorg! Love the blue and yes, paint the chairs for a pop of color…beautiful!!

  3. Wow it is beautiful!!! I love the molding and the blue paint! and I think a sisal rug would look great under the table . . . I cant believe those are IKEA!!!! totally keeping this in mind for next house!

  4. Debbie D. says:

    Beautiful!!! I have built-in bookshelves in my family room that are cherry. I always thought they are so dark. My husband doesn’t want to paint them white. The only take I have seen the back of the shelves painted is if the shelves themselves are white. Do you have any suggestions for wooden bookshelves to brighten them up?

  5. this looks so great! i love how your hung two butterfly frames on the actual bookcases! i want to try this!

  6. whislerpotpie says:

    Me likey. Love the color. Totally impressed with the arranging – I don’t have this skill and admire yours very much!

  7. Kara says:

    I used Ben Moore slate teal on the back of my built-ins. It looks pretty similar and might be a good color match. Your wall looks fabulous.

  8. Wow! I’m impressed! You did a wonderful job with this bookcase! Love how it turned out! Much love! Ox

    – Urska @

  9. Absolutely beautiful. I knew you would do something fantastic with the book shelves!

  10. Abbey says:

    I love this… :)

  11. GawgusThings says:

    These shelves look amazing! Love the colour you’ve painted the background and you’ve got some gorgeous pieces on display!

    Emma xxx

  12. cassie says:

    oh they look so beautiful! i love that blue in the backing! and they are beautifully styled!

  13. molly says:

    Oh my, it’s just gorgeous! I think what I like best is that if you ever want to change the background color you can just take the shelves out and create a new look! I don’t think you can do that with most built ins!

    I have a lot of milk glass that I would love to use with a pop of blue behind it! Thanks for such lovely inspiration!

  14. antiquechase says:

    what an amazing job for such a great price! i forwarded your previous post to my husband to try and motivate him :)

  15. Shelby says:

    My vote is to paint the chairs. And the boob light thing made me laugh out loud- so glad I am not the only who thinks that about them!

  16. Debbie says:

    Are the two vases on the left side (second row from top) from Edible Arrangements? I have a vase like that, I think! I use it for flowers. :-)

  17. Oh my beautiful! LOVE LOVE LOVE. They look like fabulous custom built ins! Now come build some at my house… pretty please? : )

  18. Diana says:

    The lack of books in these bookcases kill me. I feel the same way about the YHL bloggers. Where do home design bloggers keep their books, or do they just not have any?

  19. erica p. says:

    Wow, Kate – you did such a great job styling your shelves. I think you managed to find the perfect balance between beautiful and functional!

  20. Jody says:

    I love how it turned out! Your layout ideas are very inspiring!

  21. These look INCREDIBLE!!!

  22. Linda Kay says:

    Very beutiful! Teal is one of my color obsessions! Love the arrangement…you nailed it! I think you could paint the chairs or use a cushion…either would look great! Thanks for sharing your creativity!

  23. Kate, your bookshelves look amazing! I’d love to do something like that in my house. I’m curious – I noticed there are outlets behind the bookshelves. Did you move them? Or do you have other outlets in the room so you don’t need them? Thank you!

  24. Lynne says:

    Very nice indeed! Love your IKEA “enhanced book cases” and the way you arrange books . . . just like I do it!

  25. Tammy says:

    What about painting the chairs the same color as the back of the bookcases?? That would be pretty cool I think :) you’re right, the white doesn’t really “go” with that table, but they are both pretty designs! A color change would be perfect :)

  26. Qwendykay says:

    Gorgeous… I have these bookshelves on my Christmas List… to “build them in”. Where did you get that Window Bench. I love it!

  27. Kate.. I drool over your projects all the time! This is so very fabulous!! I just re-vamped (kind of) my sewing/craft room…. hmmmm wonder if I should re-do my re-do??? I love this and it is so much more aesthetically pleasing than my brightly coloured dis-jointed sewing room! There really is no reason my quilting/craft stash has to be ‘storage-ish’ right? All be it organized, user friendly and neat… It can still be tranquil and beautiful…. I will have to do some serious conniving.. love it! (did you cut out for all your outlets?)

  28. Heidi says:

    I have built-in bookcases that I need to add molding too in my office. I’m not critiquing, but why didn’t you choose to build additional shelves on top to make the bookcases go from ceiling to floor? Wouldn’t this have given them even more of a built-in look?

  29. Laura says:

    I envy you the to-dream-for shelving. At my house there would be no space to see the rich teal color behind. What are your plans for the area ABOVE the shelves? That would be my display space and the shelves would be wall to wall books. I do like the idea of having some laying down and maybe even a few facing front out.

    Sorry – the idea of underlining or even folding over page corners makes me cringe.
    I did underlining in college textbooks, but even as a child I was not the type to draw in a book with crayon. Still, when I buy used books I am fascinated by anything written inside the front covers.

  30. Gorgeous Kate….absolutley gorgeous!!! I’m bookmarking this post for future use. Love how the room has turned out. Love the choice of colors.

  31. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Heidi, great point! We’re still thinking about doing that, there is an extension piece from IKEA which will add another shelf to the top. I’d have to remove the crown and reinstall it, no biggie though. Will definitely be checking it out on my next trip to IKEA.

  32. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Katie and Twila The outlets are still there, in fact I notched out the back of the bookcases where they exist (but hid them with books, etc.) We can access them at any time if necessary!

  33. Joy P says:

    great to see the finished shelves dressed. They look like they were always in place. Great upgrade.
    – Joy

  34. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Diana, I love the combination of both books and collectibles, but to each his (or her) own. Love bookcases with just books? Go for it, I say!

  35. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Debbie, yes why not the opposite? Got dark shelves? Paint the backs white or a light color, that would look lovely! Or you can simply find whiteboard at a craft or art store, cut it to the size of the backs and paint that, if you’re worried about painting the wood.

  36. Bonnie says:

    Hi Kate! Love the new shelves, they look great and are quite timely for my current project which is exactly the same. Bought the bookshelves at Ikea a couple weeks ago and have been waiting to assemble and install because I need to paint the wall first. Doing that tonight and on to bookshelves later this week! I also want to paint the backs of mine a peacock/teal color. I’ve heard painting them can be quite difficult (Jenny at Little Green Notebook said they took three coats each of primer and paint, yikes!). Did you have the same experience? Any tips before I get started on this little adventure? It looks fantastic, thanks for keeping me motivated.

  37. Gorgeous!!! Love the color you mixed up; the white and gold accessories really pop against it and look so pretty. I know how long it takes to organized shelves…and I don’t even have half the amount that you do! It takes me hours of setting up, standing back, tweaking, changing, standing back again….plus I always end up sitting down on the floor and reading one of the books I’m suppose to be finding a spot for! Yours are super pretty; great job!!

  38. laurie says:

    So glad you painted the back. They look fantastic and are well dressed- enjoy.

  39. Susie Harris says:

    Love love love it Kate!!!! I’m wanting something pretty close to yours in my new workroom. Only wish I had an Ikea. Plan B ahead ;)

  40. Hey Kate! It looks fantastic, as I knew it would. love, love the built-ins. OK, so where is my sofa? You know I’ll need it when I come back to visit. :)

  41. Sherry says:

    What a treat to the eye! The color is divine and your arrangement of the books and other pieces is so attractive. I love it!

  42. Erin says:

    WOW! That is what I think every time I read your blog. WOW!! It looks so beautiful Kate. And thanks again for that past post you did on bookcase styling tips. I have referred to it several times when styling things in my house! You are AMAZING. :)

  43. angela henderson says:

    could you not stack some of the leftover books in the bench under the window? or create a centerpiece with some of them on your table? perhaps if you make some cushions for your chairs they might not look so white. How about some baskets on top of the shelves instead of having to build something?

  44. Becky says:

    The shelving looks amazing. I love that you painted to backs blue. The funny thing is, we just bought a Billy bookcase (can’t beat the price!) and covered the back panel in yellow fabric. We havn’t posted on our site about it yet, but will be shortly. Its a fun challenge to arrage shelving decorations, but you did great.

  45. Julie says:

    Fantastic! Love the teal. I vote you totally paint the chairs a yellow -green color to pick up the color in the curtains. A question about the antique gold spray paint on the light fixture : which brand/type did you use? I am looking for the right metallic gold or antique brass spray paint to use on some very 90’s polished brass towel bars, toilet paper holders, cabinet knobs, etc. Or should I try Rub n Buff?

  46. You know I love teal myself since I painted the back of my pantry a very similar color! As usual, beautiful arrangement :)

  47. Lisa says:

    Love this!!! Awesome. I want to spend a weekend decorating shelves! :-)

  48. Judy says:

    Absolutely beautiful. I love the color you chose for the back of the bookcase. Gorgeous. I need to find a place for bookshelves like these.

  49. Kate it looks awesome! Makes me want to rearrange our bookshelves in our library. I love how the top shelf in the two middle cases are lower than the outer…might give that a try for something different. Loving the teal color!!

  50. Ruth says:

    It looks fabulous, Kate! Had to giggle at your boob light comment. We call them that too! Hehe.

  51. Sheila says:

    What an AWESOME transformation. I LOVE it ;) Thanks for the inspiration.

  52. Mindy says:

    WOW!!! It looks like it belongs in a home decor magazine. Very well put together:)

  53. Yarnista says:

    What an incredible job! I absolutely love it! Love the concept, love the styling. Major kudos!

  54. Colleen says:

    You did an amazing job styling the bookcases! I think the chairs would look great painted the same colour as in your throw pillow off to the side there in that last photo, that yellow-gold stripe in the centre of the pillow! Can’t wait to see what else you come up with, you’re so talented. :)

  55. Leanne says:

    The shelves look amazing. I love the color on the back and the way you styled them. It’s gorgeous!

  56. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Bonnie, I didn’t have any problems painting the backs at all. It’s actually a cardboard of some kind, so two coats of paint (no primer) was all it took. The Ben formula paint is really great, mostly covers in one coat. However, if you’re going to paint the melamine shelving, you will definitely need a primer first!

  57. Annie says:

    You have done so much, I am always inspired. As I get ready to move into a new house and leave this behind, a good push in the right direction is all I needed. Thanks!

  58. Trude says:

    It looks amazing, especially when you take a step back and get to see the whole setup. Love the touches of gold and that lamp is a great find!

  59. MaryssaGC says:

    I’ve been wanting to do this in my office for months! Of course the men won’t be able to handle teal. This design is just so perfect and might just help us organize. I’m between a forest green or a bright yellow for the back. What do you think?

  60. Lindsey says:

    Looks fantastic! I love the color you chose for the back of the bookcases.

  61. Hilary says:

    Looks great! We just got new built ins – we looked into doing the Billy ones but the dimensions didn’t fit our space too well and we decided to do a desk structure in the middle. But these turned out awesome. Makes me want to paint our ‘backs’ :)

  62. Love! You have a wonderful balance of books and pretty things. I’m a book fan too…I just like the feel of them, highlighting stuff in them. And also maybe I am old, but reading novels on a screen hurts my eyes. I sound like my Nannie.

    Lovely, lovely space!

  63. Terry Moore says:

    A truly impressive job in not only the built in look on these bookcases, but in the staging of the shelves. Great job and very pleasing to the eye.

  64. sarah says:

    kate…it looks so awesome…i say go for some pattern and color in the rug and leave those chairs stunning white. it makes me want to paint my oak bookshelf white, but i can’t bare to paint the awesome wood just yet.

  65. Nancy Rodgers says:

    Great Job. My only problem with doing my bookcases is weeding out the books. Books have been my best friends my whole life and choosing which ones to pack away is hard. My project to be done soon is a good cleaning out of my bookcases and hopefully I ‘ll be able to simplify mine better. Or you could come over and

  66. These turned out beautifully! I have a question, could you tell me what spray paint you used to paint the hardware of the ceiling pendant antique gold? I have a light project coming up & that is the perfect color I have been searching for! Any info would be greatly appreciated & thank you!! ~ Danielle

  67. Carly says:

    Holy amazing Goodwill finds!!! Absolutely LOVE the idea to use them as bookends…good thing I have you for inspiration. Your shelves make me want to run out and buy a ton of books right now. I need more in my life. Where is the beautiful white “dish,” for lack of a better word right now, in 2nd row from the left and 3rd row down from?? Stunning.

  68. I love this color. It provides such a “pop” of color against the mostly white accessories. I too, love books and can’t bear to part with any of them (something my hubby is not very excited about). I think you created a very visually stunning display. I will take inspiration from this. Thanks for sharing it!

  69. EGreene says:

    I’m loving the finished room. I’m wondering if you happen to remember the name or maker of the drum pendant from Lowes. I’ve been looking for an affordable option, but I haven’t see this one at my local store. Thanks!

  70. Brittany says:

    Looks fabulous! Love all the white ceramics against the dark backdrop!

  71. Sarah says:

    You did a beautiful job from start to finish on the new bookshelves. Love the colors!

  72. Ahhhhhh! Just beautiful, Kate. The colors, the styling…the whole thing! They look like $5000 built ins!

  73. They look beautiful! I love the little owls I see =)

  74. Lo says:

    My favorite thing about your bookcases its that they actually have books on them! Amazing!! Lol, it looks fabulous, I love that rich teal blue!

  75. Nikki says:

    GORGEOUS!! Simply gorgeous. You should be very proud!

  76. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Danielle, lately I’m crushing on Krylon’s ‘Gold Leaf’ spray paint which is what I used for this project, but I also love their ‘Caramel Latte’ it’s more of a subdued bronzy gold, very pretty.

  77. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Maryssa, I think any bold color works, whatever you prefer for your space. Green or yellow? Bring it!

  78. Megan D. says:

    Love the way they turned out. You did an amazing job styling and filling in all the spaces too. Stunning. Also I wouldn’t paint the chairs I think they look awesome white. An area rug would add too. I like the simple seagrass rug or even a bold black and white stripe or chevron would be sweet too. Anyway amazing job! Love all you do!

    Ps if you get a chance, come check out my Mudroom I just did.

  79. Kathryn says:

    That is beyond gorgeous! The perfectly accessorized/organized bookshelf is such a hard thing and you have nailed it!!! Beautiful!

  80. Kate says:

    Paint the chairs, paint the chairs… you can always paint em back. I think there needs to be more pop in the room. and I love the lines on those chairs too much to let them fade into the rest of the room. :)

  81. Morgan says:

    Stunning! So beautiful. You have some amazing treasures around the house :).

  82. Michelle Marsh says:

    Hi Kate! As always, you never disappoint. These are insanely gorgeous. Hey, I have black ones. They aren’t built-ins, but the top shelves light up and they are wider than yours. What color would you recommend painting the back in a room that is mainly camel, cream, black and white. I need some pops of color! Thanks for all of your inspiration!! ~Michelle

  83. Katharine says:

    The two boob lights in my living room had mastectomies cause the fixture or electrical isn’t working. I want to put a cheap IKEA hanging lamp in till we figure out what to do. It’s been like that for over 2 years and needs serious re-construction surgery.

    I love what you’ve done with the book shelf. I had my friend help me put fancy white on white wrapping paper on the back of my bookshelf. Right now it’s holding my bathroom “stuff”.

  84. Allison A. says:

    It’s really beautiful, Kate! The teal and white is a striking combination. You’ve organized and showcased everything perfectly. Gorgeous job!

  85. Lindy says:

    Your bookshelves look great. I really like the colors and the styling.

  86. Alisa D. says:

    Fantastic job!

  87. It looks beautiful!! Wow. The whole room looks so fantastic!

  88. Jennifer says:

    You are amazing girl!! Fantastic transformation!!!!!!

  89. SheilaG says:

    Wow, it looks great! I love the color and the arrangement! I would pull up a nice cozy chair and just live right there! Well, if you would let me…. :)

  90. Rondell says:

    Wow, just gorgeous, love all that you have on it! You have given me such great ideas! Love the paint color too and that wonderful light that you found for 50% off!


  91. bj says:

    This is as pretty as any bookshelves I’ve ever seen. You did a magnificent job of arranging things and now, I am about to pull out over a hundred books, all kinds of STUFF and try to make MY wall of shelves look this pretty. WHEW…..
    xo bj
    O, and I am about to be your newest follower…come see me. :)

  92. bj says:

    O, WAIT…I already DO follow. :)

  93. Jeannie-JB says:

    Your built in is soooo beautiful and I love how the Teal shows off your white collectibles. The way you put it together just showcases your artistic design flair! Luv it.

  94. Andrea B says:

    LOVE this. And I think you should definitely go for the sisal rug. It would add a slightly rustic texture to the room and the ground the table. Then see after adding more brown if you want to paint the chairs or not.

  95. It looks stunning!!! Well done, Kate.

  96. Love the completed bookshelves. The background color is so refreshing and a wonderful accent to all your accessories. Styling bookshelves is one of my favorite things to do. Great job!

  97. Aja says:

    Gorgeous! I love the background color and the butterfly prints!

  98. Tejal says:

    It looks great. I love what you did with the room, reminds me of the dinning room over at Young House Love.

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