Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bookcase Bliss

My beloved bed is already tall, and with my thick mattress and boxspring, it measures in around 33” from the floor. Although I have two end tables that I love and wish worked as nightstands, I quickly came to the conclusion that they looked like doll furniture next to my big girl bed. I searched for craigslist for a while to find something tall enough to meet the mattress height and wide enough to look reasonable in the space, but never found anything to my liking.

I’ve always liked bookshelves because they give space to display a combination of books and items that make a room look collected and personal. I also like the look of bookshelves creating a cove for a piece of furniture, making the furniture look like it was built for that space. While this look is better achieved with actual built-in, larger scale bookcases, I decided to try it with slightly smaller ones flanking my bed. This also gave me a good place to put my magazines and books, which I was lacking in my new room.

I bought two white bookshelves from Target for $19.99 each:

Target Bookcase
I’ve seen quite a few examples of bookcases with painted backgrounds, and I really like the contrast and depth that it adds. To make my cheapo composite bookshelves look more custom, I painted the backing of them gray using a color sample from Home Depot. Color samples are great for small painting projects – they are always eggshell and you can get any color you want for only about $3.

Painting the backing wasn’t as easy as I hoped it would be. The backing is just cardboard, but it has a glossy paper on the front that the paint did not want to take to. At first I tried to roll the paint color on, but it just pooled up and didn’t stick to the surface. So I tried priming it, which worked only marginally better. I determined that I couldn’t use a roller and instead spread the primer on with a foam brush. It took two coats of primer to completely cover the backing and create a surface that would take the paint.

I applied two coats of gray paint on each backing and had to touch up spots after it dried. I then let it dry overnight, since the cardboard had absorbed some moisture.

The next day I nailed the backing to each book shelf by laying the bookshelf flat and lining up the top and sides so that the gray didn’t show out on the top or sides. I put four nails along the top and bottom row: 2 on the corners and one right next to each seem of the backing (which was folded in the book). I spread three nails out along the sides between the corner nails. On one bookshelf, I threaded my clock radio cord between the shelf and backing so that I could place it on one of the bookshelves.


I still have some work to do when it comes to arranging the items on the bookcase, but here are a few tips I've come up with so far to help you organize your bookcase:
  • Try to alternate the side of the shelf that you put books and knick nacks on. For example, I put books on the left side of the bottom shelf, on the right side of the middle shelf, and the left side of the top shelf. 
  • Instead of standing your books upright, stack them and put a little accessory on top of them.
  • Play with the color of the books. I like to group like colors together when I can.
  • Use funky book ends to add interest to the space. I got the bronze horses from my grandma's house, and I picked up that little owl from HomeGoods for $7.
  • Know that bookshelves, especially ones next to your bed, will like be a work in progress for a bit. It's important to understand how you will use the space and what you want to be able to reach while you're in bed. I'll still working on the bookshelf to the left of my bed (top picture). You can see that it's looking a little unbalanced with the magazines, books with kind of funny colors, and clock radio on a shelf.

The color is subtle, which is what I was going for. I’m very pleased with the result, especially knowing that I could potentially go with a more dramatic color if I choose. I also like having multiple shelves to place my items on, and a relatively clear surface to place my tv remote a glass of water before bed.
The materials I used for this project include:

·         2 Target Bookshelves, $19.99 each
·         2 mini paint trays (about $1 each)
·         Paint roller – had on hand
·         Foam brush – had on hand
·         Primer – had on hand
·         Gray Martha Stewart Sample Paint, $3

Total: about $45 for two nightstands

I don't know if I'll live with this solution forever, but it definitely works for me right now. It was one of the cheapest, most practical options for two matching nightstands, and I like that the bookshelves can look similar but aren't identical like a nightstand would be.

Have you come up with an inexpensive option for nightstands or end tables at home?

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