Upcycling | The Better-Than-Basic Bookcase

Home decorating projects are always gratifying — but there’s something extra appealing about taking a piece of furniture that might be unused or under-utilized and upcycling it into a creative, functional piece. Enter the humble bookshelf. Maybe you’ve got one tucked into a guest room where you store some paperbacks you haven’t read in a decade. Or one stashed in an attic, basement, or garage that you never use, but still can’t part with.

Don’t let that potential go to waste. There are some wonderful ways to upcycle that basic bookcase into several other pieces:

Lovely libations
For the at-home mixologist or amateur sommelier, transforming a bookshelf into a bar cart or wine bar is a wonderful way to upcycle. For a bar cart, you can adjust the shelving to accommodate the height of liquor bottles, add decorative trays to hold cocktail shakers and tools, and choose a curated assortment of colorful, classic clear, or vintage cocktail glassware. For a wine bar, the underside of the top can be outfitted with metal racks for hanging wine glasses, and the lower shelves can be fitted with horizontal wine racks. Decorative baskets can hold wine openers and stemware tags, so guests know which glass is theirs. If you want to be extra creative, add some rails to secure glassware and bottles and add wheels to the bookshelf to create a travelling bar or wine cart.

Creative closets & storage
As long as a bookshelf can fit inside your closet, it can be enlisted for a multitude of uses for storage. Add shelves to pack in layers of shoes. Add wicker or canvas baskets for a beautiful and practical way to organize scarfs, hats, and bags. Expecting a new addition to the family? You can turn a bookshelf into a mini-closet for a nursery by removing a shelf and adding a clothes rack. Baskets or canvas cubes on lower shelves can organize smaller items like socks and shoes. You can also enlist a bookshelf for creating a decorative but functional piece for storing linens or toiletries in a bathroom.

Culinary inspiration
Bookshelves have myriad uses in a kitchen, not the least of which would be to organize your cookbooks. Additionally, you can also line up multiple waist-high bookshelves back-to-back, adding a tabletop to create a functional kitchen island. The sides can be outfitted with wire baskets or upcycled hanging file folder holders to drape kitchen towels or store other items. Bookshelves can be lined with wicker or wire baskets for storing root vegetables or to organize linens, plastic containers, snacks, or anything else that needs storage. If you need more space to display your favorite dishware, you can add decorative feet to an old bookshelf and create a hutch. Adding a tabletop to a single bookshelf can convert it into an intimate table for a coffee or breakfast nook.

Green thumbs
If you love to garden, you can convert an old bookshelf into your own indoor seed-starting center. Attach grow lights to the top of each shelf and buy seed-starting kits that come with trays, soil pods, and a clear plastic lid. Seedlings can grow there until they are large enough to plant outdoors – or until they grow taller than the shelves.

Humble home office
Attaching a level surface to one shelf, and adding two legs for support, can create a small home office area or desk space for kids to do homework. You could even attach an existing small table to a bookshelf and paint to match, taking two unused items to create a functional new one. Even simpler, take the coffee or breakfast nook idea and just add a tabletop, creating an instant desk.

Kid stuff
Ideas for kids and bookshelves abound. You can turn an old bookshelf into a dollhouse by adding a few dividers and painting or decorating each room. You can paint the back and sides with chalkboard paint, giving kids a canvas they reuse again and again. Similar to the idea for a nursery closet, you can also make a dress-up closet to hang up costumes and accessories. Add wheels and it can be portable, too.

Once you determine how you will use your newly redesignated bookcase, you can punch up the décor. Repainting is a no-brainer, but you can also add pizazz by painting the interior a different color. You can also add wallpaper to the inside – or even the outside – for some pop. Consider distressing to give an antiqued look. Add thin wooden planks inside or outside for a rustic, shiplap look. Or go with a high-gloss finish inside and out for a modern, sleek feel.

Whatever your current décor or practical need, a simple bookshelf and some creativity can combine to create a new piece that works for both you and your space.


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