Bookcase Upcycle Project

A $50 Facebook Marketplace find gets a total transformation

We love nothing better than a good, old-fashioned upcycle here at British Paints. Updating older items is good for the environment, good for your wallet and good for the soul – because it gives you the chance to explore your creative side!
Instead of spending big bucks on a piece of new furniture which is likely to have engineered wood or laminate, it’s surprisingly easy to find solid-wood items on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. And even if they have a bit of a dated look, all you need is a bit of vision to bring them into the 21st century.
We revamped a bookcase with cabinets and took it from daggy varnished pine to stylish Hamptons chic with just a few coats of British Paints Paint & Prime – here’s how: 


Shopping list

  • 150-grit sandpaper (either for sanding by hand or with an orbital sander)
  • Paint (use the paint calculator to work out how much you’ll need)
  • Applicator. For this project, we used regular paint brushes to get into all the corners and nooks and crannies, as well as a ‘pad edger’ for the bigger sections. This one from Bunnings worked really well!
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paint tray
  • Drop sheet or newspapers to protect your floor
  • Brass coat hooks 


  1. Remove the doors and save fixtures (hinges, door knobs) in a safe place if you intend on using them again.
  2. If your piece has paint, varnish or another coating on it already, this will have to go. You can either use chemical strippers or give it a light sanding. We opted to sand and gave it a gentle going-over to rough up the surface just enough for the paint to adhere. The key word here is ‘gentle’! You don’t need to get rid of every single last skerrick of varnish, and you definitely want to avoid making gouge marks in the wood.


    They’re solidly built, but a little dated. This varnish needs to go. Photo: Supplied

    Doors off and lightly sanded – now the shelves are ready to paint! Photo: Supplied

  3. We think the easiest way to get started is to use British Paints’ Paint & Prime, as it means you can skip doing a layer of primer and get straight to painting in your chosen colour. We used White Disclosure for these shelves – it’s a beautiful white with hints of grey and green to give it a slightly vintage quality. Very chic!


    Applying the first coat – using the pad edger made it a super speedy task. Photo: Supplied

  4. Let the first coat dry to touch before starting on coat two!


    You can see how much more opaque the colour is after the second coat. Photo: Supplied

  5. Once the paint has dried, add your coat hooks, if desired. We wanted to turn this item into a ‘cabinet slash raincoat station’ so they made sense for our project.


    Hard to believe it’s the same piece of furniture! Photo: Supplied

    The brass coat hooks transform it from an ordinary bookcase into a multi-use cabinet. Photos: Supplied