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Old Bookcase into Nightstand Update

Today, Jan from Impressions by Jani is here, showing a darling transformation of an old bookcase, into the perfect nightstand for her daughters’ room.  And that pop of blue paint is amazing!


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Hi Make It and Love It readers! It’s great to be back again sharing another idea for updating your child’s room. Thank you for the warm welcome on my Blanket Storage Display Ladder — I hope some of you have tried your version of that simple project.


Today I’ve got a little bookcase/nightstand update for you that hopefully will inspire you to look at the old, tired pieces of furniture in your home in a new way.




As you can probably tell from the Blanket Ladder post (and lots more over on my blog), I’m always tinkering in my girls’ rooms to make them a little more functional and pretty at the same time. My two middle daughters share a queen bed, which works well for them and provides a great spot for guests when they come stay with us. When we switched out their old bunkbed for the queen, however, we were at a loss for night stands. A bookcase we’ve had for years fit on one side for my older daughter, but the other side of the bed was empty for a while as I looked around.


Finally, I noticed a friend selling this choice piece on Facebook for 15 bucks and I snagged it quick!




It was short and squatty and in need of a little love, but I just plopped it in the room for a while as I waited for decorating inspiration to strike. I’m not really a mood board/plan-out-the-details-from-the-start kind of decorator, since my decor budget is always way, way smaller than my ideas. Instead, I tend to develop an idea or feeling I want in a room, then keep my eyes peeled for bargain finds and pieces I can make over to fit into the space.


This bookcase is a perfect example of this. It was exactly the right width for the area between the bed and the wall, it was cheap, and it had potential. The downside was that it was really too short to be an effective nightstand–it was barely flush with the top of the mattress. With the tall bookcase on the other side (that I have yet to make over), the room looked slightly crooked. Here’s a shot of the whole bed wall now–see how tall the other bookcase is?




The two bookcases are still not exactly the same height, but by adding legs to the smaller one and a bit of trim around the bottom edges (and eventually painting both the same color), they will become a much more unified pair.




The top of the nightstand provides a nice spot for my daughter’s imaginative play.  (That little house is another Target find that has been everything from Doc McStuffin’s clinic to Sophia’s castle and everything in between.)




And by adding a bit of white textured paper to the back of each shelf, there’s such a nice pop of lightness to the back of the bookcase. I was a bit concerned that the pattern would be too busy with all the books and other items that I needed to actually store in the space, but it is muted enough that it works nicely.




Also, I couldn’t resist adding a few styling touches to the shelves, as well, of course! The faux coral ties in beautifully with the sea shell backing paper, and the oversize jack fits perfectly in a child’s room. The linen-covered bin (Threshold at Targets) holds more of those flimsy, soft cover books that we seem to have a billion of but never stay upright on a bookshelf. This way the girls can stash those book right back in the bin when they clean their room instead of trying to nicely shelve them upright.




We’ve got two chapter book readers and one who is just on the cusp of learning to read, so the more space I have for their books, the better! I just love having the books organized by color, and my seven year old was so impressed by that! “I’m going to keep the books like this forever, mommy!” Now, we all know that’s not going to happen, but she really has tried and it’s worked better than any other book storing attempt we’ve made over the years.




Want to know how I turned the old bookcase into a nightstand?



First, I started with some scrap pieces of 2×4 that I cut to about 4″ long (so that I would have something sturdy to attach the legs to).


Then, I attached them to the bottom of the bookcase with my brad nailer (and one too-long screw, as you can see) and picked out some tapered furniture legs at the hardware store. The legs are inexpensive–less than $5 each–and come with threaded rods on the end ready to attach to your piece. I simply measured where I wanted the legs to go and drilled a pilot hole slightly smaller than the threaded rod.  Then I screwed the legs in and turned it upright.



At this point it was obvious that my scrap 2x4s I’d attached the legs to would show along the bottom of the bookcase, so I cut down some 1×2 inch boards to add as molding along the front and sides. I wanted to keep the lines of this piece very clean, similar to the lines of the mission-style bookcase on the other side of the bed, but you could definitely use a more decorative molding for this step.




Once I had the molding attached, I filled in all the nail holes and flaws with wood putty, then gave the whole piece a good sanding. I used Annie Sloan’s chalk paint in duck egg to paint the piece, so the sanding wasn’t necessary for paint adhesion, but there were a lot of drips and blobs from the previous paint job that I wanted to smooth out.



Once I had it painted (two coats) and waxed (two coats), I carried it in to the room and filled it with books and decor, but I wasn’t thrilled. The shelves became dark black holes when filled up, and it wasn’t vibing very well with the light, airy feel I wanted for the room. I found the solution on a trip to TJ Maxx (where I also snagged the adorable coral trellis throw pillows on the bed)–wrapping paper!


The paper is a white with a very soft turquoise shell pattern printed on it. Since the daughter I was making the bookcase over for is a total collector of anything and everything she can put in her pockets, the shells were a fun nod to her hoarding tendencies. Lining the back of the bookcase could not have been simpler.


First, I measured the dimensions of the openings. I used my quilting ruler and cutting mat to lay the wrapping paper out and measure the correct size of paper.  Then I used my exacto knife to smoothly trim the paper to the perfect size. A dot of hot glue directly on the bookcase at the four corners, and I stuck the paper in. Perfect!


The bright paper brings such a nice pop of lightness to the back of the bookcase.




What do you think? Are you inspired to try your own furniture update?


I love that I could do more with this piece than just repaint it — adding the legs, trim, and backing to the shelves really gave it a new personality. And my girls adore the way their room is shaping up, which is really all that matters.



Check out Jan’s blog HERE.


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  1. Amber ~ Little Ella Bug Jewelry says:

    I love this idea! I have been trying to figure out what to do with my 5 year old’s bookcase and this is the perfect idea! Thanks for sharing, you solved my problem :)

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I love the bookcase to night stand! I’m new to your blog and am really enjoying my look around. I would love to know about the headboard for the bed though. Do you have a ‘how to’ for it? I really need something simple. Thanks.

  3. Kate says:

    This is completely unrelated to the super cute bookcase, but what is the name of the paint color in your girls room?! I love it – it’s not too pink and perfectly subtle.

  4. Bek @ Just For Daisy says:

    Oh wow! I absolutely love it and I think open shelving makes a great bedside for kids! I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for a similar shelf at our thrift stores! AND those legs are to die for!! Thanks for sharing! x

  5. Alaina says:

    Oh my gosh, that bedding! Where’s it from?!

  6. Amanda says:

    Love this! I’m going to try it this weekend with an old computer cart for office/craft room storage. Can you get Annie Sloan paint at Lowe’s?

  7. Valerie Nelson says:

    Super fun! Thanks for sharing Jan!

  8. Kim says:

    What a great idea to add legs to change the height! I wouldn’t have thought of that on my own. Love the way it turned out :)

  9. Becky says:

    Love this! I have two very similar, plain white bookcases in our playroom that I want to move into my sons room and thought they were just way too plain.This is amazing! Thank you for the inspiration :)

  10. Emily says:

    That paper makes a world of a difference! Great job!

    1. Jani says:

      Thank you!

  11. Gretchen says:

    I love the legs. Which hardware store did you find them?

    1. Jani says:

      Thank you! I got them at Lowe’s in the trim and molding section of the store, if I remember correctly. They had a wide variety of furniture legs to choose from. This is the one I used:

  12. Stacey says:

    I love this. There’s an old crummy bookcase sitting in my boys’ room that I’ve been waiting on for inspiration. This is it! Attaching legs and trim and painting it will give it new life. Thanks so much for the how-to. Also curious about what you mean by waxing it??? I’ve always used clear coats of polyurethane with the pieces I’ve painted.

    1. Jani says:

      Thank you, I’m so glad you have a project waiting to transform with these ideas! I used chalk paint ( on this piece, which is a very flat, porous paint. The manufacturer recommends sealing it with soft wax in several coats instead of a poly product. I’ve tried both ways of refinishing furniture–the chalk paint does not require sanding or priming before painting, but it does not go on as smoothly as a latex or acrylic paint. It’s made to help a painter mimic European hand-painted furniture pieces that have a lot of texture, so a poly layer would not work as well with the paint. That’s my understanding, anyway, but I’m not a chalk paint expert! :D

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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