Adventures in Upcycling

So we are in a new house with the thing I needed most—more space. However, that means we need more things to make the new space work. Things like closet organizers and bookshelves to replace ones that were built in. That last one is for my girls. They had some nice built-ins at our last house that held their books and special treasures nicely. Now their room has empty walls.

I had a great idea for what would work along one wall. I saw an upcycled dining room hutch on Pinterest that would fit and I could make work. I searched every thrift and antique store in town one day and almost purchased one. But something stopped me. Good thing it did. That was not what my 12-year-old daughter envisioned for her room. She wanted a tall bookshelf—tall enough to keep her treasures out of the hands of her 6-year-old sister’s friends.

Back to the drawing board I went but I didn’t have to go far. In our garage stood an old monster of a bookshelf. As a pastor’s family, we sometimes got hand-me-downs that filled needs we couldn’t afford to buy. This was one of those. We’d had it for years but it was heavy, ugly, and a bit wobbly. But it was here and therefore free. Or so I thought.

I found encouragement in a great quote from The Nesting Place: “You can’t ruin something you don’t like.” (For more on this book, see my post from yesterday.)


Bookshelf attempt 1

I found a few Pins on Pinterest telling me I could paint cheap laminate furniture if I used an oil-based primer first. Great. Off to the store I went. About $30 later I had rollers, primer, white paint, and was ready to go. The girls decided they wanted to paint it white and then add colors later as they negotiated what colors the walls would be.

I felt so proud as I tore off the cardboard back that was ripped and patched with duct tape. I added corner supports to square it up and let my daughters help paint. They had fun. I thought about how I was teaching them to be thrifty and how to do things themselves. This was more than a bookshelf—it was a girl-power life lesson!

And then we tried to move it.

It fell apart. The particle board shelves started to pull lose from their brackets. We heard wood splinter and the cross beam I’d screwed on snapped. It was done and we’d only made it 12 inches across the garage floor. My optimism and my mood both plummeted.

I needed their room unpacked and organized NOW. I was on the verge of sobbing at the thought of even another day of their room being in the condition it was. With this urgency and a plea to God for help, we headed to the only thrift store I hadn’t tried and the only one open on Sunday. Jackpot. We bought the $37.50 shelf that was still cheap laminate furniture but better made and didn’t weigh a ton. We headed back to Lowe’s for more primer and paint and rollers. And then we headed home with momentum to get it done NOW.


Bookshelf attempt 2 (and happy girls)

My girls had fun. They were excited to help create this piece. I could have spent $100 on a nice looking, slightly better made laminate bookshelf at Target but then it would not have been white. And they would not have gotten the satisfaction of helping and making it their own.

Financially, I saved about $50 when all was said and done (figuring I would have had to paint the new one anyway). But the smiles on their faces and the laughter at the paint Lucy got in her hair or Kati got on her elbows was worth it. I did teach my daughters about doing something on their own and perseverance. As grumpy as I got in the midst of this process, that made it worthwhile.


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