Paint the Billy

If you know me, you know I’m a girl who loves a good DIY. You might even say that I crave them. But, I’m no fool. I know that they always result in, what I like to call, a DIY headache. (Hashtag copyright, yours truly.) Which brings me to a new series of blog posts called just that:

This post will show you how I transformed three plain white Billy bookcases that had been living in my in-law’s basement for who even knows how many years. In our last apartment we had two of them in our bedroom, barely containing our growing book collection, and the third in our bathroom to make up for the complete lack of storage in there. Well, the best place for them in our new apartment is in our living room. And since they were so sad looking and we would be seeing them ALL THE TIME, I decided to spice things up a bit. First I was trying to to decide between using wallpaper, wrapping paper or contact paper on the backs of them. Then I thought of something even less permanent and would use a lot less materials, which will equal using a lot less $$. We are, after all, Ballin’ on a Budget over here. The cost of this project totaled out at about $3, because I owned everything that I used (except for finishing nails that I needed to re-attach the backs with.)

Enough chatter – here is a photographic tour:

This is the best “before” I have of this shelf.


Once you take everything off it looks like this.

But then this happens to your kitchen table.

Lay that baby face down.

And yank off the back! These came off surprisingly easy. Then I had to go back and pull the rusted nails out with needle-nose pliers.

Flip that sucker around and wipe it down! It had all kinds of built up gunk on it.

Then decide on a pattern!


I decided I would do a repeating circular geometric pattern. I found a stack of Tupperware containers that were all the same size (and a lid from a Tupperware container that was from when my great grandmother worked in their factory) and laid them out. I centered those across the bottom to start the first row; for the following rows I just added a circle above each of the “dips” where two circles met. I used cardboard around the edges to do partial circles without getting paint on the floor.


Then I opened this never-touched can of paint that I had from a Glidden promotion from years ago. It’s called Spearmint.

And start knocking it out!

One down! You can see (on the bottom) how my circles were messy; I got better as I went through these 3 shelves.

Second one – much cleaner lines!

Assembled! This is when I contemplated also painting the frame of the whole piece.

And I decided to go ahead with it!

Since then, I’ve been trying to fill them up with the right mixture of books and accessories. I still have lots of tweaking to do, but this is where I ended up the day after finishing the painting and assembling:

You live/You learn:

  • I should have sanded it first. Some of the frames have nicks from when I put it face down to reattach the backs. I am going to look into sealing them, after I do some touch-ups.
  • I should have used less paint and made more than one circle with each dip so there wasn’t so much paint on the Tupperware (like in the beginning.)

I totally love them! Now I can just focus on continuing to move things around until it looks just right. Or, at least right for now.


  1. Dave

    three plain white Billy bookcases that had been living in my in-law’s basement for who even knows how many years

    Me. Ten years.

    But lord knows how long my grandparets had them.

  2. (Nancy) M-I-L

    Love it!!! They look great and they are so you!!

    Those bookcases are older than you think.
    We owned them for 12 years, but I believe they
    May have been twenty years at Dave’s grandparents first. An additional consideration – my parents were heavy smokers. This the gunk you had to get off.

    Way to go! You inspire me!!

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