Altered Art – Giving an inexpensive face lift to an old bookcase with acrylic paint.

My husband recently bought a bookcase from a thrift store for $20 which had a hideously ugly green and mottled brown backboard panel.  He’s decorating his massage clinic with it and I couldn’t see how this color scheme would be very soothing.


I told him, “This is so ugly – but – no worries, I really think I can refinish it for you”.  So about a week ago, he removed the back panel and brought it home.  After about three days of procrastination, I finally got my act together and worked on it.

I decided that a metallic bronze would look pretty sharp.  So I set about gathering my supplies –

  • sandpaper
  • gesso,
  • a 3 -in paintbrush
  • an unused ‘credit card’ (actually a room key card from the last hotel we stayed in
  • brown, white and bronze Liquitex Basics acrylic paint
  • gel medium (used to extend drying times)


I treated it much like an ‘altered art’ board book.

I first light sanded it to give the slick surface some ‘tooth’ for the subsequent layers.

Then I added a coat of gesso with a paint brush to act as a primer.


And then I decided it wasn’t thick enough, so I poured on a second layer of gesso and used a credit card to slather it on, avoiding brush marks.

I liked that a whole lot better.

Then, I laid down a layer of tan acrylic paint that I mixed together using brown and white until I got the color I wanted.  The purpose of this layer was to act as a paint primer so that there wasn’t going to be a stark contrast between the bronze color and the white gesso.

I also used a credit card on this layer.  I decided to lay my perfectionist tendencies aside and just went with whatever happened.


Lastly I mixed metallic bronze paint with liquid gel medium to both stretch the paint and extend drying times, in approximately equal parts (I’m guessing. I basically took a blob of paint and poured some medium and mixed it up). I used a 3 inch painting brush to apply the final layer, and I attempted to make nice lovely straight strokes, but really, in the end, didn’t care how straight they were. The reason being that it will eventually be covered up by stuff on the bookshelf anyway, so it wasn’t going to matter much.

On my work table, I took a picture of the final result.  I hesitantly showed my husband to see how he liked it, and he seemed to think it was really good, considering what it looked like before.


And my husband took it in today and re-attached it to the bookshelf and sent me a picture via his cellphone.

And I was worried it wasn’t going to look well with the dark brown, but I think it turned out pretty amazingly.


I had thought about adding some other embellishments to the back board, but in the end, I’m glad I went with this simple route as his accessories don’t compete with a cluttered background.

What do you think?

About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Altered Art, Creativity, Faux Painting, Mixed Media, Refinishing furniture. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Altered Art – Giving an inexpensive face lift to an old bookcase with acrylic paint.

  1. Ooh… I really like that. Looks like brushed copper. Very nice.

  2. Thanks, WA.

    I really like shiny metallic bronze and copper. A lot.


Would you like to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s