DIY Reading Nook

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This project is part of a much larger home renovation that I will be writing about in future posts so check back for more on our very own extreme home makeover!

Like many young couples starting out, we’ve taken on several home improvements ourselves in an effort to save some dough. That said, DIY projects can be tricky if you’re not careful. They’re often not nearly as cheap as they appear on the Internet nor as easy. And unless you’re a professional refurbisher of sorts, they can also take WAY more time than they claim. So choose your projects wisely and prepare to be patient.

Fortunately, this “upcycle” was nothing like my first DIY experience. Pinterest swore my last project would take one day and $27 but seven trips to Home Depot, 4 weekends and $300 later I was feeling a little pissed off. Oh well. Live and learn.

I’ve been slightly obsessed with wanting a reading nook in Weston’s bedroom but built-ins are extremely expensive to have custom installed. So when I found this oak modular bookcase on Craigslist for $50, I was stoked. (Besides the Salvation Army, Craigslist is my favorite place for vintage finds at great prices).  It had just the right look and feel about it and the dimensions were spot on – it would make the perfect base for a reading nook . The cherry on top: all the straight lines would make it a little easier to refinish.


First: Using an electric sander, we sanded the book cases twice. First with 80 grit sandpaper to remove the finish and then with 120 grit to really smooth out all of the imperfections.

Second: We vacuumed off all of the dust left from sanding. In the past, we have used Mineral Spirits to remove dust but we were told that is best if you’re staining wood. Because we were painting and not staining, we were able to avoid this step. If ever in doubt, ask your local hardware store for recommendations based on your project needs.

Third: We sprayed the bookcases with primer and let them dry for several hours. We used Rust-Oleum Primer.

Fourth: We began the painting process. Using a paint roller, we applied the first layer of paint and left it over night to dry.

Fifth: After letting the first layer of paint cure, we used our 220 grit sandpaper to hand sand the first layer of paint. At this point the sanding doesn’t need to be rigorous – just enough to smooth out imperfections. When I was first learning to refinish furniture I thought this step was very unnecessary. But I’ve since come to understand it’s importance in the refinishing process.  Unless you want to see drip marks or uneven brush strokes etc, you MUST sand in between layers of paint. Paint – sand. Repeat.

Side note: Because this would be a piece that Wes would be climbing all over, we opted for a high gloss paint that was more durable and could be wiped off if dirty. We also chose to use roller brushes to paint the shelves for two reasons. (1) We don’t have a spray gun and although we could have rented one, spraying tends to be very messy and takes practice to get an even spread. (2) Paint brushes leave lines and uneven surfaces. It is also imperative that you allow each layer of paint to dry for 24 hours before you sand!

Viola! Bookcases done. We were toying around with adding a layer of lacquer to really harden things up but for now we are leaving them as is. We can always spray on a coat at a later time if we feel they are taking too much of a beating.

To complete the look, we used an old pillow top mattress to make the cushion that rests on top of the nook. For now, I just threw a sheet over it but I plan on making a cushion cover for it down the road.

Overall project cost: $100 ($50 for the bookcase and about $50 in paint and painting supplies)

Total project hours: 8 hours not including drying time

So, without further ado…Weston’s new reading nook!

BTW, forgive these very poor before and after images!

Original Bookcases:

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During sanding process:

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Completely painted and installed:

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– The Confessioness






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