Monday, September 12, 2011

Boys' Room: the Bookcase

I finished it.  The bookcase.  The last project I had planned for the room that would tie it all together.  It was quite a journey and it took me almost a week.  There were a lot of tense moments where I was wondering if I would have to scrap the bookcase and just go buy a new one.  I really didn't want to do that.  Not only did I not want to spend the money, but this bookcase has sentimental value to me.  It was mine when I was a kid and it has followed me through life (except for a stint it did in my sister's room).
The reason I wanted to paint it is that the boys' room has very dark wood in it and it was a honey-oak color.  It really stood out in the room in a mismatching sort of way.  About a year ago, I made a deal with myself about furniture.  I was done buying anything that was good-enough-for-now-basic-boring-conservative.  I am an architect and I have opinions about design.  So, I bought some crazy scandinavian-mod dining chairs.  I'll get back to my ideas about design and the related constraints in the post about the boys' room as a whole.  For now, I will leave it just by saying that my new found deal caused me to go bold with the bookcase: apple green.  I LOVE this color.  When I brought home the paint and opened it up (way back in May, I think it was) I knew I had to do this project, scary or not.  I waited all summer.  I was nervous.  I didn't want to destroy the bookcase and I had never attempted anything like this before.
Well, a couple things happened.  I was inspired by a friend's post about finishing her kids' room AND I realized that I had about one week left of warm/dry summer weather before the rains come.  I don't have a garage or a basement, so I was going to have to do this project outside on the deck (6'x8') and I needed good weather.  It was now or never. 
So last Tuesday night, I took a deep breath and began.  I put down the primer.  It of course looked terrible.  On the sides of the bookcase, I decided to use magnetic primer.  If you've never used it before, just note that while it says 3 layers should work, plan for at least 5.  Just the magnetic primer took me the better part of two evenings.  Coat after coat after coat - testing after each.  I knew it had to be strong because I was going to paint over it.  Have I mentioned that magnetic primer is nasty, stinky, awful stuff?  It is.
On Thursday night, I laid down my first layer of green paint.  DISASTER.  Wow.  I was worried.  The vertical surfaces had dripped downward and dried with lots of gloppy streaks.  Thankfully I started on the inside of the bookcase so this was not the end of the world.  I learned from this that when painting furniture, paint only horizontal surfaces.  This meant the whole thing would go a lot slower, but it was worth it.  The other thing I learned on green paint day #1 was that foam brushes are the worst possible tool to paint with.  I couldn't get an even or smooth coat no matter what I did.  I also realized I was going to run out of paint long before I was done.  So, on Friday the boys and I headed back to Home Depot for another quart and some better painting implements.  I then took Friday night off after talking to a furniture-painting-expert-friend who reassured me that I was doing okay and of course it would take more than one coat.  On Saturday I got to work once again after some sanding and using my new smooth, small roller.  Wow!  What a difference!  I was reinvigorated.  I felt like I could do it.  I could finish this.  And I did.  Today, the following Monday, I carried it back into the boys' room.
It's not perfect - far from it.  I learned a lot in the process, though, and I know that if I ever tackle this kind of project again, I'll be able to do a much better job.  I love how the green bookcase looks in the room!  It really does tie the whole thing together.
Here's a "before" shot that I took almost 2 years ago when the room was overflowing with stuff after we moved Austin in with Nathan:
Here's the "after" shot from today:

And, hey, the magnetic primer actually works!  It's great!  It has breathed new life into the gears toy - the kids love it!


  1. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with what you have done! Both with the bookcase and with the whole room! I really need to learn your organizing tips, and I really need to tackle Audra's room to get it more organized.

    Did you sand the whole bookcase first? That's the part I dread most about painting old furniture- and our kitchen table desperately needs some lovin'!

  2. I did a very light sanding. If you apply primer, and the original finish isn't too glossy, you really don't need to do a full-on deep sand. If you decide to tackle this, talk to me first and I can give you some serious pointers so that you don't make the same beginners' mistakes that I did. :)