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Trash to treasure: a bookshelf with legs!

I first spied this bookshelf on Facebook Marketplace, where it was listed for $15.

dirty white bookshelf.

And I thought to myself, “Ummm, nope. Not paying cash for a shelf that looks that dirty!”

But then a little bit later, I saw the same shelf pop up on my Buy Nothing group. Apparently no one else wanted to pay $15 either.

For $0, I figured I’d bite.

This shelf was indeed in terrible shape. For starters, it was spattered with some kind of brown who-knows-what all over.

bookshelf with spatters.

And one of the shelves had some serious damage to it; it almost looked like some kind of liquid and/or chemical had spilled and eaten the wood away.

shelf with damage.

But, I thought it had potential, so I picked it up.

I sanded it down, and that was a process because the shelf had multiple layers of paint on it. Some of the layers were latex paint, which gets rather sticky as you sand it.

sanded bookshelf.

I sanded the damaged shelf, of course, and I was able to remove some of the damaged parts that way.

However, plenty of damage remained. And it was an awfully large area for me to consider a wood filler repair.

damage shelf after sanding.

But then I thought, “Hmm, this bookshelf doesn’t really have a designated top or bottom. What if I just turned it upside down?”

So I did.

Pro tip: If you can’t see the damaged shelf, it ceases to exist. 😉

Damaged shelf out of the way, I thought, “Hmm, you know what would make this shelf look even better? Some legs.”

So I ordered a set of four from Amazon and then put the bookshelf in my van and drove over to my dad’s garage. I do not currently have the tools to install legs, plus the shelves needed a little reinforcing with screws.

bookshelf repair

My dad is obviously very experienced with everything related to woodworking, but guys, even he agreed that these legs are tricky to install.

The problem is that they are angled, and you want them all to be pointing in the appropriate direction, so you have to be careful how you install the brackets.

shelf leg bracket.

We (ok, mostly he) came up with a method that worked, but it was tricky.

shelf legs on garage floor.

If I did it again, I’d definitely order these straight legs instead! They’re not quite as cool-looking but they would be a thousand times easier to install.

After the legs were installed, I filled somewhere around a million dings and dents.

top of shelf with spackle.

Then I caulked all the gaps and did the usual: one coat of primer, and then probably 3-4 thin coats of paint.

Supplies I used:

(Amazon links, but this stuff is usually cheaper at your local store, like Home Depot)

So. Here’s what this looked like before.

shelf before

And here’s what it looks like after.

shelf in Kristen's house.

So, so much better!

White shelf with wood legs.

I really, really love what the legs do for this shelf.

wooden legs on bookshelf.

And I like the simple lines; I think this will have no problem looking good in whatever house I live in next.

Bookshelf with plant on top.

Recognize that white pot? That was a Buy Nothing find that was super spattered with dirt, and I cleaned it up and planted some cuttings.


That blue bowl is from my Buy Nothing group too!

Now, I have to tell you: these after photos are sort of a lie.

Since I have built-ins at this rental, I don’t actually need a living room bookshelf! I just took things off my built-ins and put them on this shelf for the photo.

Side view of shelf.

This afghan is a gift from reader Shannon. Remember when we met her?

The bookshelf actually is down in my basement, in Zoe’s little TV den, and it’s currently holding things like Wii games. It’s too dark down there for good photos, though, so staged photos it is. 😉

before and after

I really love the look of this bookshelf now it’s rehabbed, and probably at whatever house I live in next, it will get a more prominent spot than the basement.

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Saturday 29th of October 2022

This bookshelf looks great! I love a good repurposed / renovated piece of furniture.


Saturday 29th of October 2022

Me too! So rewarding.

Elizabeth B

Tuesday 11th of October 2022

I am super-duper behind on FG reading, but here to say that you’re super-duper inspiring! I appreciate you so much.


Tuesday 11th of October 2022

Aww, thank you!

LaNell from Texas

Thursday 22nd of September 2022

You are amazing. You could flip these for a tidy profit. Good job!

Liz B.

Thursday 22nd of September 2022

I love love love this! I do have to ask: did the spattered brown stuff just come off when you sanded it, or did you have to somehow remove it or clean it off?


Thursday 22nd of September 2022

It just came off when I sanded! There were a lot of layers of paint to get through, so the brown spatters had no chance of survival. ;)


Thursday 22nd of September 2022

great idea turning it upside down.

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