How to: Paint a Lacquered Wood Bookshelf

You guys know how much I love a project. It doesn’t even have to technically be my project — I’m willing to help with any kind of makeover or DIY. So when my dear friend Cynthia (you may remember her as the mastermind behind the annual tea party and my “Once upon a time”-themed baby shower) decided to redecorate her sons’ room, I was excited to help out any way I could.

And when she found out I was looking for projects to blog about, she immediately asked me to assist her in painting a lacquered wood and laminate bookshelf for the room. Naturally, I was game.

I’ve painted a few pieces of furniture in my time, so fortunately I already had most of the materials we needed on-hand. Here’s how we handled this mixed-materials piece.

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Step one: Clean your piece of furniture thoroughly. The majority of the bookshelf was wood with a thin lacquer, but the back panel was a laminate.

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Step two: Sand it down. We started with a medium grit sandpaper, and then followed up with a fine grit. You don’t need to go crazy; just go over each section for about five seconds to remove the shiny finish and smooth out any divots or nicks from previous use. For the laminate, we just needed to provide a bit of roughness for the primer to stick to, so we primarily used the fine grit sand paper.

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This photo gives you an idea what the sanded wood should look like. Not unlike your T-zone, you don’t want any shininess remaining.

Step three: Wipe the whole piece down with a damp rag. You could also use turpentine or something stronger, but, honestly, a wrung-out washcloth will do the trick to remove any grit or dust. Let dry completely (should only take a few minutes).
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Step four: Time to prime. Or you could save time like we did and use a paint+primer. Either way, you should end up doing 2-3 thin coats.

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We used a small mohair roller for the flat areas. For the first coat, you should also use a small angled brush or foam brush to coat the corners and get between any grooves in the wood.

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Don’t worry about the evenness too much, that’s what subsequent coats are for. And don’t glop on too much paint, even though it’s tempting. Thin, even coats are the key to a smooth finish and faster drying times.

Step five: Repeat step four up to two more times. Really, it shouldn’t take more than three coats to cover the wood/laminate evenly. If you do end up with any bumps or drips, use your fine sandpaper to smooth them out before the next coat. Let dry completely in a cool, dry environment for 24 hours before putting anything on the surface.

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Didn’t it turn out great? The boys’ new beds, desk, and shelves are white, so this bookshelf ties in perfectly with the new look.

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If you’re worried about any remaining tackiness on surfaces where you will put books or other heavy items, you can also seal the paint with a water-based polycrylic. In this case, though, it wasn’t needed.

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Go, Cynthia! You are the coolest mom.

Side note: How much fun is it decorating rooms for kids? They get all the coolest stuff.

What have you been working on lately?

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2 thoughts on “How to: Paint a Lacquered Wood Bookshelf

  1. I’ve always been so intimidated by this process and I feel like it would be a huge mess, so I’ve held off. But you made the steps so simple and I just need to remember not to be a perfectionist about it! After all, it’s an upcycle!

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