Paint Your Bookcase This Weekend—But Do It Selectively

A DIY that proves less is more.
yellow and white painted bookcase wall in dining room

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Come spring, who isn’t craving major color? With our latest issue on newsstands, we’re celebrating all things bright and bold with Color Month on Domino. Check back daily and sign up for our newsletter to see vibrant spaces, palettes that pop, and our series Stroke of Genius, a step-by-step breakdown of weekend paint projects even total rookies can manage. Let’s get chromatic.

There are lots of ways to zhuzh up a bland old bookshelf, and with everyone at home more than usual these days, it’s the ideal time to give yours a refresh. You can redo the whole thing in a fresh hue or just style the shelves. Or you can do something in the middle à la this weekend project from French architect and designer Camille Hermand of Camille Hermand Architectures. When faced with a bare wall, she first installed built-ins. Then she went about peppering doses of bright yellow in select boxes—the effect of which is maybe even more eye-catching than if she had covered the whole thing in paint. 

“The colorful sections were selected according to the objects and books the client wanted to put forward,” she explains. The result? A series of mini jewel boxes carefully arranged to create an overall graphic effect; the vivid citron only further highlights that goal. 

While Hermand employed this tactic on a custom fixture, the storage system reminds us of a certain IKEA Kallax shelving unit. Which means that anyone still hanging onto their prized first apartment bookcase (or simply anyone who wants a bespoke organization piece at a fraction of the price) can easily go the flat-pack route. All it takes to spice it up, according to Hermand, is a pop of a lively color and a couple of free days. Here’s how she did it.

The Supplies

  • Accent color paint of your choice (Hermand used Little Greene’s Trumpet)
  • Angled paintbrush
  • Optional: white paint (Hermand used Farrow & Ball’s Strong White), sanding sponge, cloth rag

Step 1: Eliminate Scruff

This bookshelf was a custom build, meaning that Hermand had to start from scratch. Lightly rub the entire painting surface with a sanding sponge to get rid of bumps and uneven textures. Dust off any residue with a cloth rag. 

Step 2: Slick on a Base Coat

Paint on a layer of white—since it’s such a big project, it will need more time to fully dry, so let it sit overnight. Repeat with two extra coats. 

Step 3: Bring on the Color

Start from the top, then work your way down to avoid accidental smudging. Tackle the least accessible places first (like the tops of the cubes) before hitting the easy-to-get spots, and don’t forget the exterior borders for a 3-D effect. Hermand suggests doing three yellow coats total, and letting each dry fully between paint sessions. Get started early on Friday to make the most of your weekend. 

See more easy paint DIYs to try: This Blink-and-You’ll-Miss-It Paint Trick Is Eyeliner for Your Walls Fake High Ceilings With This Easy Paint Trick This Designer’s New Wall-to-Wall Headboard Is Actually an Optical Illusion

Elly Leavitt

Writer and Editor

Elly enjoys covering anything from travel to funky design (tubular furniture, anyone?) to the latest cultural trend. Her dream apartment would exist on the Upper West Side and include a plethora of mismatched antique chairs, ceramic vessels, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases—essential to her goal of becoming a poor man’s Nora Ephron. You can probably find her in line at Trader Joe’s. You will never find her at SoulCycle.