Sanna Atherton writes: We have a problem with our built-in bookcase: the sagging, oddly-spaced shelves are way too deep and the whole thing always looks messy. And when the walls around the shelf were painted (before we moved in), the varnished wood received a partial coat, adding to the untidy look. Ideally, I’d take the whole thing apart and start again – but how? What materials should I use? Can I keep it as is and just update it with handles and paint? Are there any shortcuts? Please help!
Jani Goussard replies: There are always shortcuts – but as they mostly lead to short-lived pleasure, it’s best you start this project with a good base. First, sand the wood down lightly and apply a wood primer or universal undercoat. Now you can make some magic!
• It’s amazing what the right shade of paint can do for objects. For instance, painting the whole bookshelf the same colour and shade as the walls of the room will make the whole room look neater and create a sense of calm.
• Also, if you paint the back of the bookshelf in a very light colour, this will help to create the illusion that the shelves are not that deep – especially if you paint the rest of the bookshelf a few shades darker.
• To help combat the messy look, it would help to match the left and right side of the shelf heights or, even better, take away the middle vertical support. The sagging problem could be fixed by shortening the span of each shelf by introducing more supports along the length – these supports could be anything from regular metal shelf brackets to something pretty like Paint & Décor’s embellished shelf brackets.
• You could also replace your existing shelves with a thicker, more structural wood or even thick glass panels. There are so many options for supports – these are simply a few ideas. Floating shelves are also a great option! Lastly, just have fun with it! This is an ideal display space, so clad the back with wallpaper, take those long shelves off and hang your favourite pictures in an interesting arrangement. If you don’t need all the shelves for storage, get rid of a few. Happy stacking!