Updating bookshelf + arranging books by colors


  • $0 for bookshelf (inherited from an old roommate)
  • $0 for paint (left-over)


  • 2.5 hours

Our apartment was painted with a lot of cream wall colors & white trims through out.  It’s nice and  serene and makes white furniture disappear.

I have inherited a large white bookshelf from an old roommate years back.  It’s a nice size and decently built  but definitely showing its age. While brainstorming what color to paint it with by using what I already have, nice boyfriend suggested “grey”!  Perfect.  I have black, and I have light blue and white.  Isn’t grey just black mixed with a lighter color?

So the great mixing process began.  Hand mixing paint colors reminded me of mixing baking batter without recipe.  You have your base of whatever already in the bowl.  Then, you slowly pour in the additional ingredient.  Too much, your cake won’t rise.  Too little, you cake tastes funny.  My mixing bowl looked like this:

Grey bookshelf (3)

Oh, forgot to mention that before any paint job, you need to prep your surface.  That means sanding, wiping with damp towel, and taping the edges so you don’t paint over the area that you don’t want to paint.  This is also my least favorite part of the painting.  It’s time consuming, and I’m much more interested in taking my paint brush to the object.

I decided to go with grey on the exterior to the bookshelf while leaving the interior white so the color wheel that I am going to organize the books by will stand out.  To be clear, I didn’t invent this method.  I saw it on a HGTV show sometime and have been wanting to try it.  Here is my top 3 reasons why I think it’s a good idea:

  1. Visually Appealing: organized colors make the space look more thought out, instead of just piling books on your shelf.  Would’ve been even cooler if I had a horizontal shelf.

  2. Discovering new books: sure, organizing books by subject makes perfect sense.  I had been doing that for as far as I can remember.  It’s great for finding a book that you already know you’re looking for.  But what happens to the other less-favored ones?  When will they ever get read if you don’t pick it up?  This way or organization throws you in an unfamiliar order and forces you to pick up more books.

  3. Why not?  I’m not operating a bookstore or a library here:  It’s really not like I have seas of books that I need to reference to all the time.  Besides, it’s in my own space.  As long as the 2 people living here are happy with the arrangement, it’s all good.

Adding a small detail to make it more interesting, I also painted the very bottom black.  It kind of reminds me of the ‘exposed legs’ of couches/sofa/love seat.

After painting, I left the shelf to dry for hours.  I touched up some of the backing with white paint I had because there were scratch marks.  The colors weren’t really a match.  Oh well… the books will color them.

Shelf finally dried.  I sanded it with super fine steel wool for the finished look.  Then the great arranging began.  I arranged the books by colors first.  Then within the piles of the same color, I divided them by shades.  Having a color wheel image near by was pretty helpful.

Here is the finished look!

Shelf 003


5 thoughts on “Updating bookshelf + arranging books by colors

  1. Christa says:

    I love this idea. We have done this with the kids’ books in the playroom. It makes sense of our rather large collection of books. It makes it easy for them to put the books away, and for those of us who are real visual, to find books in the first place. (I can almost always picture the spine of a book.) It looks great on your shelf!

  2. mrslemons says:

    Hello! I just wrote a bookshelf related post as well 🙂 Question for you: How did you change the font in the body of your blog post? I have the same blog template as you, and I’ve upgraded to allow for CSS editing, but have not been able to get the typekit fonts to change the text in the body of my blog posts. Its driving me CRAZY! Any tips on how you did it? Thanks 🙂 -Mrs Lemons

    • mangoslifedesign says:

      Hello Mrs. Lemons. I love the make-over drawings! I just started playing with the fonts, so it’s still a trial & error process for me. Have you heard of Typekit.com? I signed up for a free account. Once you have an account, go through the setup instructions to create your “kit” of fonts. I believe you only get a couple fonts to be active at once, unless you’re a paying user. In the setup process, you will get a TypeKit ID that ties in with your WP blog. Every time you change the fonts in your kit, don’t forget to publish it. Then the change will show up in your blog. Good luck!

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