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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

  • Claire Douglas

1-hour DIYs: DIY shelf makeover ideas

Updated: Jun 24

white alcove shelves and grey painted wall

Regular readers will recognise this as the third instalment of the new '1-hour DIYs' series. 1-hour DIYs are all about making an impact on a small space in a short time with some DIY, decorating or upcycling skills.

An hour is not a long time, so you obviously need to be realistic about what you can achieve but with meticulous planning, it's possible to really make that hour count. Previously, we've looked 1-hour quick and easy flooring updates and 1-hour kitchen cabinet updates. I've got lots more ideas up my sleeve for the coming instalments, but I'd love to hear from you if you have any suggestions. Today, we are looking at DIY shelf makeover ideas.

DIY shelf makeover ideas

Transforming a set of shelves is a quick and easy DIY and great for beginners to tackle as it requires little skill and few tools or materials. If you have some tired, dull or uninspiring shelves that you'd like to transform, check out these simple DIY project ideas...

1. Accentuate alcove shelves

Alcove shelves are a great way to optimise space and for the following ideas it doesn't matter if you're dealing with kitchen alcove shelves, an under-stairs alcove or the recessed space next to a chimney; if your shelves are in an alcove, this gives you the option of transforming the wall behind the shelves as part of the makeover.

alcove shelves decorated with wallpaper

Wallpaper or contact paper are effective ways to do this. See the adjacent Pinterest pins for examples, but you could go as bold and bright or neutral as you like, in keeping with your interior style. Add a lick of paint to the shelves to complement the palette from your chosen paper and style with your favourite ornaments and vases.

If you'd like alcove shelves for your living room but don't know where to start, you might find my IKEA alcove hack tutorial useful. In it, I show you how to transform basic IKEA HAVSTA shelving into built-in alcove units. I've got a whole page dedicated to IKEA hacks as I'm a huge fan. They offer a way for DIY novices, or those on a limited budget to access bespoke-looking furniture affordably.

2. Use wood stain

kitchen wood shelves stained dark

When it comes to shelf makeover ideas, wood stain is a great way to change the hue of wooden shelves. There’s a huge selection of shades available and water-based VOC-free solutions are safe and easy to use.

  • Remove the shelves first

  • Protect the area you are working in with dust sheets.

  • Lightly sand the shelves beforehand to ensure the stain adheres well.

  • Use a clear varnish or wax afterwards to seal the stain.

3. Give the shelves an antique look.

Distressed wood

If your shelves are made of wood and have a generic and mass-produced look that you are keen to change, then a quick and easy DIY is giving them an aged makeover, exactly as I did with my IKEA bench hack recently.

Use your tool kit, namely a drill, saw and hammer, dent, mark, scratch and chip the wood to create an antique look. This is one of the more destructive shelf makeover ideas! Follow up with some wood stain to complete the look.

4. Transform with contact paper

If the shelves requiring shelf makeover ideas are made of particle board or similar and ageing or staining them isn't really an option, then you can wrap them in contact paper to give them a makeover.

Contact paper (as we looked at recently in rental-friendly home styling tips) is a self-adhesive vinyl-based paper roll that is printed with a design on one side. In many cases, the design is based around natural materials like wood and stone (eg marble) but it can also be patterned or a tile-effect for example too. It's cheap and cheerful but an effective way to make an impact quickly and on a shoestring budget. DC Fix is a reliable brand that I've used many times.

Be sure to clean and dry the shelves thoroughly before applying the contact paper.

5. Paint laminate shelves

Yes, you can paint laminate furniture. Think IKEA flatpacks. All you need to do is prime first to ensure the paint adheres. This means the project is going to take longer than an hour, but if your shelves are already primed, then the painting can be completed quickly.

I've painted many a set of IKEA shelves and it is such an easy makeover but it can produce such bespoke-looking results. Below is an example of my IKEA BILLY hack painted.

IKEA Billy hack shelves

Where next?

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DIY Kitchen makeover on a budget - money-saving DIY and styling ideas

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Home organisation - tips and tricks for organising your home with minimum fuss & maximum impact.

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