I had these three little cube shelves just sitting in the basement and it seemed like kind of a waste. I’m short on fun little nooks and surfaces to play around with in this house right now, especially since we lost a few pieces of living room furniture a few years ago when Jack started walking and haven’t replaced them yet. I brought these little shelves up one day and decided to play around with them and see if I could challenge myself to make them look a little more interesting.
They were just a plain white melamine finish before, which is practical, but didn’t really seem like what I was in the mood for in our living room right now.
After a bit of experimenting, I love how they turned out! They look like they could definitely pass as old reclaimed wood, or maybe some kind of reclaimed industrial metal? Either way, I think they’re pretty cute. 🙂
Here’s how I managed to get that interesting finish on such a flat, textureless surface.
Here are the three little shelves I started out with. This would also work really well on a full size bookshelf, or a little side table, which are often made with this melamine kind of finish on them.
I used four different colors of paint to get this finish: A light grey, a black, a dark brown, and a navy-ish blue. Two of my colors were chalky finish paint and two of them were super cheap dollar store craft paint. For this project you’ll want your main color (in my case the light grey) to be chalk paint, but your other colors can be any type of paint at all. The chalk paint really sticks to the melamine (and anything else, really) and keeps your paint from scratching off of the smooth surface really easily.
To get this finish, I started out by using the light grey on all sides of every shelf. I made sure to get pretty good coverage, but I also kept it really streaky.
Next, I started layering on my other colors, kind of haphazardly, as though they were just bits of old paint showing through or chipping off.
It helps things look right if you can have a few areas where you really concentrate one color of paint. Like how I did a larger patch of blue in the bottom left hand corner of this side. Sorry about the dark pictures here. It was about 10 pm when I was playing around and figured out this technique and I wanted to document it!
Once I had all of my wacky colors in place, I went over everything (while the paint was still wet!) with my main light grey color. I started in the middle of the side, then dragged the paint upward and downward, so that it covered most of everything up, but left the coloured paint on the edges mostly exposed.
Now you see that black plastic garbage bag that I was working on top of? I turned the shelf over so that the side I just painted was face down on the plastic and pressed down. Look how well that helped to “age” it!
Such a unique, rustic-looking finish!
Here’s a look at it in better light. 🙂
Here are my new shelves up in the living room now!
Just the perfect size to add a little personality to this little section of the room. 🙂
Do you have any smooth, boring furniture pieces with a melamine-type finish on them that could use a little more rustic-ness?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.