$11 Makeover: Painting The Back Of Our Built In Bookcases

We’re back with the after pics of our freshly painted built-ins. As we mentioned in the last post, we went with an inky blue color with hints of green called Dragonfly from Benjamin Moore’s Affinity line (color matched to Lowe’s No-VOC Olympic paint for the bambino). We only needed a quart, and since we used objects that we already owned on the shelves this entire built-in makeover only ran us $10.97. You can read more about how we planned the shelf placement here. Oh and here’s a poorly lit progress pic from last night, just for fun. Yes John’s shirt does say “Talk Nerdy To Me” on the back. I love it.

But here’s what you really care about. The bookcases all painted! Picture us twiddling our thumbs while we waited for them to fully dry so we could put the shelves back on and load them up.

Of course by then it wasn’t as bright in our north facing room (hence the slight color variation from the last pic) but we LOVE it. It’s bold and high contrast and nothing that we would’ve have the guts to do in our last house.

We’re enamored with the color because it’s super moody and it reads as greener or bluer or darker or lighter depending on the time of day and the angle that you glance at it.

And of course all of my white ceramic animals (and other not-kid-friendly-so-I’m-glad-they-fit-up-there treasures) really pop against the saturated background color (which also makes the cabinets look crisper and whiter by comparison).

These two pics are probably the most true to life when it comes to the color (but of course how you see them really depends on your monitor):

Mr. Rhino (and his ceramic twin on the other side) likey. And we do too. Especially for under $11. In fact we love the color so much that we plan to work it into other parts of the house when we can (you know, to try to keep our whole house color scheme cohesive but not too “yawn”). We’re thinking it might be the perfect color for the base of the future island that we’d love to someday add to our kitchen – and would even work on a bathroom vanity. Should be fun…

Psst- Learn how we made those two fabric covered boxes on the right side of the shelf here.


  1. says

    How pretty!! I love that color! I’m struggling to figure out how to incorporate color into our lower level (bedrooms + bathrooms) while breaking away from our black/white/red upstairs but still maintaining some cohesion.

  2. says

    wow! very bold choice.

    until the rest of the room is finished it’s hard to tell. but the verdict is still out for me on this one.

    as of right now… i think i liked the lighter color better. for me the lighter color was calmer … things looked less cluttered.

    time will tell. can’t wait to see the rest of the room!

  3. Bethany says

    That looks GORGEOUS! Wow! I am in love with that color.

    Quick question: Have you ever tried to have paint color matched at Lowe’s and had them tell you that they can’t get the a very close match with the Olympic No VOC paint? The last couple times I tried with Valspar or BM colors, they told me the computer couldn’t make a close enough match for it to look right. Just curious.

    • says

      Hey Bethany,

      So odd! That has never happened to us! And we color match super light things (like the pink for Clara’s nursery) and super dark things (like the paint for these built ins). We also have done a variety of finishes. Wish we could be of more help but we haven’t run into that trouble.


  4. says

    The color looks great! It’s still a bit too squished and knick-knacky for my personal taste, probably because everything really stands out against the dark background now — and because I like to see plenty of books on shelves — but it really does look quite sophisticated! :)

  5. Catherine says

    I am in serious love with this color. I have been wanting to incorporate a deep teal/peacock into my own apartment, and I am so excited you are going to be working with it! I feel some inspiration/idea stealing in the future :) It looks amazing with your shelves and decor. You guys rule.

  6. says

    Last Friday I found an awesome fabric with hints of that exact color. I covered some chairs with it, and decided it HAD to be an accent color in our new house! Good to know it will look awesome:) It is so much fun looking at your blog (and your allbowerpower friend’s blog) for inspiration and motivation. We close on our house in a couple weeks, which means I will have a big ole, fixer-upper project of my own! Yay! I can’t wait to see what other creative things you do in your new house, so I can try them in mine!

  7. ErinEvelyn says

    Whoa! Like my own living room built-ins! I have a similar white units and a few years go, I too painted the backs a gorgeous blue-green color. As soon as the paint dried, I knew it was the right thing to do! While similar in color, my blue-green is about 1/2 as dark as yours for a few reasons: 1) I have dark accessories (not white/light) and needed the contrast and 2) my built-in surrounds a window seat and the back-lighting on my wall means the shadows in the bookcases are naturally darker. Mine – and yours – is a color that I like to think of as a “Library Green”. Question: do you have an outlet inside one of those cabinets or anywhere nearby? I was lucky enough to get my hands on some PB bookcase scones (http://www.kaboodle.com/reviews/bronson-bookcase-sconce) to illuminate my built-ins w/o having to install pot lights in the ceiling. I can’t find the Bronson scones anywhere online anymore, but they may have been too deep for your shelves anyway. I’d bet you could DIY some similar scones to complement your own scheme if you were so inclined. Hmm…. John? ;)

  8. heyruthie says

    LOVE how it ties in with the color of the sofa in the adjoining office–which you can just see a hint of through the doorway–even before you put up french doors. it looks good!

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