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Friday, May 18, 2018

Painted Vintage Barrister Style Bookcase

Dark gray paint completely transforms and updates a vintage barrister bookcase.   

I'm always surprised at how much paint can transform furniture, especially when it comes to updating dated pieces like an old oak barrister bookcase.   For months, I had been searching for an affordable barrister bookcase that wasn't $300-$400 and I FINALLY found one.  It wasn't a true vintage barrister bookcase, but the price was right and the seller was nice enough to meet me at a location that knocked 20 minutes off my drive.  So, I hopped in my car and headed out for a little road trip.  

I don't really want to call this oak barrister style bookcase dated, it just wasn't my style.   Don't get me wrong, I love using wood tones in my home, but the color of this particular cabinet was just a little too 1990's for my taste.  It reminded me of the builder grade cabinets in our previous home and that wasn't really something I wanted to replicate in our current home.  Since it wasn't a true vintage barrister bookcase I didn't feel bad about painting it, so I broke out my favorite color (Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore) and got to work. 

Painted vintage barrister style bookcase

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- Sherwin-Williams Iron ore (Emerald Line in satin)
- Wax brush or lint-free rag
- 120 Grit sandpaper
- Simple Green
- Paper Towels 
- 4 knobs
- Razor blade (for scraping paint off the glass)

Here's the bookcase just after we unloaded it from my car.  It's made of oak, so it's definitely heavy and a solid piece of furniture.   
Oak barrister bookcase

1.  Sand entire bookcase enough to rough up the finish and give the paint a good surface to adhere too.  This step can be long and tedious, but it's so important to make sure you have enough tooth in your wood for good paint adhesion.  I used my Corner Cat sander and 120 grit sandpaper, which worked well.

2.  Clean bookcase with tac cloths or simple green.   Make sure to remove any sanding dust and residue from the furniture so you have a nice clean surface for paint.

3.  Apply two coats of Sherwin-Willaims Iron Ore.  To achieve a smooth professional look, use a good paintbrush (I always use a 2 1/2 inch Purdy brush) and long even strokes.  I did paint the outside and inside of the cabinet (including behind the doors),  but I didn't paint the bottom of each shelf.

4.  Use a razor blade to scrape off any paint that got onto the glass.   Simply hold a razor blade at a 45-degree angle, slide it along the glass and the paint will come right off.  (You can see how I clean paint off glass here.)

5.  To give the paint a little more dimension, finish off the bookcase with a light coat of antique wax using either a lint-free cloth or wax brush.

6.  Update original dated gold knobs.

Painted and styled barrister bookcase
I'm not gonna lie.  It was a major pain in the butt painting this bookcase, but I definitely think it paid off.  I actually had all intentions of taking this piece to Sweet Clover, BUT I ended up loving it so much that I'm going to keep it for myself.
Unique vintage finds styled on a painted barrister bookcase
It's the perfect place to display a few of my favorite thrifted and vintage finds.  Actually, the only things that are new in the bookcase are the greenery and galvanized bucket.  Everything else was either found at Goodwill, yard sales, on Facebook Marketplace or from local vintage and flea markets.
Vintage books styled in a painted barrister bookcase

Brass duck bookends and vintage books styled in a barrister bookcase

How to paint an oak barrister bookcase

The oak finish on this barrister bookcase wasn't horrible, but it definitely looks a lot more up to date with a fresh coat of dark gray paint.  

Before and after-an oak barrister style bookcase makeover


Would you like to comment?

  1. love it- i think that was the perfect color for it! looks masculine and chic!

  2. What a beautiful job! You certainly have an eye for furniture that can be improved. I love your sense of style.

  3. Looks great! I'm in line to inherit my great uncle's original barrister bookcase. It's lovely dark wood and I'm so glad to be able to pass it down. This would be a great alternative, I'd rather have my aunt and uncle around and a reproduction bookcase, lol.

  4. Love it! Have always wanted a barrister but no room for it. You always do such great work and pick the perfect colors. Keep up the great work, Katie!

  5. We have 2 of these and its even more orange, which I can't stand anymore. Great post about painting it- thanks for all the details. Big undertaking for me, but I'm thinking about it now!:)

  6. Love your bookcase and totally get it on the migraines! I can predict when a front is coming. I take a daily prescription of Neurontin (generic is gabapentin) which has been very helpful. You might want to check with your doctor.

  7. I would be so excited to find one! And I love the gray.

  8. I really like the new finish! Glad you are keeping it, too! I won't tell the hubby!

  9. I love it! Keep it, as it looks so nice where you have it and with the decor items you styled with it.

  10. Beautiful results, and ilove it and tge color you selected for it.

  11. It looks nice, but the ads popping up on mobile and covering the images is super distracting—9 ads with only 9 photos in this post (plus affiliate links)? You might want to find a better balance so people can actually see your content without being bombarded by car ads and exercise desks.

    1. Thank you for your honesty. I do limit the amount of ads that are shown and there should definitely not be that many in a single post. I agree, there needs to be a balance and reader experience is of the utmost importance.