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From Tall and Old to Sleek and Bold

Updated: May 26, 2021

Taking an old oak bookcase and flipping it on it's head

My son moved into a new apartment recently and is slowly but surely picking up furniture pieces that complement his young, modern style. He and my grandkitty, Emmie, are settling into their new home quickly, but I got a call from him a couple of weeks ago. He was out shopping for outdoor furniture for the deck and couldn't seem to find the right item for Emmie to be able to go on the deck and do her people watching.

Who better to call than Mom?

Here is the deck area.

He wanted something to go under the window ledge that

would give Emmie a couple of options: hop on top for best viewing possibilities, have a hiding area where she could watch incognito, and maybe a place to put some additional plants.

The plants in the corner are hiding the big dog on the neighboring deck so she is comfortable going out there. What we do for our animals, right?

I thought about building a nice long bench, but since my "thing" is reimagining furniture, I started sourcing a piece that would fit the vision I was already creating in my head. In a previous post, Six Great Places to Find Your Next Furniture Project, I talked about using Facebook Marketplace as a way to find a pretty good deal on project furniture. It didn't disappoint me this time, either. This item was marketed as an oak bookshelf, but my mind immediately saw it turned on it's side as a cubby bench. I negotiated off the original $40 asking price and picked it up that day.

Here is the before and after. Totally different vibe, right?

The bench has a modern feel versus the 1990's look of the original bookcase. The shelves that were inside the original bookcase are now being used as extended shelves on the outside of the bench. He can put plants here, use it as a side table when he is sitting out there himself, or Emmie can use them to hop up on the top of the bench. I painted the top white to reflect the sun and kept the bottom in the same color family as the rest of his apartment. The wood stripe around the middle gives a good contrast.

I purchased the 4" hairpin legs online and added them to give a bit more height to the bench and also lift the wood from the deck floor when it rains. Total height from floor to top of bench is 20" and will sit 6" below the window ledge. Perfect!

This was a pretty simple turnaround. The bookcase was in very good shape, so I had minimal work to prepare it for painting. After removing the shelves on the inside, I filled the holes left by the shelf ledges with wood filler, then sanded.

The rest of the piece was scuff sanded to prepare it for painting.

For visual interest, I added a thin stripe around the middle of the piece by taping off all the way around and inside the (now) bench.

Then proceeded to paint. The white paint took three layers before I was satisfied but the gray bottom was good to go with only two layers. There are also two coats of polyurethane on the outside and inside of the bench to protect it from the weather.

The extended shelves are resting on L-shaped iron shelf brackets so they are almost invisible and the focus is on the shelf itself.

Removed the tape, added the legs and wah lah! New space for Emmie on the deck!

I'll add a pillow for the inside, and she will have her nice, new people watching perch.

Hope you love it as much as we do. Would love to hear any feedback you have or suggestions on changes you might have done.

Thanks as always for stopping by!


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What a great turnout. This is what I call amazing talent for someone to take an old bookshelf and create a whole new meaning and purpose for it. This Is what wows me about Reimagined!! Can’t wait to see what’s next.


Clifton Hinnant
Clifton Hinnant
Apr 30, 2021

Simple but it works really well. Nice.

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