tips for painting a contrasting back on book shelf

did you know i used to be a painter?  during college i apprenticed as a decorative painter (while also being a nanny, waitress, and office assistant), then got hired on, and eventually started my own business after college.  while most of my time was spent on decorative finishes, distressing, glazing… i always had to make sure the base coat was done really well.  so over the years i learned a thing or 2 about painting!  because i was taught how to mix my own colors and match colors,  i have become very opinionated about colors!


8 years ago we painted the back of our bookshelves a really pretty chocolate brown.  i love the idea of a contrasting color on the back of bookshelves!  but… i was tiring of the brown and ready for a small, subtle change.


i painted it magnet by behr (in the new marquee paint), the perfect grey.  grey can be tricky to get right – i didn’t want it too purple or too green.


i love that both the brown and the grey work great with the distressed wood cover over our tv above our mantel.


the supplies were simple: paint, stir stick (which i didn’t use), 3m ScotchBlue tape, a paint can opener, and a purdy angled sash brush.  not pictured was a roll of paper towels.

because i had this paint at my home for a couple weeks (behr sent me a quart – thanks guys!) it needed to be mixed since the paint had probably settled a bit.  while i did my prep work, i turned the can upside down on its lid to start the remixing process.


i started off by taping off the perimeter of the area i wanted to paint, making sure to keep a straight line.  after i layed all the tape, i went over the edge with my nail to burnish the edge nice and tight.  finally i rolled out a strip of paper towels to cover the shelf top incase i had any drips.  the paper towel wouldn’t necessarily stop any drips from seeping through, but it was just a quick precaution.  paper or plastic would’ve been better, but this was quick and on hand!


before i started painting, i took my upside down paint can and gave it a few minutes of really vigorous shaking.  i didn’t use a paint tray since i was going to brush on the whole job, rather than using a roller.  this is because i was working in small sections and the shelf backing is all beadboard.  a roller would’ve just gotten the surface but not the deeper grooves.  and i didn’t feel like getting out the tray & roller ;)


i waited until morning to pull off the tape.  look how crisp the line is!

all in all, this was a really quick job – i started as soon as the kids went to bed and was done in a couple hours or so, prep & all.  the best part?  i only had to do 1 coat!  this marquee paint says its one coat, and it really is!  if this were regular paint, this job would’ve literally taken twice as long.

this is not a paid post.  i was sent a quart of paint from behr and given a roll of tape from 3m, but these opinions are all my own.  i know many of you like to paint – its one of the cheapest ways to transform a pice of furniture or a room.  i just wanted to give you some tips to make it easier!

come back in a couple days and i’ll show you how i styled my shelves!


  1. 1

    The new grey behind the shelves is really pretty! I can’t wait to see how you style the shelves. Do you have any tips for painting a front door-fav. Primer, fav outdoor paint, roller vs brush? I’d love to paint our front door a bright color but not sure the best way to go about it?

    • 2

      funny you should ask… i’m going to paint my front door soon with this same color! i love kilz primer – great quality and stain coverage. i haven’t used the behr marquee outdoor paint yet, but i was so happy with the interior being one coat i’d go for that for the exterior – anything that saves you time! i’d use both a roller and an angled sash brush. for a roller go with a “weenie” roller or one with a really low nap since doors are a smooth surface. i’d use a brush in all the crevices and possibly even go over the rolled areas with a brush if there is too much roller texture. i hope that helps!

  2. 3

    That new grey is so fresh! Love how it turned out…your tips are familiar, but always good reminders for those of us who don’t paint often. I struggle with taping…can’t get that perfect like yours. My challenge right now is painting vinyl house shutters. Any tips? My door’s are on my list too. What finish do you prefer? I tend to lean towards satin. xx

    • 4

      i haven’t painted on vinyl – sorry! i lean towards satin, too. never flat, only occasionally gloss on furniture if i can get a really good finish.

  3. 5

    This is more of a question than a comment. Have you ever used glitter for painting walls? If so what kind would recommend? Any tips would also be so helpful! Thank you. I love your blog and all the diy posts!

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