Ever get that feeling that things are just piling up around you in your living space? When the room was first organized it was complete zen, and now all of the sudden the items in the room no longer make sense or perhaps the area just became a catchall for miscellaneous things that don’t seem to have a home elsewhere. In between episodes of the latest Netflix series binge, I caught myself looking at my bookshelf and thinking it had become a bit sad. Which is altogether unacceptable, for it is probably my most favorite piece of furniture in our home.
In 2004 my mom and I traveled to Chicago, to visit Columbia College as an option for my next chapter of education – but we couldn’t be all work and no play, and we spent a good chunk of downtime shopping. Our wanderings landed us in a modern furniture store, and eyeing one very handsome ladder style bookshelf. We had visions of walking it out of the store and right into my future dorm, until the price tag brought us back to the reality of my college student budget. Not a month later, my Grandpa delivered a beautiful hand made ladder bookshelf nearly identical to the one my mom and I had seen in Chicago. She had made a sketch of the design, and commissioned my Grandpa to build one if he could. It is just as functional for me now as it was in my 20’s – it is super portable as each shelf slides out of the carefully placed grooves in the side pieces – but minus the complicated directions. He was light years ahead of Ikea, and didn’t even know it! He left the wood natural, so that it could be stained at any time to the color of choice.
Fast forward to today, where it stood a bit sparse after one of my big cleans two weeks ago, and still natural aspen in color. To be completely honest, I had never had the confidence to commit to a stain because I had seen my tastes change over the years. One of my biggest personal challenges is indecision, but sometimes it really comes in handy, like when it comes to tattoos and this book shelf. Thank you Baby Jesus that I did not get a sparrow on my ankle, and paint my bookshelf black during a particularly punk stage of my life! Luckily I did not, and it stands ready to be a beautiful walnut color now that I have all my senses.
Step One: Stain
I disassembled the shelving and set up a work space in the garage. The stain used is Minwax Wood Finish, in Dark Walnut, with a 2″ bristle paint brush. This process seemed quite straightforward, but some helpful troubleshooting tips I would offer are these:
1. Keep the temperature of your work space comfortable and well ventilated. The weather was fine for me while I was working, and although I followed the directions closely, the lower night temperatures in Colorado inhibited the dry time for the wood. 12 hours later my pieces were still a bit tacky to the touch. To remedy this I took a cloth and wiped away any bit of unabsorbed stain and set them up on the deck to dry. 8 hours later they are just about ready for a finish coat.
2: To achieve a great color, apply the stain a bit generously right at the get-go. The direction say to let the stain penetrate the wood for 5-15 minutes depending on how deep you desire the color to be. On my first shelf, I applied the stain quite thin thinking that it would be more even if I was blending it as I went. This actually created a less uniform effect than when I used a fairly thick first coat and created the even color during the process of wiping away the stain after 15 min.
3: Wear Gloves! This stuff is super sticky, and literally does not dry for quite a long time.
Step Two: Clear Finish
The directions on the Minwax Wood Finish advise to use the Minwax Polyurethane finish for this process, so I chose Clear Satin. They offer a more gloss, but I’m not into a lot of sheen. For this part of the project, I used foam brushes and of course my trusty gloves. I liked this stage more than the staining portion, and it worked for me to do one coat on the top of each shelf and let it dry for 3 hours before returned to do the edges and other side of each shelf. I followed this process until both sides and edges had two coats of satin finish.
The directions indicate to sand the finish after each coat before moving forward with more layers, however I found my sanding was causing issues with the stain layer itself, so I opted to skip sanding. The shelves and side pieces ended up nice and smooth regardless.
Step Three: Gather Objects for Shelving
Sifting through the objects at World Market was basically heaven, and I followed up that search by moving on to Target. This was the first round of items to freshen up the shelves: