How To Add Charm To An Antique Oak Bookcase

With a pop of red and dark wax, it's so easy to add personality to a plain antique oak bookcase. The farmhouse charm was added with inexpensive fabric from the dollar store and I'll show you how I did it.

Last year three antique pieces of furniture landed on my doorstep from a local business that was moving. Yay lucky me! This bookcase is the last of those pieces to receive a makeover and because this one is staying with me, I painted it my favorite color.

Antique Oak Bookcase

Antique Oak Bookcase With Farmhouse Charm

If you've been following me over the last year, you may remember the other two pieces, an antique wash stand I repurposed into a coffee station and a farmhouse cupboard, that was very similar to this one.

Today is one of my favorite days of the month because it's Furniture Fixer Upper Day where five of my talented furniture artist friends and I come together to breathe new life into six pieces of furniture. I've included links to their makeovers at the bottom of the post. 

I've saved the pretty before and after photos of this antique bookcase makeover toward the bottom of the post as well.

For last month's challenge, I tackled a vintage classroom desk makeover that had a few hiccups along the way but ended up being a blessing in disguise.

Antique Oak Bookcase Painted Red

I've included a Materials List at the bottom of this post. It contains affiliate links for your convenience so you can see what products I used or recommended for this project. What that means is that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Antique Oak Bookcase Top Corner

This furniture makeover is all about using what you have on hand. As long as the products are in the same ingredient range you can interchange the brands. For example, I used clear wax and dark wax from two different brands but because both were beeswax, they worked beautifully together.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the makeover, this is what the antique oak bookcase looked like before the...

Antique Oak Bookcase Before

Prepping the bookcase for paint

First I vacuumed the interior of the bookcase and gave it a good scrub with warm water, white vinegar, and a drop of Dove dish soap. I used an old toothbrush to get along the ridges because this guy was dirty.

Once dry, I lightly sanded with an 80-grit sanding pad to open the pores of the wood for the paint to have some bite. There were some scratches, gouges, and a cigarette burn (remember the days when you could smoke at the office?) on the top. I didn't repair those because, just like the scratch and dent lady painting this piece, the imperfections are what add character.

Judging by the watermarks, not only did a plant sit on top for some time, but so did coffee mugs and a cigarette. I would imagine many conversations took place around this bookcase over the years.

Unfortunately, the stains didn't disappear after the first coat of paint so I brushed a stain blocker/sealer that I had on hand before applying the second coat.

Antique Oak Bookcase Stain Blocker Treatment

Painting the bookcase

For this piece, I used FAT chalk paint in the color Red Barchetta and was surprised at the coverage after just one coat.

Antique Oak Bookcase First Coat Chalk Paint

Normally I remove the doors before painting but these swung open enough that I could access all the surfaces. Besides, I was being lazy because it was nice outside and my lounge chair on the deck was calling my name.

Another shortcut I took was not taping around the glass panes. With my Zibra square brush, I could cut around the glass with ease. Are you as impressed as I am with how little paint got on the glass?

Antique Oak Bookcase Spray Painted Hardware

The shelf brackets and door stopper were painted with Rustoleum spray paint in the color Colonial Red that I had in my stash. During installation, I was happy to see they were almost a perfect match to the red chalk paint.

Waxing the bookcase

I discovered my new favorite wax brushes during this makeover. Instead of my go-to flat round wax brushes, I used a medium round bristle paintbrush for the clear wax and a small round bristle paintbrush for the dark wax. I found I had more control over the amount of wax the brush picked up and the application. Also, the bristles were much softer against the fresh paint.

Antique Oak Bookcase Clear Wax

Antique Oak Bookcase Dark Wax

A little goes a long way with beeswax. I applied a light even coat, working in sections, leaving it on for around five minutes before buffing it with my favorite shoe brush.

The dark wax was applied heavier along the edges, over the joints and imperfections. With a lint-free rag, I applied light pressure and moved the excess wax over the rest of the piece.

Helpful Tip: 

Notice the plastic wrap sticking out of the dark wax tin in the photo above? It helps to eliminate skin from forming over the wax.

Adding fabric to the back

One afternoon while browsing the aisles of Dollarama, I found fabric that was perfect to line the back of the bookcase. Unfortunately, the hardboard back on the bookcase couldn't be removed. It is so much easier to decoupage when you can lay the back on a work table.

Instead, I used a piece of foam core cut to size and decoupaged the fabric onto it with Dynamic clear wallcovering adhesive and an inexpensive chip brush.

Antique Oak Bookcase Decoupage Supplies

Unlike wallpaper, it is difficult to match the pattern repeat without cutting the fabric in perfectly straight and unfrayed vertical strips. Not having the time nor the patience for that, I lined it up as best I could.

Antique Oak Bookcase Fabric Decoupage

The edges of the fabric were folded over the board and secured with masking tape.

Antique Oak Bookcase Fabric Back

Since the decoupaged fabric will be behind glass and shelves in front, the imperfect pattern repeat will hardly be noticeable.

Adding some pretty to the existing knobs

Instead of replacing the original wood knobs I painted them red and cut flowers from the extra fabric and decoupaged them onto the top with Mod Podge.

Antique Oak Bookcase Fabric Decoupage Knobs

I embellished the key with some charms and beads from my stash.

Antique Oak Bookcase Wood Knobs

Stenciled frosted glass doors

The glass panes on the doors felt like they needed a little something-something. With Rustoleum Frosted Glass Spray, I stenciled the doors using an Allover Damask Birds of Paradise wall stencil on the lower panes and a small Damask stencil on the top panes.

Antique Oak Bookcase Spray Frost Stenciled Glass

My hilarious oops

Here's where I'm keeping it real, guys. The first stencil worked great using the frosted spray but the second went on rather bubbly and I couldn't figure out why.

...until I glanced over at the workbench and noticed both the cans of low tack spray adhesive and frosted spray sitting side-by-side.

Lesson Learned

Never place two similar cans together on the workbench when engrossed in the creative process!

Antique Oak Bookcase Bottom Door Glass

Antique Oak Bookcase Top Door Glass

Before and After

This is the bookcase interior before...

Antique Oak Bookcase Interior Before

...and the bookcase interior after.

Antique Oak Bookcase Fabric Lined Interior

Antique Oak Bookcase Vignette

Here is the side of the bookcase before...

Antique Oak Bookcase Side View Before

...and the side of the bookcase after.

Antique Oak Bookcase Side View After Makeover

Front view of the bookcase before...

Antique Oak Bookcase Before Makeover

...and front view of the bookcase after.

Antique Oak Bookcase After Makeover

As promised here is the Materials list for the products used to transform this antique oak bookcase.

Materials List

I have a question for you guys. Are any of you familiar with this furniture maker's stamp? I so, could you please provide feedback in the comment section at the bottom of this post? It would be much appreciated!

Antique Oak Bookcase Furniture Stamp

Antique Oak Bookcase With Farmhouse Charm

Now let's take a look at how my talented friends in the Furniture Fixer Uppers group transformed these furniture pieces...

Furniture Fixer Upper Challenge June 2018

Click on the links below to see the finished makeovers and tutorials.



  1. Wow you furniture makeovers are always so inspiring, with the level of skill you give to each piece. I am hawking facebook for a cabinet like this, but of course it will be white, but I am going to pin this to try the etching on the windows technique, and I love the back with the matching pull, brilliant Marie. Pinning

    1. Thanks Leanna, I'm glad you like it! The window etching was super easy and if you get bored with the pattern, it can easily be scraped off. Good luck with your cabinet search!


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