Furniture project: a traditional bespoke painted bookcase

Designing a painted bookcase for an interior decorating project

The client’s brief

My customers had a unique antique book collection and they were looking for an individual piece of furniture in which to display them. It’s really satisfying when there’s an interesting and lovely point of reference to begin a bespoke furniture project, so I was really excited to get started. 

The collection of late Victorian and early Edwardian books was fascinating. It included stories for boys from another era; tales of empire, adventure and morals all with lovely clothbound covers with visually striking colours, design and typography.


Commissioning bespoke furniture

After a fruitless search for an appropriate piece of vintage furniture to house the books, my clients decided to commission a made-to-order book case from furniture designer and maker Jacob Littlejones. The clients requested for it not to be made of MDF, so Jake recommended tulip wood because of its relative flatness and stability. 

Due to its large size, Jake designed and built the bookcase as a modular piece of furniture made up of three separate units, in case of a future house move.

Colour consultation with the client

While it was being made, we started with the colour consultation. We were really excited to get started with the hand-painted bookshelf. Initially we wanted to keep the paint job simple, as we felt using anything other than a single complimentary flat colour could have detracted from the book covers’ colours and design. 

We started with eight carefully chosen tones, which we thought would sit well in the room and form a good background colour to display the books and their glorious covers.

Colour matching paint to fabric

After some deliberation, the clients presented us with a piece of upholstery fabric that had caught their eye and asked to see if we could come up with a colour and paint finish that looked similar. 

Here you can see the fabric, colour swatches and all our workings out.


Bespoke paint finishes for the wooden bookshelf

I used two shades of green to make this bespoke paint finish – a brighter green as the base, with a deep black green glaze ragged and softened on top to give a subtle dappled effect. There is a slight grain to the tulip wood too, which ultimately adds a lovely overall quality and character. So much nicer than MDF.

Get in touch to discuss your own interior decorating project

If you’d like some interior design advice, I’d love to have a chat with you about your project. Please email or have a look at our ‘upholstery and design’ page.