Furniture Makeovers

Bookcase Makeover: From 80’s Oak to Modern Rustic Industrial

Hello Friends,

You know, I don’t give the Hubs enough credit. 

When it comes to trash-to-treasure pieces, he has a pretty good eye. Seriously, he does.

Take this bookcase, for example. It is a 1980’s oak piece that used to hang on the wall at his office. During the office refresh, they just tossed it away. Yep, they surely did —and being the ever-alert Hubs that he is, he snagged it for our basement.

We planned to use it for backend storage. You know, for things like paint, tools, and seasonal decorations —until the man cave refresh got underway.

Here’s a peek at the before. You won’t believe how it looks now.

Bookcase Makeover: From 80’s Oak to Modern Rustic Industrial

Welcome to the bottom of the stairs and the third post in the “Basement Landing” trilogy. 

Before - Basement landing in the Man Cave makeover | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Fusion Mineral Paint, but all projects and opinions are 100% my own.

In case you haven’t been following, in the first post, the gold wall went bye-bye when the Hubs and I installed these nifty peel and stick planks. 

Planking made easy | Post #1 in the Man Cave Makeover Series | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

Then — the second post explains how the design plan came together. 

How to design a man cave you both will love | Post #2 Man Cave Makeover Series | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

And now, the third (and last) post in this series will share how the bookcase got its new suit of clothes. 

Modern Rustic Industrial: How did we get here? | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

So let’s get started.

The Bookcase Makeover

Step 1: Prep for Paint

The bookcase —every square inch —was wiped down, lightly sanded, and then wiped down again. Honestly, as a trash-to-treasure, it wasn’t really dirty and required zero repairs. Every joint is as solid as a rock and it is as heavy as a tank.  Oh joy! What could be better?

Step 2: Apply the Basecoat

When this makeover started, I wasn’t planning to put Fusion’s Chocolate to the test. And truthfully, I had ordered the paint for a different project, but when the bookcase rolled into my life —so did a Chocolate-coated ah-ha moment.

I wondered if, by using the chocolate as a basecoat, I could somehow lessen the impact of the oak grain and incorporate what remained into the final finish. 

Bookcase makeover begins with a basecoat in chocolate | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

I painted one coat of chocolate over the entire piece. When this coat was dry, I painted a second coat over most of the piece. Yes, it sounds strange, I know. But I was hoping that different depths of color would naturally appear.  And look — they did!

Chocolate paint preps a golden oak bookcase for the final finish | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

Step 3: Why Beeswax?

For this piece, I wanted that delicious chocolate color to forever bury all traces of the 80’s golden oak. And because of this, I did not want to sand in order to create layers of color. So once the chocolate was good and dry (I waited 24 hours), the piece was rubbed with beeswax in places where I did NOT want the topcoat to adhere.

Beeswax is used to layer color without sanding | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

Step 4: Apply the Topcoat

Algonquin was chosen as a topcoat because it is the great taupe chameleon in the Fusion family. I call it this because it changes its color with the surrounding lighting. It can look “yellow-beige, brownish-grey, or grey-sage,” depending on the situation. And with so much color in the basement that I couldn’t change at the moment AND with the landing part of the transition from the upstairs, this was absolutely the kind of color flexibility I needed.

So one coat of Algonquin was applied and allowed to dry.

Algonquin is used to topcoat the bookcase | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

Step 5: Color Layer Without Sanding

Once the topcoat was dry (about an hour), the surface was wiped with a clean cloth. This will produce the same result as applying the topcoat and then sanding back the topcoat to reveal the basecoat, but is accomplished in a slightly different way. To review:

  • The beeswax is applied to the dry basecoat where you want the piece to look layered or distressed. In other words, where you want the chocolate to peek through.

  • Then paint on the topcoat.

  • Allow the topcoat to dry.

  • Then wipe the paint that is over the beeswax away with a soft, clean cloth.

Distress without sanding with beeswax | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

And that’s all there is to it.


But the guys kinda whined about the color. They wanted it richer, a little darker, more manly.


Step 6: Enrich the Color with Black Wax

So the guys may not know much about decorating, but they surely do know what they want in their man cave. Just when I thought I had the perfect transition color ready for accessories, the vote was in.

“It’s too traditional looking.”

Oh geez. Will I be so glad to have this man cave done. **rolls eyes and sighs**

But I digress. 

Actually their request for a slight adjustment could be accommodated in two shakes. Here’s how:

Start with a Tester

I wasn’t sure how much depth or added color was needed so I did a little tester. On the far left is the example with the paint colors. In the middle, a layer of clear wax popped the color, but didn’t satisfy the guys. To the far right is the magic combo.

The guys called it “metalled.”  They said the black wax made the piece look more industrial —which is the look they wanted.

Fusion's algonquin paint color with clear and black wax samples | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

With their approval, black wax was layered to create a mottled effect.

An mottled finish with a bit of grunge creates a rustic industrial vibe | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

It only took a couple of hours to achieve an industrial-worn-with-a-little-grunge look. This is not the usual effect when using black wax. It is usually smooth with super-even coverage, but I added clear wax in places to lift off some of the black wax. The mottled grunge look was created by technique, not by product.

Two links that detail how to work with colored waxes are at the bottom of the post.

Color layering with paint and colored wax creates a worn and grunge finish | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

And for the second time, I can say —that’s all there is to it.

With the application of the black wax, I now have two happy campers in the man cave and one amazing new bookcase.

Bookcase Makeover: How to transform an 80's oak into a modern rustic industrial | #spon Fusion Mineral Paint | The Chelsea Project |

If you would like to save this idea…


Associated Links

Post #1 Planking Made Easy 

Post #2 How to Design a Man Cave You Both Will Love

 I used colored wax on a buffet – How and Why

More information about how-to apply colored wax

Detailed information about how different waxes are made

Where to buy Fusion products

 Thank you so much for spending a few minutes of your day with me,


  • Reply Debrashoppno5 January 28, 2017 at 7:07 am

    The bookcase looks fabulous. I always like layering paint, it gives depth. I expect the men are very happy in their Man Cave now.

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Hi Debra and thanks! Yes, the guys are happy with the direction the refresh is going. Once the Hubs starts traveling in February, I’ll get another big section going.

  • Reply Michelle January 28, 2017 at 7:18 am

    I love the way you explain your process. I am learning a lot from your techniques. It turned out so nice and they should love it forever!

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 10:20 am

      Hi Michelle and thanks! I am thrilled that you find the posts helpful. These are my absolute favorite to write.

  • Reply suzannebagheri2014 January 28, 2017 at 8:10 am

    It’s fantastic!

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Hi Suzanne and thanks! I thought of you when I was working on this piece. So happy you popped by to see my little score. I gotta get the Hubs looking for more!

  • Reply Kimm at Reinvented January 28, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Susie it’s gorgeous! I love the layers of colors. I’m sure your guys are very happy!!

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Hi Kimm and thanks! Yes, the guys are happy with the direction of their space. AND I finally have something I can submit to your trash-to-treasure. Eccck. Yay!!!

  • Reply Carolann January 28, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Love the paint layering! The whole vignette came together perfectly.

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Hi Carolann and thanks! This was a tough one for me. The style is totally out of what I would choose. Way out. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. As we get further along, I’ll do a side-by-side of the she cave and man cave. XO

  • Reply Susanne January 28, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Great tutorial and I love the way it turned out!! I can’t believe they were just throwing it away….good job hubs on rescuing that piece!!

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Hi Susanne and thanks! I know! Right! YAY! Hubs for the score!

  • Reply Janice@sawdustsisters January 28, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Nailed it, Susie! It looks amazing!

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks Janice!

  • Reply Marie from The Interior Frugalista January 28, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Goodbye golden oak – hello modern rustic! Susie, you do such a great job layering paint colors and adding the dark wax on this color combination was spot on. I tried Fusion Mineral paint for the first time and I have to say, I’m impressed. Looking forward to trying more colors.

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 28, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Marie and thanks! I noticed that you used Fusion on your bar for the Fixer Upper group. So glad you like it. It’s really good paint.

  • Reply Kendra January 29, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Really love how this came out. It really looks wonderful and is the focal point of the entire room. Great job! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Cynthia Chilson Finger February 4, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    I love how your bookshelf turned out, Susie! You always give such an easy to understand tutorial, which is appreciated. I’ve yet to try Fusion because retailers are slim pickins on the West Coast, but I’m sure I’ll try it at some point. Take care, Cynthia

    • Reply theChelseaProject February 4, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks so much, Cynthia. Your kind and encouraging words mean so much. And I do hope you can try Fusion very soon. It is such a wonderful paint.

  • Reply Toni Harvey February 7, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    This turned out lovely, buh bye 1980’s!!! I’m going to have to try some of the waxing technique it really gives it so much dimension.

  • Reply Waste not Wednesday #37-a Link Party! - Gratefully Vintage February 7, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    […] Bookcase Makeover: From 80’s Oak to Modern Rustic Industrial  From Chelsea Project […]

  • Reply Waste Not Wednesday #37 - A Link Party - Small Home Soul February 7, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    […] 1980’s Oak Bookcase to Rustic Industrial  […]

  • Reply Sharon@bluewillowhouse February 7, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    What a transformation! pinned

    • Reply theChelseaProject February 8, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks Sharon!

  • Reply loveyoumoredesigns February 7, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    This bookcase is awesome! Man cave or not, I’d love it just about anywhere in my home. You’re quite the expert on creating custom finishes:) Thanks so much for sharing at Vintage Charm! Hope to see you there again this week on Thursday morning! xo Kathleen Charm Bracelet Diva {At Home}

    • Reply theChelseaProject February 8, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      Thanks Kathleen! I have more makeovers coming up!

  • Reply Sam @ Raggedy Bits February 7, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    This turned out so awesome Susie! I love the industrial look you created with the layers of Fusion and wax! Your new piece looks right at home where it is!!

    Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous project over at Waste Not Wednesday!

    • Reply theChelseaProject February 8, 2017 at 8:27 pm

      Thanks Sam! And thanks so much for the feature. Love sharing at your linky.

  • Reply How to Design a Man Cave You Both Will Love - The Chelsea Project March 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    […] Click here for Part 3  […]

  • Reply How to Easily Distress Paint with Vaseline - The Chelsea Project June 24, 2017 at 9:56 am

    […] you recall, Algonquin was used on the mirror frame in the great room and on a bookcase in the basement. It is my favorite color for blending a greige color on some of my older pieces. Trust me, it works […]

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