DIY Kids Bookshelf and Toy Storage

DIY Kids Bookshelf and Toy Storage

DIY Kids Bookshelf and Toy Storage

By Anne Sage | @citysage

As any parent will tell you, one of the most important pieces of kids room décor is a proper bookshelf and toy storage setup! Without it, the mess from books and toys can so easily get out of hand in a little one’s space. Also, having easy-to-access storage means that kids can reach their favorite playthings without help—and practice cleaning up after themselves!

For a recent refresh of my daughter’s room, I purchased some inexpensive modular bookcase units that were the ideal size and shape for the space. However, they lacked personality! So I decided to try my hand at a painted DIY kids bookshelf using Dunn-Edwards new DURA line. I’m absolutely in LOVE with how it turned out—and of course I had to share the whole process so you can recreate it yourself at home! 

How to Paint a DIY Kids Bookshelf

Step 1: Make a Plan

Since my daughter loves checkerboard patterns — and they’re currently trending in the design world! — I decided to create a checkerboard on the shelving unit using a few different shades of neutral-hued paint. I felt the pattern would bring a fun and playful vibe worthy of a child’s room, while the tone-on-tone palette would keep it from feeling too cutesy or chaotic.  

I created the above schematic in Photoshop, but you could easily do it by hand too. Whatever helps you get your vision down on paper! 

Step 2: Choose Your Colors 

Deciding on just ONE paint shade can feel really overwhelming. So you can imagine how I felt about selecting many at once! Thankfully Dunn-Edwards DURA has a thoughtfully curated palette of 210 classic colors — no more color overwhelm! — and they offer one-on-one consultations to make choosing the perfect hue a breeze! 

For this project you’ll need four shades: the lightest shade in your scheme, two mid-tones, and one dark. I went with a cozy cream (Ball of String), a classic tan (Colorado Trail), a toasty rust (Roman Brick) and a warm brown (Briar). Your Dunn-Edwards DURA color expert can help you choose your perfect quartet of colors to complement any décor palette! 

Step 3: Prep and Prime! 

Once you’ve got your plan and your paint in hand, the rest of the process is easy! The supplies you need for your DIY kids bookshelf are simple. We used a drop cloth, a sanding block, paint trays, rollers, and brushes.  

Do take note that although the skills required are basic, you will want to leave yourself plenty of time for each coat of paint to dry sufficiently. And since we’re using multiple colors, that means you’ll want to allot an entire weekend for this project.  


First, give all surfaces a quick rubdown with a sanding block. This is particularly important if you’re using furniture that has a laminated finish on it as I was. Sanding helps roughen up the surface to give your primer and paint something to stick to. And then speaking of primer, give your furniture a coat or two of that! I used two coats to completely hide any of the wood grain original to the shelving I’d purchased. 


Step 4: Paint Your DIY Kids Bookshelf! 

Once you’ve primed, it’s time to bring your checkerboard pattern to life! I found it helpful to lay my shelves flat while painting them, to avoid having to reach into the cubbies and crane my neck painting the underside of the shelves. Plus, it helped me keep track of which color went where! 
Start with the lightest color and apply two coats, allowing drying time between each coat. Then move on to two coats of the next lightest color, finishing with the second darkest color. (The absolute darkest color in your quartet will go on the outside edges of the unit). In my experience, a short-handled brush with soft bristles was best for reaching every corner and applying a smooth, even coat of color.  



When all paint inside your shelves is dry, use an artist brush to apply the darkest color to the front edges of the shelves. Paint the top of the shelving unit this color as well. I chose not to use painter's tape to create guidelines for myself—opting instead to rely on a steady hand and a damp cloth to clean up any smudges as I went along. But certainly you could use painter’s tape if that helps you keep a cleaner edge!


Step 5: Finish Your DIY Kids Bookshelf! 

Once all paint was dry, we positioned the shelving units where we wanted them in my daughter’s room and used a nail gun with ⅝” bard nails to hold the pieces together. (Note: This step isn’t necessary if you’re not planning to add any trim to the front of the assembled unit, or if you want to easily be able to move the units around). Use a fine tip brush to touch up visible nail holes. 

Because I wanted closed storage for my daughter’s books and toys (i.e., something to hide the mess!) I found wood bins to fit the openings in my shelves and painted those to match. The process for painting the bins is the same as for the shelves! 


I initially expected that I’d have to add felt pads to the bottom of the bins to help them glide in and out of the cubbies—and to protect the paint finish from chipping—but I’m finding that the Dunn-Edwards DURA paint is holding up beautifully without them! It’s perfect for high-use areas like a child’s room. And of course, the ultra-low VOC formulation makes this safety-minded mom ultra happy! 


Step 6: Enjoy Your Handiwork!  

Our DIY bookshelf is perfect for toy storage and corralling all my daughter’s odds and ends—in style! One quick word about the scallop trim at the top: I ran into a little trouble with it right before taking these photos so I’m not sharing the method I used to create it. Rather, I’ll be back with an update on how to do it properly so you can recreate this exact setup yourself. So stay tuned and in the meantime, happy painting!

Follow along with Anne Sage @citysage on Instagram for more project highlights!

Products Used

Colors Used

Ready to start your own DIY project? Book a Color Session with a Color Influencer to help you through your color journey, or take a paint color quiz to decide your style! Our team knows just the right questions to ask to understand your goals, help you sort through color and gloss options, and even connect you with some clever sampling tools. Whether you want to talk for 5 minutes or an hour—whenever you want to talk—our team is ready when you are.


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