I love a good DIY project. However, it's been a while since I've done one, so a couple weekends ago I found myself with nothing to do - crazy, i know - so I dug out all my supplies and got to working! I've had this shelf for years. My very sweet uncle built it for me a long time ago, and it has lived in LOTS of houses! I finally broke down and decided to refinish it since I've been on the fence about it for so long. So, step one was painting it black. I used regular craft paint, but you could use any kind of paint that works on wood in any color you like!
After the paint dried, I applied scrapbook paper to the tops of each shelf. I love this because you can get all kinds of cool, fun patterns w/o having to hand paint it all. I used a cheapy foam paint brush and mod podge (a crafter's best friend). On the very top shelf, I put my first sheet of paper down in the center and worked outwards. I didn't bother cutting the paper down to size (that will be taken care of in another step). I just glued it down, then painted back over the top with more mod podge. I didn't even bother trying to line up the paper so it would look seamless. I just laid it down edge to edge. (I also recently did an "L" door hanger, and did match up the edges to make it look seamless because it was smaller and people would see it more closely.) I let that dry really well before moving on to the next step.
Next step after glue dries - distressing it! This is the most fun part! I have a sander, but you can always do this by hand as well. This step is going to all depend on how distressed you want your piece to look. I sanded over the edges of the paper to detach the excess, then sanded the edges of the shelf and over the top of the paper as well. In some places, it's just a light going-over. In other places, I sanded more, so there are holes or tears in the paper or places where the paint is gone and the wood is showing through. (You could also use some wood stain to make it look aged.) I then took a little more of my black paint, squirted it into my hand and rubbed it in several places on the paper. I rubbed it enough so that the pattern of the paper still showed through. I also tried to make sure the edges of the black stains weren't too uniform or "planned."
Final step is sealing! I purchased a spray on finisher, but you could also just paint back over everything again with another coat of mod podge. Just be sure to get any places where the paper may be torn or really rough - especially if this is something that might ever get wet.
Below is a final picture once I got it moved back into my living room and stuff put back on the shelf. This is a VERY fun technique, and could be used on ANYTHING that will take glue and paper. Shelves, wooden letters, wooden serving trays, etc.....Hope this inspires one person to go out and DIY!!! Let me know if you try it out on anything! I'd love to see a picture of your project!