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For a smart-looking bookcase, paint everything white, then lacquer the back panels in an extravagant hue, like poppy red or mustard. "A backdrop in an outrageous color will emphasize the architecture and show off its contents," says Joe Nye, a West Hollywood interior designer. Satin-finish paint imparts a low-level gloss, adds a hint of glamour, and is more durable than a flat finish. If your bookcase doesn't have a back panel, paint the whole thing white and choose a bright color for the shelves.
Tip: Don't worry if the colors of your books and collectibles don't blend with the back panels. "You don't want everything matchy-matchy," says designer Nye.