Over time the lower shelf doors warped and wouldn't open properly and a few pieces of wood chipped off and the shelf got even uglier.
But when they decided to turn the basement into a master bedroom, the shelf arose from it's basement grave to haunt the girl again. And suddenly she looked at it and thought, "Hmmm, maybe I can do something with this." The girl needed somewhere to organize all her homeschool books and supplies. And since she did most of her homeschooling in her dining room she needed it to look nice when company came over and ate at her table. So she bought some black glossy paint and rolled up her sleeves. Then she found some organizational bins on sale. They weren't exactly what she had in mind but the price was so great that she couldn't pass them up. And lo and behold, her butt-ugly, awkward and insanely heavy shelf that she'd been lugging around for 15 years with total disgust, became a Pottery Barn worthy (or maybe Ikea worthy) piece of furniture.
And the shelf and the girl lived happily every after.
The moral of the story?
Before you give up and toss it try a good coat of paint.