It all depends on what is under the paint. There are some nice plywood's and there are some plain not so nice plywood's. You (your husband) could try using some paint stripper on one of the shelves to see what is underneath.
If stripping isn't the answer; try repainting, but this time use your imagination. There are many ways to paint that is more pleasing than plain white. You could try crackling, antiquing, distressing, use metallic paints and an activator (the look of rusting metal or old copper) or faux painting techniques. Many of these techniques are quite easy to do.