I wanted to try a few different methods of upcycling bookshelves, so last week I tried using fabric and today I tried using paper. I found this patterned paper at Walmart in the fabric/craft section. It was $3-something for the whole roll. It feels just like nice, thick wrapping paper.
Here’s what I started with:
STEP 1: TAKE THE CARDBOARD OFF THE BACK
I’m sure there’s an actual name for it; I call it cardboard. If your paper roll isn’t long enough to cover the whole back, first draw a line at the top and bottom of one of the shelves so you can hide the line between the two lengths of paper behind the shelf.
Now, remove the back. I have to say, I though this part would be easier. Wish I would’ve thought about covering the back BEFORE we put the bookshelf together. I’m assuming that on an older bookshelf the back will come off a lot easier. This one is only a year old and was nailed in really tightly.
On the nails at the top, I started scoring around them with a knife so I could control where the cardboard would rip.
Once I finished the top, I slid a knife in near the top of each nail and lifted the side of the knife that was closest to the nail and the cardboard would rip there. I then did the same thing on the bottom of each nail.
This part went A LOT faster than the top. Use a butter knife to do this, not a steak knife like I did. Luckily we’ve had these knifes since our wedding day, or else I might have been on my way to get stitches today. Am I the only one who does dumb things they know they shouldn’t, but just decide to deal with the consequences when they come? Ugh. Anyways, here’s what the removed back looks like. Not very pretty, but we’re covering it, so it’s okay. If you find a better way, let me know!
STEP 2: WRAP THE CARDBOARD WITH PAPER
I made sure that the bottom of the paper was lined up right in the middle of the two lines I had drawn on the cardboard.
Spray the front of the cardboard and smooth the paper down, running your hand over it to make sure there aren’t any bumps (this paper is pretty thick, so it wasn’t hard to get it really smooth).
I flipped the board over and sprayed and folded the sides. To fold the top and bottom, I cut the corners off first and then folded it over.
For some reason, the sides kept popping up, which didn’t happen with the fabric. I’m not sure if it was the paper that was the problem or the cheap cardboard (for the fabric bookshelf, I used a thicker material for the back that I bought at Lowe’s). I laid the shelves on the paper for about half an hour to see if a little pressure would help it stick. It didn’t.
I started thinking and decided to grab the Gorilla Glue from the cupboards on top of the fridge. While I was there I found the giant bag of peanut butter M&Ms that I had hidden there so the kids wouldn’t eat them all. You can’t un-see a bag of peanut butter M&Ms, but it wasn’t too big of a problem because I’m pretty sure if you only eat 4 or 5 at a time and just keep going back sporadically throughout the day for more, then the calories don’t count. The Gorilla Glue worked because…it’s Gorilla Glue. I’d still use a spray adhesive for the front side because that way you don’t get any glue lines showing up under the paper. The spray adhesive was sticky enough to keep the front on just fine for some reason. Another option would be to use decorative duct tape on the back, just making an inside border to keep the paper down.
Wrap the bottom part the same way, making sure you match up the pattern. If you look to the left of the board in the picture below, you can see where the paper starts…the line really isn’t that noticeable. A shelf is going to cover it, but just in case we ever need to the move the shelf I’d rather have it less noticeable.
STEP 3: PAINT THE SHELF
STEP 4: REATTACH THE BACK
Using new nails, line up the back on the bookshelf. The bookshelf doesn’t hold its shape without the back on, so I laid one of the shelves on the floor inside the top end to keep the bookshelf square. Hammer a nail in every 4-6 inches around the entire border. Make sure to keep the nails towards the outer edge of the bookshelf so they don’t end up getting nailed through to the front.
STEP 5: PROTECT THE PAPER (optional)
Since this is my first time using paper to decorate, I wasn’t sure what could protect it. I’m guessing matte Mod Podge would probably be the best thing. Since I didn’t have any, I sprayed Rustoleum Protective Satin Finish over the top of it. You can find it here here on Amazon. I was scared to spray on paper, and was pretty sure that it wasn’t a good idea, but it seemed to work. You can’t see it at all, but you can feel that there is a protective layer over the top of it. I’ve seen a lot of people cover bookshelves and not protect it at all. If it’s for a decorative bookshelf where people aren’t going to be moving books, etc., around, it’s probably fine.
I keep looking at these shelves as I pass by them and thinking that they need something more. So I went and bought 2 – 1×4 furring strips for just a couple dollars each.
Quick side note. I kept thinking of ways to make this project even more simple. Something that would stick would have made this project even easier. I found this distressed wood paper that you can peel and stick that I’d really love to try. I haven’t used it yet, but here are 3 I found that all have great reviews.
STEP 6: ATTACH BOARDS TO THE TOP
Cut boards to size, sand and wipe down. I used Gorilla Glue Construction Adhesive to glue four cut boards onto the top and put weights on the top and waited for a few hours.
Just to make it extra stable, I turned it upside down, drilled holes using a countersink drill bit and screwed in some screws.
STEP 7: STAIN
Always start with a wood conditioner or else your stain will turn out splotchy and ugly. See my favorite wood conditioner here on Amazon.
For this top, I used a VERY light coat of Minwax Dark Walnut stain. Find it here on Amazon. Then I sanded that down so all of the boards were barely brown. Next, I used 2-3 coats of Minwax Classic Gray stain. I’ve found that the easiest way to apply stain is with a piece of a t-shirt. Just dip it in the stain and wipe it down. Wear gloves if you don’t want stain all over your hands. If you decide not to wear gloves, you can just get a little bit of oil…vegetable or baby both work…and rub it on your hands. Then wash off with soap. Oil removes the stain. Sometimes you have to do it a few times, but it’s the best thing I’ve found to get the stain off.
I wanted this to have a heavy gray look along with the brown, since the paper I used was light blue and I really like blue and gray together.
I love how both bookcases turned out, but I have to say that the fabric was easier to work with. So if I decided to redo a bookcase again, unless I found a paper with a design that I absolutely LOVED, I’d be more likely to use fabric.
Have you tried covering the back of bookshelves? What did you learn from it? Please share your photos and experiences! Don’t forget to follow FindFixBuild on Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram to see upcoming projects.