Fix It

Refinished Bookshelf Using Fabric

This is a really quick project that will only take a couple hours from start to finish.

I’d never counted before, but after seeing some pretty bookshelf upcycles on Pinterest and deciding I’d like to do one, I realized we had a total of SIX bookshelves in our home. So many to choose from. I wasn’t sure what I was going to use yet, so I went to the store and ended up buying fabric and a roll of paper so I could try both.

This post is the one using fabric. Next week I’ll do the paper and compare the two. Here’s the before picture of the bookshelf I used…







Spray Adhesive


Protective Coat

Finishing Nails



I found this bold print that I immediately loved and wanted to use for about $4.

1 yard of fabric



This bookshelf didn’t have a back on it, so I had to buy one. I had them cut it to size at the hardware store. If you have to buy a back, this will add about $10 to your total. (I had an armoire that also needed a back, so I used one sheet and got 2 backs out of it). You can find them in the lumber section. They measure 4′ x 8′ x 1/8″ and feel like thick, sturdy cardboard.

If you have a really cheap bookshelf, they usually have a very very thin cardboard on back. Be really careful when you pull it off so you don’t tear it.



There are lots of products out there to do this. Make sure whatever you get is paintable. For some reason this bookshelf had nail holes ALL OVER it!

Either someone at some point had decorative nails surrounding these shelves, or some lucky kid found a hammer and nails and just went for it.

*Note: This piece was really glossy, so I did sand it even though I used chalk paint…just in case. I didn’t sand down to bare wood, I just spent about 5 minutes roughing up the surface using an orbital sander and 120 grit sandpaper.



Find the chalk paint recipe here. Make sure you mix enough paint to do a few coats. I didn’t measure exactly, but about 2 cups of paint should be enough to cover a bookshelf this size.

I wanted to match the navy color on my fabric. I had recently used a similar blue when I painted this nightstand. Because the blue on the fabric was dark and had more purple undertones to it than the paint I already had, I just took some craft paint and added black (to darken) and pink (to push it slightly towards a purple, but still kept it navy).



If you need more detail on how to paint without having brushstrokes show at the end, I have a more detailed explanation of the procedure of brushing and rolling here. If it’s your first time painting furniture, don’t worry about how horrible the first coat looks.

Because the chalk paint dries so quickly and the roller spreads it so thin, I only waited about 30 minutes between each coat. I’m sure there are people who will tell you to wait longer, but I always start the next step of my projects before I should.

Here is mine after one coat…

And here it is after 3 coats…

Easiest way to protect this is with a protective spray paint, like this one…

My least favorite thing to do with a project is try to brush on any sort of poly at the end. It messes up my furniture. Every. Time.



This part was so much easier than I thought it would be. I bought this spray adhesive for $6 at Walmart. They have a larger can for $10.

It is amazing. The smell was way stronger than I had expected, so make sure you’re spraying in a ventilated area.

Make sure to line up your fabric on the board so it doesn’t slant once you reattach it to the bookshelf. Follow the detailed instructions on the spray adhesive can. After you glue the front on, turn it over and fold the edges and glue those down as well.

Put the front side of your bookshelf on the ground and place the fabric-covered board on top of it, fabric side down. Use small nails to attach.

Fabric-covered board on top of shelves
Use panel nails every 4 inches or so

Make sure you pay attention to where the nails are going…you want to stay close to the outside edges of the bookcase.

And you’re done!

Do you have any questions about this process, or anything to add that you’ve learned while doing a similar project? Leave a comment below.

Don’t forget to follow FindFixBuild on Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram to see upcoming projects.


  1. Love your fabric for back. How in heck did you get fabric on so straight? Am not good at that kind of thing at all, too impatient and must have crooked eyes, lol. Loved color on book case also, great job.
    We have small book case like area in corner of l/r, been trying to decide what to put on backs of shelves, think it’s just going to get painted darker gray and call it good.
    We have 4 kids too. Was hard when they all grew up, missed doing fun stuff with them all. Now they’re 56, 54, 52, and 46. Was divorced for while then remarried. What hubs was thinking when he took all of us on, who knows. Then we had one of our own. Oldest/youngest are girls. Two boys, 16 months apart in middle.
    Enjoy your Sunday

    1. It took awhile to make sure it was pretty straight. It actually sags a bit on the right, but once you put decor or books in there it doesn’t really matter. You can adjust the back (making it higher on one side or the other) after you’ve glued the fabric on to help with that too, but some paint in the back would also make a huge difference with your bookshelves! Another way to upgrade shelves is by adding some wood planks to the top, like I did on my white bookcase. You can take a look at that here

    2. Sorry, I got cut off in the middle of my comment because the boys wanted to watch the Super Bowl (we don’t have cable, so they had to use the computer, haha). I already get sad just thinking about when they’re all going to leave. My oldest will be 13 this year, so in 5 years he leaves home! When did this happen? Love that your husband took on the big job of raising four and then one more. My sister was remarried a few years ago and her husband took on her 3 and they just had 2 more and they were just about 16 months apart…I don’t know how you moms do it when they are that close together! You’re amazing:)

  2. Oh Sara this would be the one I would choose fro my own personal use, I love the bright bold design choices and the fabric application over the paper, wonderful work! And thanks for sharing your works at Fridays Furniture Fix!

  3. The fabric panel on the back of the bookshelves really makes these shelves fun and decorative. Great tutorial for DIY Refinished Bookshelves. #HomeMattersParty

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