Ringing in the New Year With a Fancy Fabric-backed Bookcase for the Nursery

(I had sort of hoped to either have a baby before 2012 ended, for tax deduction purposes, or to have the first baby in my city/state/country of 2013, in hopes of getting free stuff. But, as you can see, I am still here. Historically, my babies show up remarkably close to their due dates).

So check out how I’m trying to be a less lazy blogger! I added a gadget with “popular posts” to the sidebar awhile back, but then the problem was it automatically picked the first picture from each post, which was usually some “before” shot of an empty living room or something. I thought that this probably did not make people want to click on the posts. And maybe there is some way to fix it so it won’t use the first picture, but I don’t know what it is.

So I went through and put better pictures at the top of all the posts that are there right now, BUT I don’t want to give away the big reveal in the first picture, because what fun is that? Right? Right?! So, at least for this post, look what I did! I made a visually pleasing picture that merely supplies a tantalizing hint of what is to come. I am so terribly clever.

And, with that unnecessarily long prelude out of the way, I am going to write an unnecessarily long post about the relatively simple project of lining an old bookcase with fabric to make it look prettier.

This bookcase’s first role in our family was in Ari’s nursery. I’m pretty sure I got it at a garage sale in or around Boston. I don’t remember what it looked like to start with, but we painted it white (or repainted it white) back then. Then it moved around our house for years, getting dingier and dingier. This is what it looked like until a couple of weeks ago:

I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of the whole thing. I think there was a big trunk in front of it. Anyway, as you can see, not in terrific shape, paint-wise.

So the first order of business was just to get a fresh coat of paint on it, and I decided to go with the same gray, chalk-paintified, that I used on the dresser with the whale pulls: Behr’s Burnished Metal from Lowes. Dave put two coats of paint on it and then made his first try at applying finishing wax. This part did not go well. Hint: do not apply finishing wax (especially the first time you try it) at night. Because then maybe you will use too much wax, and then you will thinkΒ you did a good enough job buffing it, but when you take a look at it later, in daylight, you’ll see a whole bunch of nasty yellow wax residue, and it will be way too late to get it off with a rag at that point.

Yes. What happened next was that Dave broke out the power sander and sanded off all the wax and much of the paint. Fortunately there was enough of the gray paint still left on there that one more coat did the trick once the sanding was finished. I repainted it, and then I let Dave do the wax again, because you have to get right back up on that horse, right? And this time he totally nailed it.

We now had a lovely gray bookcase, but we weren’t willing to stop there. ANY nursery can have a gray bookcase, but it takes a really special nursery to have a gray bookcase with squids.

Back before Christmas, I discovered SpoonflowerΒ while poking around looking for fabulous ocean animal fabric. If you are new to Spoonflower as I was, here, as best as I can gather, is what it’s all about: Spoonflower has pretty much any kind of fabric you could possibly want. I guess they have designers who make some of it, or you can design your own fabric and they’ll make it for you, and then other people can buy your design, too. It’s really cool. And really expensive. The cheapest basic cotton starts at 18.50/yard. It’s pretty unapproachable for a bigger project (sorry dining room curtains: no squids for you!), but I only needed a yard for the bookcase, and they had really cool squid fabric, so I splurged a bit and bought it.
The fabric took a long time to get here (2 weeks-ish?), but it looked great when it did.

At first I thought I’d buy some spray starch and attach the fabric to the back of the bookcase that way. But the back was nailed in pretty permanently, so we didn’t want to take it off so that we could wrap the fabric around it. And we couldn’t just cut the fabric to fit the back or it would fray (plus I was pretty sure measuring it and putting it in there would be fraught with error). In the end, the easiest/safest plan seemed to be cutting a piece of cardboard to fit against the back of the bookcase and covering it with the fabric.

We very carefully measured and remeasured the back of the bookcase and then cut the cardboard (notice our cardboard is a Lowe’s box which reads, “Never stop improving.” So motivational).

Then we put the cardboard in the back of the shelf to test out the fit, since it would not be easy to make adjustments after the fabric was on there (you’ll see in this picture that I changed the order of things to preserve the flow of the story. At this point, shelf had been painted, waxed, and de-waxed with the sander, but the repainting hadn’t happened yet).

We laid the fabric out on the cardboard and cut it, leaving anywhere between an inch and a half and three inches or so all around (mostly the three inches was just so we didn’t need to cut the top and bottom; it was pretty close, so we left it as it).

For the front side of the fabric backer, we quickly applied spray adhesive (which I already had on hand; apparently spray adhesive holds up much better in a cold/hot garage for years than spray paint does) and then put the fabric down on top, smoothing as we went. We actually sprayed and adhered a small strip at the Β bottom first, to hold it in place and keep it even while we did the rest. I used that metal meter stick there to smooth out any wrinkles. There is not much time for all of this. Work quickly!

Try not to fret if it’s not perfect; it won’t really show when you’re finished! Remember my mantra: “I was not really a perfectionist about this part.”

Next Dave tied some of the extra fabric around his head and plugged in the hot glue gun. Have I mentioned that this glue gun is the best $3 I’ve ever spent?

We flipped the cardboard over and put dots of glue all along one side, then wrapped the edge of the fabric around, pulling it tight as we went, and attached it to the back of the cardboard.

I didn’t worry overmuch about what the folds looked like in the back, since no one’s ever going to see them. I just made sure nothing was poking out past the edges.

Here’s what the cardboard looked like, all finished.

We put the cardboard in the bookcase, and it fit like a glove!

And all finished, in its spot between the nursery windows, with the shelves back in!

Now I just have to make myself cover up some of the awesome squiddiness with books and whatnot, because otherwise there is not much point in its being a shelf.

Refresh a vintage bookcase with fabric

Linking with:
Tuesday’s Treasures at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Somewhat Simple
Happy Hour at Design, Dining, and Diapers
Chic on a Shoestring Decorating’s Flaunt It Friday
The Shabby Nest’s Frugal Friday
Lovely Crafty Weekend at Lovely Crafty Home
Tater Tots and Jello’s Weekend Wrap-up Party
Funky Junk Interiors
Classy Clutter’s Spotlight Saturday
Under the Table and Dreaming’s Sunday Showcase Party
Hookin’ Up With House of Hepworths

DIY Challenge Party


Ringing in the New Year With a Fancy Fabric-backed Bookcase for the Nursery — 58 Comments

  1. Those squids are so floral πŸ™‚ Love that pattern and what a great idea to use cardboard. That way it will also be easy to swap out, would you ever want to. But would you ever want to? It looks so great! πŸ™‚

    • thanks! yes, ease of swapping it out was another factor–although I think if we’d gone with starch, it would have peeled right off? that’s what I hear anyway. But we also considered gluing it to the back, and that would have been a lot more permanent.

    • thanks! yes, the changeability is definitely a good feature…though right now it’s hard for me to imagine not loving the squids anymore ;). thanks for stopping by!

  2. So so so cute! Thank you so much for sharing! It is perfect addition to that pretty bookshelf! Thanks for linking up at Happy Hour!!!
    Jaime from Crafty Scrappy Happy

  3. Love the idea of using cardboard. I want to do this to an entertainment center my husband made but didn’t want to damage the wood in case I want it plain again someday. I’m going to try your method, thanks!

  4. Wow that looks fantastic. Its amazin what you can do and how you can alter something with some fabric, cardboard and a glue gun.

  5. Love Love Love Your Really cool Squid fabric!!
    will have to check out Spoonflower for some of that!! The Bookcase is Fantastic! and I love the color of the walls too!!? Just haoppened upon your blog will have to check out previous post! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you…and welcome! Checked out your site and saw you’re in Scituate…that was one of our garage sale haunts–the bookcase might have come from there originally πŸ™‚

  6. Gorgeous, I love it so much!
    I have been planning to do this for the last 11 months in my house, above the desk in the kitchen! But I never found any fabric, paper, wallpaper, wrapping paper, ANYTHING that I could settle on. Now I can check out spoonflower.

  7. Love it! What a lucky baby to have a mom who thinks out of the box and does SQUIDS in the nursery! You go, girl. And best of luck with the last days of pregnancy – I hope you have a wonderful bundle to bring home soon!

    • Ha–thanks! It’s true…babies today don’t know how lucky they have it. When I was a baby, it was nothing but Raggedy Ann and Andy ;). thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

  8. I like that you used cardboard. I have been working on a bookcase and was scared to just glue fabric-I cant ever get it cut straight. I saw some people used foamboard but it is too small in the cheap common size . So I am really psyched to finish using cardboard. Great pix.

  9. How stinkin cute is that? And so smart to use cardboard. I got a few chuckles from this post too…love when that happens. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much! We’re looking at redoing his room soon now and maybe changing out that fabric for something else, so I’m really glad we used the cardboard now!

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  14. I love your post, thanks for sharing. I am going to give this a try in the back of some kitchen cabinets that we are painting. I am worried about things looking too white, so I am thinking a colored backing (that is not permanent) in the back of the cabinets would be great, even though you really don’t see it unless you open the cabinets!

    • Sounds like a fun project! You don’t see it unless you open the cabinets, but you open your cabinets over and over again all day πŸ™‚

  15. I did this idea on my built-ins on either side or fireplace. It turned out fabulous! The hard part was measuring the cardboard. Haha…I used duct tape to tape the fabric to the back of the cardboard

  16. Turned out so cute! And what a clever and affordable option- cardboard! I was totally going to spend way more than necessary and use plywood. How did you attach the cardboard to the back of the bookshelf?

    • Thanks! it fits snugly and then has the shelves in front of it holding it in, so there’s actually nothing attaching it–we just popped it in there against the wood back of the shelf

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