How to Make Over a Vintage Bookshelf with Fabric

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Dave thought I was being a little silly to insist that we redo the fabric in Abe’s bookcase. “You can’t even see it!” he said, “it’s behind all the books.”

This was a good point, but I couldn’t help myself. We used really cool squid fabric for the back of Abe’s shelf when we first decorated his ocean-y nursery, back before he was even born.

When he was tiny, with fewer books and less stuff overall, I was able to keep the bookcase uncluttered enough to let some squid show through. But nowadays there are so many books! So, honestly, I could have left the squid fabric there and it would have been barely noticeable that it was a throwback to the ocean theme.

But I would know.

So I revisited Spoonflower to search for fabric that would fit in better with the National Parks thing we have going on in here now. To be clear, I don’t think absolutely everything in the room needs to be themed. It’s just that I don’t want things from a competing theme leftover. I have a very specific approach to themed rooms, apparently, and that’s part of it. Back in April, I presented the finalists for bookcase backing fabrics, and, not too long after, I picked one out and ordered it.

And then it sat in a drawer in Abe’s room for far too long.

I have no idea why I put off doing the bookcase for so long. It turned out to be really fast and easy, which I should have known, since I’d already done pretty much exactly the same project a few years earlier. Anyway, now it’s done!

The fabric I went with is called Grey Mountain. Some of the fabrics had a lot more going on in them, but I decided to go with something simple, owing to that whole it won’t show that much anyway thing. Here’s how it looks on the shelf:


There are pretty thorough directions for how to get the fabric on there back in the old post, but I’ll go over them again here, with the added information that’s relevant specifically to switching out the old fabric. Because one of the great things about this method of bookcase updating is that it’s very easy and relatively inexpensive to change it up from time to time.

Back when we put the first fabric in, we cut a piece of cardboard to size to fit against the back of the bookcase. So I pulled that back out and I was very relieved to find that the old fabric pulled off pretty easily, and I didn’t need to cut a new piece of cardboard. Then I brought the cardboard downstairs to get started with the new fabric.

You’ll Need:

*cardboard cut to size (we cut up a moving type box; thinner cardboard might be hard to work with)




*spray adhesive

*hot glue gun



I had one yard of the Spoonflower fabric, which was pretty much the perfect length to cover the cardboard and just a bit too wide. I cut off the excess width and then ironed out the creases where it had been folded:


Then I centered the fabric over the cardboard and glued it down with the spray adhesive. My method was to lift one side of the fabric up, spray, then put the fabric back and smooth it out. Then the same thing on the other side. You have a little time to work with here if you end up with some wrinkles that you need to get out, so don’t panic!


Then I flipped the whole thing over and sort of wrapped it like a present (like a present wrapped by a five year old, that is. But the back doesn’t show!) and glued it down with hot glue:

mountshelf04 mountshelf05

I used hot glue instead of spray adhesive because….umm, well, honestly, because I realized that’s what I used last time when I was peeling the old fabric off. I suspect my reasoning then was that the hot glue holds better but is too thick to use on the front part that’s going to show. At any rate, it worked well both times, and if it ain’t broke….

And then I popped it back into the bookcase. Done!

And now that it has books and stuff in it again?

mountainshelf03s mountainshelf01s

Well. You can still see the mountains if you’re looking for them.

So this was the very last project to finish in Abe’s room! Which means Abe’s room is all done! Which means next week I’ll be posting the long promised room reveal with all the details and sources and a few things you haven’t seen yet, even if you’ve been following along since way, way back in the beginning. Updating a vintage bookcase with fabric from Spoonflower: full photo tutorial




How to Make Over a Vintage Bookshelf with Fabric — 9 Comments

  1. I love it, even just in glimpses.
    I am resisting going to Spoonflower to see what I can see. Must. Not. Buy. Fabric.

  2. Adorable! My son has a huge row of bookcases in his room, all full to bursting with books. I’d love to do something like this, but like you said, you wouldn’t even see it! Maybe if I can convince him to donate some books…

    • ha–right?! we have a whole wall of bookcases in a room downstairs….from time to time I think about doing something like this to them, but it seems like too big of a project for too little payoff!

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