I have had my Ikea bookshelves for over 20 years. We’ve moved many times in those years and the bookcases have survived with only a ding here and there. I love my bookcases! I love how they fill a wall and make a statement; I love how they’re such a perfect place to create vignettes; I love looking at all the books I’ve read over the years. But, I have to say that after watching more than a few Candice Olsen shows, I’ve been inspired to try changing them up a bit.
Using wallpaper or mirror to finish the back of bookshelves can be a vivid or subtle way to add interest or to tie the bookshelves into the decor. This is not a new idea – it’s all over the web and Candice uses it frequently. I just haven’t tried it yet – but I’ve been intrigued and wondered if I would like it.
As you can see, each shelf already has a lot going on, so I wasn’t sure about adding more pattern with wallpaper. I contemplated adding mirror because I think that would brighten the shelves with reflected light as well as reflect my collections. However, it’s definitely a pricey option. I finally decided on paper, but I really wanted something almost solid but with enough color to contrast against the light shelving.
How To Add Paper to Bookshelf Backs
This is a really simple project. Supplies you’ll need are a paper that fits your decor, foam core board, exacto knife, metal edge ruler, tape measure, scissors, and spray mount glue or painters tape. The paper I used came in a sheet 24″x36″ for just a few dollars and I found the foam core on sale at a craft store. This whole project cost under $20.
The back of my bookshelves is pretty flimsy and I didn’t want anything permanently attached, so I opted for a finish for individual shelf backs. Begin by taking inside measurements and cutting foam core 1/4″ smaller than those measurements (give or take a little depending on the thickness of the paper you use and how snugly you want the backing to fit). I want the new backing to fit snugly so it appears attached to the back. *HINT* Use a new blade in the exacto cutter so that it’s nice and sharp otherwise foam core tends to get chewed up rather than cut crisply.
The next step is to cut the paper to cover the foam core – I decided to wrap the paper around the edges so I wouldn’t have the clearly cut edges showing so I added about 1/2″ all around to have enough. It takes a little longer but gives a more finished look. Finger crease to create a sharp edge.
Next it’s time to attach the paper to the foam core – this can be done using many methods. Depending upon the weight of the paper, you might use white craft glue, spray mount, hot glue, or even just tape on the back side. I used tape since I know I’ll want to reuse the paper and foam core for some other project some day in the future. Cut the corners on a diagonal fairly close to the edge so when you fold the edges up, you’ll get a nice crisp corner.
The final step is to press the covered foam core to the back of the shelf and wedge it in place – you shouldn’t need any fastener to attach it to the existing shelf back if you’ve measured accurately. And there, you go, a new look for your shelves.
I didn’t do every shelf because books cover most of the shelf backs. But I have created an oversize shelf configuration in each bookshelf that is specifically for display – it’s lit and now has a backing to give it more emphasis. Plus, I didn’t want to spend the time/money to back each shelf when books just cover it all up. Depending upon your situation, you may want to back each shelf.
Try It, You’ll Like It!
Bookshelves, open kitchen or bath shelves, or even your dining hutch could benefit from this easy project. Covering foam core with decorative paper could apply to many areas of your home – what’s your idea? Updated: 5/27 I just came across a post by Eddie Ross and he shows the exact same project using the exact same bookcases in Easy Decorating magazine available now only he used fabric to back the shelves!
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