I’m a big ol’ chicken.
No – not that kind of chicken.
I have been thinking about painting the back of our built-in bookcases in the living room for a while now. But I could never do it. The built-ins are custom-built and I just couldn’t stomach the idea of painting them and then hating it.
Then I had an idea…
What if I used fabric?
Then it wouldn’t be permanent! No painter’s regret!
As I’ve always said, DIY is a logic game, so I had to figure some things out:
1. How would I hang the fabric so that it would stay flat and un-wrinkled?
2. How would I hang the fabric so that it wouldn’t tear on a nail or staple?
3. If I attached the fabric to a board or something like that, the board would have to be thin enough to fit behind the shelves.
4. What kind of fabric? Nothing too heavy, nothing too light. I didn’t want anything with straight horizontal lines because the shelves are horizontal; I didn’t want anything with straight vertical lines because many of the books would make vertical lines. I needed something not too vertical, not too horizontal.
OK – here’s what we started with…our living room built-ins:
Not bad, but a bit blah. The shelves seemed cluttered to me, and needed a pop of color.
How did I do it?
Here’s how to brighten boring built-ins with fabric:
First, measure the back of the built-in. Then measure it again. Trust me. Measure twice, cut once. Trust me. (I measured once and was off by an inch and it cost me another trip to the fabric store and extra fabric.)
Once I had measured the back of the built-in, I cut poster board to size.
I’m not kidding. Poster board. I used just regular white poster board. Got it at the grocery store.
Because the space at the back of the built-in was 54 1/4 inches high, I needed more than one piece of poster board, so I connected the cut pieces together with duct tape.
Right, duct tape. This just keeps getting better, right?!?
I used white duct tape, because it was the same color as the poster board and I didn’t want the tape to show through the fabric.
After I cut the poster board, then I cut the fabric. I added at least half an inch to each side so that I could fold it around the poster board. Note: the fabric was 54 inches wide; the built-ins were 23 3/4 inches wide on the left and 25 1/4 on the right. That meant that I could just cut the fabric in half and get a good width.
I centered the poster board on the cut fabric. I then attached the fabric to the poster board, again, with duct tape.
You can see I did this on the guest room bed. Then I remembered that I had a cutting board I could use that would make things much, much easier!
I bought the cutting board a while ago at Goodwill for 99 cents. It’s in great shape…
…especially since it’s from 1967. How cool is that?
But I digress.
Once I attached the fabric to the poster board, I made sure the fabric was even and lined up, and then it was time to hang it up.
I used a staple gun to hang it. The back of the built-in is plywood and the poster board and fabric were relatively thin. I figured a nail would be too much for the board and fabric.
The staples are small and would be hidden by either the shelves or the books to be placed on the shelves.
I then made the other three poster fabric panels, making sure to line up the fabric so that it looked even with the built-in next to it. Depending on what kind of pattern you use, you could make this easier (or harder). The chevron pattern wasn’t too hard to line up.
Here’s the finished product – first, without books and other stuff on the shelves:
Then, all finished:
There’s the big picture…I love the pop of color the fabric gives. Perfect.
Glad Hank got a nap today.
The great thing about this project is that anyone can do it. If you live in a rental, you could do this and just take them down when you move. Easy peasy.
So, just to compare…