I recently decided to add color to the back of bookshelves with fabric … here is the story.
DH had just painted our dining/living room a light brown color and some old bookshelves for the living room a lovely ivory color. I wanted to add some color to the back of the bookshelves without using paint. Removable wallpaper in various designs and shapes is currently a popular decorating techniqué, especially for renters who want to add a personal touch to a temporary space. I couldn’t find what I wanted online – or did not want to spend the money it would cost.
Being a quilter, fabric was a logical choice – but I wasn’t sure how to adhere it to the wood. An internet search led me to the Amber Lane Living blog Pantry Redo with Mod Podged Fabric Contact Paper. I liked the idea of making fabric wallpaper with contact paper.
Our living room is a work-in-progress. For years, while my son was in high school, we had a ping pong table in our dining/living room. We have dining room furniture now but the living room is slowly evolving. The color palette in our living room is sort of autumnal with latte accents based on fabrics from the Golden Age collection from 2014.
I chose Mirage Pumpkin for the bookshelf fabric thinking the subtle mottled texture, without a distinct print, would work well.
I bought two containers of Matte Mod Podge, two rolls of contact paper, and two brushes. I was going to buy a black foam brush with a wooden handle like I usually use for small projects. At the first craft store, I was told they would not hold up to a larger task and would take longer. I was advised to buy an inexpensive paint/craft brush with a stiff but thinner than usual row of bristles. At another store, I found an actual Mod Podge brush! I had a store coupon so I sprung for that one as well. Fortunately, I had a long, 30″ wide table to work on in my sewing room – and another pair of hands. DH offered to help which was great because the task was much easier to accomplish as a team. If a suitable table was not available, the work could have been done on the floor.
I made a sample to test the technique – always a good idea! I laid fabric on contact paper and applied Mod Podge to the top of the fabric as I had done with other decoupage projects. The fabric adhered unevenly or not at all. A coworker suggested applying the Mod Podge to the contact paper and then adding the fabric – this worked much better.
We taped the contact paper to the table with the paper side down. The contact paper was 18″ wide and the shelves were 28″ wide, so we had to piece another long section to get the width. We carefully abutted the second length of contact paper next to the first and joined them with Scotch tape on the top side. This acted like taping sheet rock, so the seams did not show at all. We used the two brushes to apply glue generously to the contact paper.
Unfortunately, I did not have the fabric completely ready, and the glue seemed to adhere unevenly by the time we placed the fabric on it. We decided to apply a second coat of Mod Podge to the top, which dried clear and looked good. It was easy to use a rotary cutter along the edge of the table to remove the extra fabric and contact paper.
This experience taught us it would be best to apply the glue in sections and quickly add the fabric. After cutting and pressing the fabric, I rolled it into a tube. DH applied 12″-15″ of glue at a time to the contact paper while I unrolled the fabric and we both smoothed out bubbles and wrinkles. This worked very well; we did not have to apply a top coat. Fortunately, the Mod Podge dries so clear the fabric in both bookshelves looked the same with or without the top coat of glue.
Finishing the Bookshelves
DH convinced me, based on his wallpaper hanging expertise, to wait to trim my new fabric wallpaper until it was applied to the bookshelf. He used my long acrylic ruler and an X-Acto Knife to trim the wallpaper. It looked good! The subtle, mottled appearance of the Quilter’s Candy Basics Mirage Pumpkin fabric looked like a fancy faux finish paint technique.
Once the shelves were in, it was time to fill the shelves with books and maybe some knickknacks. I had just drastically purged my whole library of books, so I was hoping to get most of them on these two bookshelves (plus one upstairs for interior design books and another for children’s books). A Swirling Fans Table Topper and a Log Cabin Stars quilt from the Golden Age collection were waiting to be used.
I had hoped more color would show but I ended up with more books and less room for knickknacks. The pumpkin color does show when you are in the room. The living room is still evolving. I have picked out four brown chairs but won’t be able to get them for awhile.
The technique of making wallpaper from contact paper worked well and could be used for various applications including making decals of artistic shapes and letters. I would hesitate to do a large area like a wall involving sections larger than the fabric’s width (WOF). I do like the idea of being able to remove the contact paper when it is time to change décor.
8/15/2016 Update: After reading online about using sheets for walls and doors, I had an aha (more like a duh!) moment – We sell 104″ wide backing fabric that would work well for larger areas.
One of the comments on the Pantry Redo with Mod Podged Fabric Contact Paper blog talked about using liquid starch to adhere fabric to walls. A co-worker told me a local craft shop uses liquid starch and fabric for seasonal displays since it is easy to remove, wash off, and change the fabric. Another told me the walls in her closet have been decorated with fabric applied with liquid starch and has remained since childhood. Since I could not find any liquid starch at the supermarket, and I had already purchased the supplies, I proceeded with the contact paper and Mod Podge. I think I will try the liquid starch technique when we repaint a bookshelf upstairs.
Please share your experiences either of these methods or another for applying fabric to walls or furniture.