DIY Fabric Wallpaper for Bookshelves


I recently decided to add color to the back of bookshelves with fabric … here is the story.

The Project
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.

Color Palette
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.

3903 Mirage Pumpkin

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.

Bookshelf #1
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.


Bookshelf #2
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.


Another Idea
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.




  1. Karen - August 12, 2016

    Whew! A lot of work and what a terrific helper you’ve got. The look is wonderful and is perfect in your room. But—you’ve got to let all that gorgeousness show 🙂

    • Ann - August 15, 2016

      Yep, DH is a terrific helper! I appreciate his willingness to go along with my ideas and assist me. I am pleased with the results even though the books cover up a lot of the color – it still shows when you are in the room. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  2. Dian - August 12, 2016

    Thank you for sharing your journey… I am interested in doing the same to my kitchen cabinets! Your room looks really nice…

    • Ann - August 15, 2016

      Thanks Dian for your comment. It may be even easier to do this method one shelf space at a time – without trying to wallpaper the whole back of the shelves at one time. The Mod Podge and brush worked well.
      You could also consider the liquid starch method… here is a link I found since I wrote this blog:
      I did an internet search to answer the question whether liquid starch attracts bugs. Apparently the food starch in liquid starch can attract silverfish bugs – which is why a quilt with starched fabric needs to be washed when completed – but I couldn’t find any comments about problems with wallpapering with starch. There are even recipes online to make your own liquid starch with water and cornstarch.
      After reading 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. Good luck with your project!

  3. Nancy - August 16, 2016

    Hi Ann,
    Just a thought, if you took some of the books from the a few of the shelves of the bookcases (on both sides)and put them on the middle shelf of the table you could see the fabric better. The quilt would look nice placed at an angle on the back of the chair and would carry the color scheme all around the room. These colors are so beautiful that now I want to use them in my dining room! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Ann - August 17, 2016

    Thanks for the idea Nancy! I may be rearranging things once I get the other furniture. I had planned on a few non-book items on the shelves which would allow the pumpkin fabric to show more. It is a work-in-progress for sure.

  5. Jenna - August 18, 2016

    You do such a good job with these blogs Ann! Keep up the good work

    • Ann - August 18, 2016

      Aaah, thanks Jenna!

  6. Cynthia Marrs - August 22, 2016

    We live in the “country” and the mice visit pretty regularly. I’ve had to mouse proof everything in plastic tubs. I’m afraid the mice would eat my decorative wall efforts as they love cotton fabric and probably would like the starch, too. Evil little things. My cat does a good job. But, some have made it to my closets. I think should I have stock in the the mouse trap companies.
    I really like the look, though.


    • Ann - August 22, 2016

      Thanks Cynthia! Oh dear! I hadn’t thought of mice. I guess they might like decoupaged cotton as well. I can imagine you do have all your stash contained in plastic bins. What a bother – although that is how I have mine as well.