How to Organize and Beautify Your Bookshelf With Amazing Fabrics

A bookshelf can be a thing of beauty in any home, or it can be a disaster zone. It all depends on how you organize and demarcate the different areas of the bookshelf. Where the bookshelves of the past were plain, boring, and merely functional, the bookshelves of today are much more integrated into your home’s theme than before. 

If you’re looking for the best bookshelf revamps and ideas, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve got the best “how-to” guide on beautifying your bookshelf with amazing fabrics from Kovi Fabrics. 

5 Fabric Ideas for Beautiful Bookshelves 

There are many amazing bookshelf ideas on the market, and if you have the time, space, and skills, you can easily make a stunning bookshelf design. 

Large-Scale Print Fabric Shelf Backing 

Using large-scale printed fabrics, you can create extra dimension and a focal point with an old bookshelf. The large-scale prints create a feeling of space in an otherwise dull shelf system. The method is quite easy. Simply follow the steps for decoupage fabric backing that I’ll share at the end of this article. 

With a large-scale pattern, the backing will become central and more easily seen. Match the paint and print by using the same colors in accessories and book covers.

Top Tip: Stack magazines in matching baskets or fabric tubs to ensure a more uniform look and provide neatness. By avoiding a leaning stack (aka Tower of Pisa), you can have a neater and cleaner bookshelf where the backing fabric really shines. 

Large-Scale Landscape Print Fabric Shelf Backing 

If a pattern collection isn’t your thing and you’d rather have a landscape or Chinoiserie-type background, then the idea of covering the whole back panel with the fabric is ideal. 

While a smaller size bookshelf will benefit from more delicate patterns, a large-volume bookshelf with shelves that are spaced further apart will really look stunning with these prints featuring landscapes, birds, and branches. 

Simple Floral Print Fabric Shelf Backing

In children’s rooms, it’s better to go big or go really understated. For a seriously understated look that works well on a child’s bookshelf, consider a simple repeating floral fabric in muted tones. 

I love this idea of a simple linear floral design added to the whole of the shelf backing. It’s quick, easy, and very neat for bookshelves that are often loaded with bright books and stationery.  

Novelty Display Shelving with Fabric Backing

Why not create a stylish talking point in your home with a bookshelf or display cabinet that has been backed with a novelty print that features large-scale birds, animals, or places? The trick here is to avoid overfilling the bookshelf or display shelves so the fabric can really feature. 

Have to Share: I love this stylishly gorgeous display cabinet filled with a large-scale floral print in muted tones. It simply glows! 

Sample Size Fabric Backing Cubicle Shelving Idea 

I love using a cubicle-style shelving unit as a bookshelf. Ordering some great samples in similar designs from your fabric supplier can really bring a sense of unity and magic to your bookshelf design. 

If you choose a print, consider whether there are perhaps larger-scale prints of the same collection or in a slightly different tone available. You really only need a small piece, so you can easily make do with samples.

Alternatively, order a yard of three to four different prints in the same collection and cut these to size. 

How to Decoupage Fabric for a New Bookshelf Backing

Adding fabric to the back of your bookshelf is about more than just gluing it in place. For starters, you want to achieve a professional finish and have a surface that you can wipe and dust. There are two methods to do this, depending on the type of bookshelf you are using. 

Method One: Single Backing Panel

When you have a large bookshelf with a removable single back panel, it’s perhaps the easiest to cover with fabric. 

  1. Simply unscrew the back panel of the bookshelf. 
  2. Choose a fabric to upholster the panel with. A sturdy fabric that’s light enough to glue is ideal. 
  3. Choose a matching paint color to your fabric choice. Now paint the bookshelf inside and out in this color. Use good quality PVA paint. Allow it to dry for at least 6-12 hours. 
  4. Spray the bookshelf with a clear varnish or clear lacquer. 
  5. Using mod podge, apply the fabric to the bookshelf backing panel. Paint a thick layer, then apply the fabric before painting another thick layer. Allow to dry. 
  6. Repaint the fabric with another layer of mod podge at a perpendicular angle. Allow it to dry for another 4-8 hours. 
  7. When the fabric has acquired the desired layers of mod podge and no longer feels rough to the touch, it’s time to finish up the bookshelf. 
  8. Carefully screw the backing layer back onto the bookshelf. 
  9. Double-check that the bookshelf is dry all over before adding your books and ornaments. 

Method Two: Multiple Backing Panels

If you have a bookshelf that doesn’t have a removable backing panel, you will have to work with this method. 

  1. Carefully measure the different compartments of the bookshelf. Use a drawing to keep track of which cubicle is where. 
  2. Paint the bookshelf a matching color, being careful to paint the shelf in a thin to medium coat of paint. Once the paint has dried, add a second coat of paint, finishing up with clear lacquer spray to seal the paint and make it fully wipeable.
  3. Cut the chosen fabric or fabrics to size. Leave an extra half inch of fabric at the top and bottom of the fabric blocks. 
  4. Apply a thick coat of mod podge to the backing panel, then move the fabric section to the panel. Start by attaching the top corners of the fabric to the top corners of the shelving cubicle. 
  5. Secure in place, use an old bank card to smooth out any folds or wrinkles, and add another layer of mod podge. 
  6. Allow to dry for 4-6 hours, then apply another layer of mod podge. Repeat as needed until all the shelves have an upholstered back panel. 
  7. If needed, you can use some upholstery cord or gimp to make a frame along the edge of the back panels for a neater finish.

How to Organize Your Beautiful New Bookshelf

No matter how stunning the patterns and fabrics you choose as bookshelf backing, if you clutter your shelves and fill them with random stuff, you will end up with an ugly shelving unit. 

Organization is key. Here are a few considerations:

  • Can you group similar size books or books with similar colored spines together?
  • Can smaller books or magazines fit into a basket or closed container that can be painted in similar tones to the fabric to create a more unified look?
  • Try not to have all the books point in the same direction and create walls of meaningless lines. Instead, try a variety, such as having some books lying on their sides while others lean at an angle or stand upright at the traditional 90 degrees.
  • Combine the 2D shapes of books with more 3D and organic shapes such as a few tasteful ornaments and even photo frames. Bookends are always the rage, but choose something that matches the chosen fabric backing. 

Bookshelf Upholstery FAQs

How do you make a bookshelf look good?

Choose a darker color for the exterior than the interior of the bookshelf and line the back panels with different fabrics and similar themed patterns. Ensure there is space by stacking books vertically and horizontally and not overfilling the bookshelf. 

How do you jazz up a bookshelf?

Simple! Paint the outside with a strong but muted color that matches a bold fabric pattern. Glue the patterned fabric along the back and inside of the bookshelf. Apply a layer of high gloss lacquer spray. 

How do you decorate the back of a bookshelf?

By painting or decoupaging the back of the bookshelf, you can bring elements of art such as line, color, and pattern into the space, making the bookshelf an adventure for the eye. 

The Last Shelf

Your bookshelf is a deeply personal space, and it’s wise to make it a fun and interesting place to be. Give your prized books a novel space to live in where they will be loved and valued. 

Whether you undertake a dress-up session with your bookshelf as a DIY project or to save a rickety bookshelf from being “shelved,” have fun and create something beautiful. For the best ideas on fabric patterns and designs, have a look at the amazing articles on the Kovi Fabrics Blog and be inspired.

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