July 18, 2013

Quick Decor Change that Packs a Big Punch: Brighten Your Built-Ins with Fabric

Karen Cooper

Sometimes you want to make a big change to your decor, but you think you don’t have time. Or, if you’re me, you are a big chicken when it comes to a major change.

red rooster seed sign

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?

shelves with glass vase

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:

before - left side

before right side built in

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 you add a fabric background to brighten your built-in:

First, measure the back of the built-in. Then measure it again. 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.

What?

Poster board?

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.

measure and tape poster board

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 the fabric 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.

center poster on fabric

tape fabric to poster board, how-to, measure and tape poster board, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

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!

wised up and used cutting board

I bought the cutting board a while ago at Goodwill for 99 cents. It’s in great shape…

cutting board from 1967, measure and tape poster board, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

…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.

stapled corner, attaching fabric, measure and tape poster board, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

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:

one side done, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

Then, all finished:

left side finished, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

right side finished, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

my favorite shelf, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

red rooster seed sign, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

fire truck toy, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

shelves with glass vase, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

living room finished, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

There’s the big picture…I love the pop of color the fabric gives. Perfect!

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 it down when you move. Easy peasy. Plus, you can do this project with materials you can get at a local grocery store plus fabric.

So, just to compare…

Before:

before, , how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

After:

left side finished, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

Before:

before right side built in, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

After:

right side finished, how-to,attaching fabric, inexpensive materials, easy weekend project, decor change-up

┬áIt’s an easy and changeable way to add a pop of color to your space.

Comments 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *