Monday, November 22, 2010

5 Simple Projects that Will Instantly Spruce Up Your Bookcases!

One of the Christmas projects I'm working on this year is a simple bookcase for my kids.  They love to read and I thought it'd be a great way for them to organize their books and keep them within easy reach (without letting them clutter up every corner of our home!).

So I went to work designing a straightforward bookcase that will have six shelves--one for each child and then one "everybody" shelf for the massive quantities of books we bring home from the library.

Everything was cruising along well with this project until I came to the way I was going to finish the piece.  Now, all along, I'd planned on just painting it a single color and then maybe distressing it a little bit.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how boring that was.  So I started looking around the internet and doing some thinking on my own and I came up with a number of options that have a ton of potential.  What do you think?

1.  Bring in a New Paint Color
OK, this one isn't really all that ground-breaking . . . but it's a place to start.  With this idea, rather than paint the bookcase one solid color, go ahead and paint the backer--the area behind the shelves--a darker or contrasting color.
I've seen bookcases online where the backers have been painted bright green, pink, red, blue, or any other bright color.  I've also seen built-ins or bookcases like the one at the right where the backer color is much more subtle.

Whatever you decide to do--bright color or subtle shades--a different paint color on the backer can add a ton of visual interest to a piece that otherwise might have seemed quite boring.
  • Quick Tip:  Also, don't lock yourself into using just one color back there, either!  If the concept would work for you (as it would with my bookcase), don't be afraid to paint different parts of the backer different colors.  In my case, I could make the backer behind each child's shelf a different color.  
2.  Bring in the Wallpaper!
Another great way to infuse your bookcases with some visual pop is to simply install some extra wallpaper on the backer.  It's a quick project--would take very little time and cost very little money--but as you can see, it will definitely help you create something unique and interesting out of even the most simple bookcase.

And again, as was the case above, don't limit this idea to bookcases--this would work for any built-in you own.  It also works beautifully in glass door cabinets.

3.  What About Fabric?
If wallpaper would work as an interesting backer for a bookcase, then so would fabric.  While wallpaper will create an interesting and warmer look, nothing warms and softens an area quite like fabric.  Sure, depending on the type of fabric you find, you may need to experiment with some different glues, but the end results would be worth it.
And don't limit yourself here.  I've seen some interesting cabinets where the back walls were lined with old potato sacks--complete with black lettering.  So check out those fabric stores and craft spots, but don't forget to branch out and hit the antique malls and junk shops and flea markets. 

4.  Cork Board and Thumb Tacks
Once the idea of putting fabric up behind the shelves crossed my mind, the very next idea that came up was some sort of bulletin board.  And that led to me to those rolls of cork board you can buy (very inexpensively) at any hobby or craft store.
While unusual for the backer of a bookcase, I can't help but think that they'd work out great and would provide a huge amount of visual interest while at the same time offering a wide range of personalization options.

After cutting and gluing the cork to the backer of the bookcase, all I'd need to do is provide the kids with some thumbtacks and let them go nuts.  They could post lists of their favorite books, they could pin up postcards or letters or photos.  They could hang drawings they've made, notes they want to keep or even a small calendar.  The possibilities are endless and would give them an opportunity to make "their shelf" truly theirs.

5.  Temporary Holiday Bookcases with Wrapping Paper.
Since the Holidays are rapidly closing in on all of us, I found myself wondering if there was a Holiday Decorating aspect to all of this.  You know, a fun, Holiday-themed design you could put on the backers of built-ins or bookcases or cabinets throughout your home.

Well, even though I thought the idea had merit, I discounted it for one main reason:  nobody wants to go and put up holiday-themed stuff all over the backs of their cabinets and then have to live with it all year or go through all the work taking it down just a month later.

But then I hit on the perfect solution:  Temporary Backers!  

All you'd need to do is cut some cheap foamboard or matte board (picked up from your local hobby store) to fit snuggly in that rectangular opening behind each of your shelves.  Then, once you've got this piece cut to fit, go ahead and wrap it with Christmas wrapping paper.  Pick a great design--something that will blend with the decor in your home--and wrap those panels you created.

From there, all you need to do is place them in that area behind your shelves.  If you cut them to fit snuggly, they should wedge in there nicely without needing any kind of adhesive at all.

When the Holiday's are over, all you need to do to remove them is pull them out.  If they're wedged in too tightly to do that easily, either carefully slice a chunk out of it with a razor knife or carefully turn a screw into the board and use this to pull the panel out.

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