Simple Bookshelf Update

IMG_1903One thing that I really enjoy is taking an inexpensive piece of furniture and turning it into something unique.  Here is a quick trick to update a discount store bookshelf.  Each of my kids has a couple bookshelves in their room where they can stash books and other knick-knacks they tend to accumulate.  When #2 vacated his room, I decided to take one of his bookshelves to my office where books were piling up on the floor.  As long as I was dismantling it to get it into my car, I figured I might as well do something fun with it.  So, I decided to cover the back of the shelf with a colorful vintage map.

Materials Needed 

  • A bookshelf with a removable back.  If you don’t have one to be reimagined, you can easily find one at your local discount or hardware store.
  • Tools for dismantling the bookshelf  I needed a hammer and a straight screwdriver to use as a pry bar to remove the back.
  • an old map (or two)
  • an iron
  • a rubber band
  • Mod Podge
  • a damp sponge
  • old credit card to flatten out the map
  • an iron
  • a foam paintbrush

I decided not to bother painting the shelf.  It was in decent shape, an imitation wood laminate that would blend with the oak shelves that were already in my office.

I started by choosing a map for the backside of the shelf.  National Geographic magazines contain wonderful maps, and I have drawers full I’ve collected over the years.  Magazines are often donated to libraries, and libraries usually pass them on for free to their patrons.  Our library leaves them on a cart in the entryway.  I always check to see if there are any interesting ones whenever I’m there.  The older the better!  Yard sales are another place to pick these up cheap!

  1. After you have chosen a map you like, make sure it is the right size to cover the back panel.  The back of my shelf had two pressboard pieces to be tacked onto the back.
  2. If your shelf is not new, be careful when you remove the back.  You don’t want the panel to break.  If it does break, just use duct tape to repair it.  The map will cover the tape up.
  3. Lay the panels on something to protect your floor.  The side that will be facing the shelves should be up.  On newer shelves this is usually marked.
  4. Prepare your map by ironing it with a cool iron.  Try and get most of the creases out.  Roll it up and secure with a rubber band. Set it aside.
  5. Next, prepare the back by covering it with a thin layer of the mod podge using the foam brush.
  6. Remove the rubber band from the map.  Carefully, line it up with the edge of the back and unroll about six inches.  Use the credit card to smooth the map down.  Continue unrolling and smoothing the map.
  7. Use the damp sponge to wipe down the map.  There may still be some tiny wrinkles.  This is ok.  It won’t really show when you have the shelf put together.
  8. Don’t worry about the edges that are hanging over. Those will be trimmed away after it dries.IMG_1902   IMG_1901
  9. Use the foam brush to spread some mod podge over the top of the map.  It will look white, but it dries clear.  If it seems to gluey, you can add some water to thin it.  It depends a lot of how much humidity is in the air.
  10. Let it dry and apply another thin coat of the mod podge.
  11. After it is thoroughly dry, trim the extra edges off the map.  I let mine dry overnight.
  12. Reassemble the bookshelf and you’re done!

IMG_1903  IMG_1908  IMG_1905



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