Thoughtful Thursdays: Springy Home Facelifts… on a Budget {Part 1 – Bookshelf Makeover!}

Thoughtful Thursdays is a weekly segment geared toward helping you be frugal in areas outside your grocery list.   Today I’d like to introduce you guys to Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl -  a girl we SO admire for her crafty DIY spirit.  She’s totally amazing at creating magical makeovers without spending much!  I now leave you in her capable hands….

Thank you so much for inviting me over to your blog today! I hope your reader’s will enjoy my tutorial for giving any bookshelf a facelift.

But, before we get to the tutorial, I think some introductions are in order. Hi, everyone, my name is Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl).

I write a blog, called (what else) Pretty Handy Girl. My blog is filled with DIY tutorials for building things (like my son’s closet turned into a reading nook,)

Closet Turned Reading Nook

or sewing things (like this bistro table cover-up,)

Bistro Table Slip Cover

or fixing things (like replacing an UGLY old outlet),

How to Replace an UGLY Outlet

and crafting things (like these super easy winter themed votive holders.)

Winter Wonderland Votive Holders

My motto is if a human being can do it, there is a 95% chance that I can do it too. I hope I can empower you to take on your own DIY project.

Today I have a quick and easy way to give some drab and dark bookshelves a facelift.

This past year, we gave our home office a major overhaul. We painted the walls a lighter color and new light fixtures were installed in the ceiling. But, the majority of the furniture in our home office is a dark cherry color. Bookcases, armoires and other dark furniture absorb light. So, I knew I wanted to lighten up the back of the bookcase, but didn’t want to paint it or do anything to destroy the value of the furniture. So, I set to work on this super quick and easy project, making decorative backer boards for the bookcase.



  • Foamcore (32″ x 40″ made 3 backer boards)
  • Decorative Fabric
  • Batting
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Cutting surface
  • X-acto knife and fresh blade
  • Metal Ruler (or ruler with a metal edge)
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie Marker

First measure your bookcase shelf openings.

Next draw out your measurements on a large piece of foamcore. Then lay your foamcore on top of a safe cutting surface. Personally I like to use a self-healing cutting mat. I use them for everything (matting, paper cutting, sewing, craft projects, etc.)

Grab your X-acto knife and prepare to cut your foamcore.

A Note on Safely Using an X-acto Knife:

First, be sure that you always use a clean and new x-acto blade while you are cutting foamcore. Otherwise, the blade will catch on the foam interior and tear up your board. I learned the hard way how to use an X-acto knife while in art school. Let’s just say I’m glad that thumb tips grow back. Always use a ruler that is metal or has a metal edge. When holding your ruler, be sure your fingers are WELL AWAY from the edge of the ruler you are cutting on.

Try to cut with your blade on the waste side of the piece you are cutting. That way if the blade slips, it will mess up on the waste edge. For cutting foamcore, use light pressure and pull your blade through the material and towards you. You will need to make several light cuts until you are through the material completely. You will get a cleaner cut this way as opposed to using heavy pressure and try to cut through your material in one pass.

If your board is larger than your cutting surface, cut half of the line, then move the board up on the cutting surface and cut the rest of the way through.

Lay your decorative fabric on top of the foamcore. I played with the placement to make sure I liked the pattern that would be visible on the board. Then trace a 1″ border around the boards and cut the fabric.

Next you will trace your backer board on top of the batting (do not add a 1″ border on the batting. Just trace it the same size as the foam core.) Cut the batting.

Heat up your glue gun. While you are waiting for it to heat up, lay your fabric right side down, then the batting, and finally put your foamcore backer board on top. Trim the corners of your fabric on a diagonal. Trim about 1/2″ away from the corner. This will help you neatly fold your corners when you glue them.

Run a line of glue on the edges of your backer board and fold your fabric over on top of the glue.

When you are done, flip over your board and admire.

Now comes the super easy part! Walk over to your bookcase and insert the backer boards. Tilt the top in first and then push in the bottom. The fabric and batting should allow the board to stay in with tension. Plus, the foamcore will crush slightly to fit your space.

AND, if you want to use it as a bulletin board you can! I’ve been thinking about using the leftover decorative nail head trim nails (from my chair upholstering project) as push pins. But, for now I’m enjoying the lighter back of my bookcase! And, loving the way it coordinates with my desk chair.

I loved that fabric so much, that I recovered a $5 yard sale chair with it. I’ll be back with a tutorial for reupholstering that chair.

Wasn’t that easy? Do you have any bookcases that could use a facelift? Will you try this project? If you do, I hope you will share pictures.

Thanks for having me over on your blog today. I hope you will visit me at Pretty Handy Girl.


  1. says

    I was just leaning back in my desk chair, gazing over the office…dreaming about someday doing new carpet…how that will change the room, wondering if my dark built-in book cases would need to be painted…just having a good time dreaming and thinking about future projects.

    So I googled “dark bookcase makeover” – and found you! I bookmarked this page and just might have to do the backboard inserts someday.

    Thanks for the tutorial.

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