Add Wallpaper to Your Bookcase for an Instant Style Upgrade

published Apr 18, 2017
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(Image credit: IKEA)

Bookshelves are a wonderful thing to have, because who doesn’t need more storage, especially the kind that takes advantage of vertical space. But as I’ve discussed with some of my colleagues here at Apartment Therapy, bookcases can also be particularly difficult to style. Unless all you own is carefully curated coffee table books, or you only buy novels with white spines, a bookcase filled with your favorite tomes can result in a bit of visual chaos – and even more so when you are displaying something other than books. This post is about one of my favorite tricks for pulling a bookcase together visually, and also injecting a little style into your space: adding wallpaper.

(Image credit: Style by Emily Henderson)

In this shot from Style by Emily Henderson, a beautiful black-and-gold wallpaper takes some wall-mounted shelves from a necessary storage solution to a beautiful design feature.

The great thing about the wallpaper-on-the-back-of-the-bookcase trick is that it’s fairly easy to pull off (especially as compared to say, actually wallpapering something), and it’s a way that even renters can add a little pattern to their space. A couple of bookcases, backed with your favorite wallpaper, might be just the thing to take your boring apartment living room to the next level.

(Image credit: Erin Spain)

This bookcase from Erin Spain is, believe it or not, just a humble IKEA Billy with a few upgrades. My favorite upgrade is the Cole & Son Woods wallpaper, which shows off her collection of black-and-white and brass objects very nicely.

(Image credit: Cup of Jo)

This living room, from Cup of Jo, is a perfect example of how the back of a bookcase can be an excellent spot to bring pattern into a rental. These bookcases provide quite a bit of storage, and a beautiful focal point for the living room.

(Image credit: Design Mom)

In this photo from Design Mom, wallpaper is the perfect thing to add a little pizzazz to a built-in bookcase.

(Image credit: Livet Hemma)

From Livet Hemma, here’s another Billy, this one with a dramatic fan pattern. I believe this pattern is actually pre-printed on the bookcase, but you could get the look with wallpaper applied to the back. For an even more cohesive look, try papering the sides, too.

(Image credit: Vanessa Francis)

You could try this in your closet too, like in this example from Vanessa Francis.

(Image credit: IKEA)

Here’s another example of wallpapered bookcases in the closet, from IKEA. If you don’t want to (or aren’t able to) take out the back of the bookcase and cover it in paper, you can cut pieces of cardboard or chipboard to the size of each shelf, cover them in paper, and pop them in.

(Image credit: Dos Family)

I love this look of papered shelves in a kid’s room — and I especially love the look of this Josef Frank print gracing the back of shelves in a space from Dos Family.

(Image credit: Design Mom)

This little spot, from Design Mom via My Little Chambre, is also in a kid’s room, but that should stop you from covering the back of all your bookcases with maps. Every glance at your shelves will feel like a little getaway.

More clever ways to use wallpaper: