Try this cheap bookcase makeover with no paint!

Check out how to change a bookcase or built-ins without paint with this budget-friendly DIY plus other creative ideas.

Do you often find pieces of furniture or decor that don’t quite fit your style as you update your home? Maybe they have sentimental value or your budget doesn’t allow for replacements.

Adding pretty paper or fabric to the back of a bookcase, cabinet, or bookshelves is one of my favorite ways to change it without paint. Plus it’s super easy and inexpensive especially if you are using wrapping paper, fabric, or craft paper you already have on hand.

How to Makeover a Bookcase or Built-ins for Cheap

Cabinets Cheap Makeovers- cheap bookcase makeover
Cheap makeover ideas for bookcases.

If you are new here, howdy! I’m a recently retired military spouse who moved back to Texas after being gone 19 years. I’ve perfected the art of rental decorating and overcoming challenges in small spaces the last fifteen years but now am tackling homeownership with a new set of challenges! I love infusing a colorful, global style with DIYs and furnishings in our one-story 60’s ranch-style home.

Materials for Bookcase Makeover:

  • Paper: Shop your house or head to your nearest craft store for a pretty wrapping paper, fabric, contact paper, or peel and stick wallpaper.

I’m sharing how easy it is to use wrapping paper since it’s the easiest to find! I had leftover wrapping paper from my dresser makeover that features a white and gold subtle print that will lighten up my dark bookcase. It’ has a 1-inch grid on the back for easy measuring and cutting but I will also give you tips on other materials I’ve used.

  • A Backer for Your Shelves like foamboard, cardboard, or inexpensive thin press-wood.

Shop at your local dollar store to keep the cost low or have a hardware store cut a piece of cheap pressboard to fit in the back of your bookcase. The backer allows for easier installation that’s removable. I did this because I wanted the option to change it in the future. You can also install the paper directly to your bookcase or cabinet back.

  • Double-Sided Tape
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter (razor blade for the foam board)

How to Makeover Your Bookcase without Paint

Step one: Measure the height and width between the first shelf and the second.  Mark the measurements on your foam board.  I used a second foam board to mark my lines with a pencil but a yard stick would work.

Step two:  Make your cuts.  Again, you can use a second piece of foam board or yard stick to guide your box cutter.  My bookshelf is wider than the foam board so I had to cut off an additional piece for each shelf.  I taped them together with packaging tape.

How to makeover your bookcase without paint step by step.
Steps for covering the back of a bookcase with paper.

Step 3:  Mark the same measurements on your paper, then cut out.

Step 4:  Attach the paper to the foam board with double-sided sticky tape.  I placed three pieces vertically, one on the left, the center, and the right. Start with one side of the paper and smooth out and center as you place it on the foam board to prevent bubbles or wrinkles.

Side note:  I had to cut the pieces to fit around the upper corners of my two permanent shelves on a couple of my bookcase shelves.  Make any extra cuts so that your piece fits snugly.  

change your bookcase without paint for a cheap makeover
Bookcase makeover complete!
bookcase makeover with wrapping paper - cheap bookcase makeover
A cheap bookcase makeover.

Other bookcase makeover ideas:

Find out how to add a peel and stick wallpaper on a piece of cheap press wood in this article. This is a great use for leftover wallpaper or an inexpensive buy since it’s such a small amount. Use a contrasting paint color on the rest of the cabinet for eclectic style!

Boho Glam Cabinet Makeover With Removable Wallpaper 10- cheap bookcase makeover
Peel and stick wallpaper on furniture.

How to Update Cabinets or Bookshelves in a Rental

Check out a renter-friendly update with dollar store paper and washi tape in this article. You can really customize your colors to highlight what’s on your shelves and brighten up dark cabinets.

china cabinet makeover with washi and construction paper- cheap bookcase makevoer
Dollar store paper and washi tape updates a built in china cabinet.

I absolutely adore the paper in the back of this bookcase and this vintage bookcase makeover with fabric. After you have updated your old bookcase the next step is beautiful decorating! Check out how to style your shelves in this article and decorating shelves and surfaces here. Let me know how it goes! You can leave a comment or email me directly at [email protected] so we can chat.

Join me on Instagram for behind-the-scenes, DIYs, decorating tips, room tours, and home inspiration. I’ll see you over there!

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  1. This is beautiful! I absolutely love it. I have a bookshelf in my foyer that I wanted to add a little pizzazz to, and this is the perfect idea! It’s really a complete transformation 🙂

  2. What a great update! It’s a really beautiful change- and something I think that I even I could do…which I love! Great job!! I really do think that it makes your pretty items POP more! Great way to show off the things you love 🙂

  3. That dollar tree is the truth and I sleep on it so often. Love the design I have not a one designer bone in my body but love looking at the ones you have on here.

  4. Thank you for idea! I purchased black and ivory striped wrapping paper at Magnolia and plan on backing my kitchen cabinets that have glass!

    1. Thanks, Diane! If you make individual pieces to fit between the shelves you can reinforce with command strips or sometimes I’ll roll a piece of painter’s tape or masking tape and it holds well. You can also use hot glue if you want a more permanent solution. When I use one big piece in the back, the shelves hold it in place. Hope that helps!

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