I have long wanted to stencil the back wall of my built-in china cabinet to add some pizzazz to its plain Jane, traditional styling. However, an energetic, newly mobile infant has pushed aside all my best-laid plans, leaving no time for updating my bland 1970s hutch.
Enter a DIYer’s best friend: the Internet. Sometime, somewhere (perhaps during a middle-of-the-night feeding?) I scrolled past a blog demonstrating the use of fabric or wallpaper to punch up the back of a cheap bookcase. Filing that tidbit away allowed me to dredge up the idea when I had a few hours free to finally tackle this project. Best of all, with the method described here, there is absolutely no damage to your cabinet, making this the perfect update for a renter or commitment-phobe such as myself.
In a nutshell – it’s as simple as taping fabric around foam core pieces and wedging them into place. For an investment of less than $50 and a few hours of time, this project is a really easy way to make a big impact.
• Fabric of choice
• Foam core craft board
• X-Acto knife
• Measuring tape
• Packing tape
1. Measure the area to cover with fabric. I will admit this project would have been much simpler if my shelves were removable, but alas, these were built for the ages, and I had to use three unique sets of measurements. I added a generous 3” allowance on each side for the fabric to wrap around my secret weapon: white foam core of the type sold at craft stores.
2. Measure and calculate how much foam core is needed. If you are working with long shelves (as I was; half of the china cabinet is not pictured – there are actually four glass doors), you may need to use two (or more) pieces of foam core and tape them together once they have been put into place. This seam will be covered by fabric.
3. Purchase supplies. Remember to measure twice, cut once. My cabinet was 60” long, and a bolt of 54” fabric could not cover it without an unsightly seam. I chose a fabric without an obvious top-to-bottom orientation so I could use the bolt length instead.
4. Cut strips of fabric and foam core. Cut foam core to exact measurements with an X-Acto knife. Then cut the fabric, remembering to allow extra width and length to wrap around the foam core. I used a spare piece of foam core, marked my measurement, then placed its straight edge against the fabric’s selvage to mark a dotted line on the fabric, and then cut with scissors.
5. Wrap and tape fabric tightly to the foam core. It doesn’t have to be pretty on the back side, just use liberal amounts of packing tape and line your pattern up straight. At the corners, I folded the fabric like I was wrapping a present to tuck in the excess. If you have enough, try to match the repeat from shelf to shelf so that the overall effect is one solid piece of fabric across the whole back wall … mine is close but not exact (reference my note about aforementioned infant – c’est la vie).
6. Push fabric-wrapped board into place against the back wall. If you have measured carefully and cut your foam core to fairly exact measurements, the added bulk of the fabric gives it just enough extra girth to wedge in tightly to the back wall where gravity will keep it in place. It’s that easy, and can easily be removed and updated with new fabric as your whims dictate.
Editors’ note: Special thanks to Lindsay Gibson of Gibson Events for the loan of her milk glass collection.