Try This: Fabric Lined Built-In Shelves

Fabric Lined Built In Shelves (click through for the full tutorial!)You know those projects that you keep meaning to do, but they end up staying on the to-do list for a near eternity? This project was just that for me. It’s been on our list since the day we moved in, and I’m not sure what took us so long (oh yeah, maybe because we were busy doing other projects?) Anyway! It’s done now and I love (LOVE) it. It’s the perfect little pop of color and pattern for our corner built-ins that are located in the living room half of my bedroom (yeah, our bedroom is split into two rooms and one of them has couches… weird, I know).

So- I had planned to paint these built-ins a rich teal color (similar to our kitchen cabinets), but I thought a pattern could be even more fun. One day I was making a project with rubber cement, and I started wondering if it could be used on a wall to adhere fabric, since it’s so easy to remove. We tested it (see below), and I’m so happy that we tried this weirdo idea because it worked perfectly!

SuppliesSupplies: Fabric scissors, X-Acto knife, rubber cement, and cotton fabric.

1. Cut your fabric to the approximate size need, leaving an inch on each side. Coat your surface and the back side of your fabric with the rubber cement and let it dry completely. Starting with the middle of the fabric, place it on the middle of the surface and smooth outwards with your hands (don’t worry if you put it in the wrong place, you can peel it off and place it again).

2. Once the fabric is smooth, use the X-Acto knife to trim the extra fabric off the sides.

3. Enjoy your new shelves!

Fabric + Rubber Cement testWe tested the idea last week. Honestly I had no idea if it would even work, but it did! After a few days we peeled off the sample fabric and it wiped clean like it was never there. The existing paint inside the built ins was high gloss- this is probably one of the reasons it was so easy to remove. I guess you can file this one under “renter friendly.” Yay for that! It’s also much quicker than painting and you get to fabric shop. (my favorite part!)

Fabric Lined Built In Shelves (click through for the full tutorial!) Here’s the finished project. I’m so happy with how clean and simple they look!

Fabric Lined Built In Shelves (click through for the full tutorial!) Done and done! I love how a little project like this can update a space and add personality. Sometimes it’s the little projects that make a room special. Hope you have a great weekend! Elsie

Credits // Author and Photography: Elsie Larson, Project Assistant: Laura Gummerman.

  • I recently tried this out at home, and here’re a few things I learnt that hopefully might be useful to everyone else doing similar projects:

    – Might not work on some surfaces. As mentioned in the post above, the existing surface was high-gloss paint – the proj worked for this surface, but might not for others. I lined fabric on wooden IKEA shelves.

    Rubber cement on wooden surfaces is sticky and super easy to rub off. It didn’t peel off quite as easily when adhered to fabric that already had a layer of rubber cement on it, though the bond was quite strong. If I left the wood alone and tried to adhere just the rubber-cement treated fabric to the shelf, it didn’t stick as easily. In the end I put wet rubber cement on my fabric and adhered it to the shelf while it was still wet, and it stayed. Also another reminder to test out your fabric on the surface before you do anything!

    – This project’s originally meant to be rental-friendly, but it can be done with the long-term in mind too! If you’re going for the latter, you might want to consider getting waterproof fabric, or waterproof yours, as well as get fabric that is of some thickness at least. Basically, you want something that will last – so fabric that you can keep clean, one that won’t trap dust, and one with less chance of fraying. My fabric’s thin, though, so unfortunately I overlooked that. But I’m going to try laying out contact paper on the shelf I already lined, and I’m going to waterproof another fabric with turpentine and soybean oil.

    It might take a bit more time and effort, but weigh your situation (pros & cons) carefully, b/c it’s worth making something that lasts. Haha just a note from one novice to another 😉

  • This works with liquid starch, too! For my sister’s room a few years ago we found a butterfly material and cut out the butterflies, dipped them in liquid starch and stuck them up to the wall. After it dries, it’s stiff. Then when you don’t want it on anymore, you just peel right off. Easy and cute!

  • I will most defintely be making this idea sometime. Sometime when I finally get a real appartment and can actually start doing stuff like this and not just admire the hundreds of inspiration photos I’ve saved over the years 🙂 Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  • Great idea to jazz something up with some colour! Love it!

    Lulu xx

  • Such a fun idea! I feel like your home is so fun, seems all regularish at first glance but with so many colourful fun touches, yey!

  • Literally have been behind on projects and even reading blogs for ages, just moved into my new house and this is PERFECT for a cupboard I was thinking about throwing away. WOO!

  • Oh my goodness, this is the best idea ever – so cute!


  • LOVE the teal and orange together 🙂 Can’t wait to try this on the open shelves in my kitchen, thanks for the great idea!

    Dawn from I Think We Could Be

  • what a great idea!! It probably sounds overly ambitious, but I’m curious if I could do this to a whole wall for an accent wall..?

  • This is such a sweet look that could be modified to any style! You should gather all your “renter friendly” ideas in one spot. Just an idea, cause all of your ideas are so great!

  • Ah, it just looks incredible! SO easy to do, as well.
    Rosie x | Every Word Handwritten

  • Had to do a double take when I saw this in my Feedly this morning! I have a near identical cabinet I painted white last year, in a near identical corner. I’ve been planning to do your family photo backdrop project on it!

  • This is really a great idea! I love that it doesn’t damage the wall.


  • Love this idea there are so many boring units in my house that will be getting this treatment! xx Emmi

  • this is so gorgeous! i have similar white shelves in my apartment, and i think this would be a great addition! thanks for the inspiration, as usual <3


  • That’s awesome! I’ve been meaning to do mine with paint, but I like this idea so much better since there’s so many cool patterns out there. Thanks ladies! 🙂

  • Very pretty! looks easy but I am sure would be hard to get as much precision but at least now I know that it is feasible. Great post guys!

  • This is such a cute diy love the vintage appeal

  • that’s awesome! how you guys can get the ideas like this? i love it! 🙂

  • What a great project, fantastic idea!

  • That’s beautiful! My sissy has two sets of built in shelves so I’m definitely mentioning this to her.

    xo Lisa | Making Life’s Lemons

  • This is awesome! I just did a similar project with a bookshelf that had a removable bakcpanel, so i just stapled the fabric around that. Then i took on the next shelf and realized the panel would no way come off…

    THANK YOU! For showing your project! I can now take on my shelf with much more confidence that installing the fabric with adhesive is possible! Big thumbs up for you guys and greetings from Estonia!

  • So pretty.. 🙂 its great coz you can personalise it to suit your room decoration and own taste 🙂 Great idea

  • That is awesome!!! Great idea. It’s look so pretty and very cute, it sure does add a personal touch and it really adds some colour. Great job ladies, keep up the good work!! 🙂

  • You girls keep yourself so busy with so many other projects, it’s OK if they sometimes get delayed! At least the turn out is great. I thought this was wallpaper at first (before I read the title), but fabric is a much better idea because there are SO many fun, unique prints out there.

  • I’ve also heard of using liquid corn starch and fabric for a renter friendly solution! This one seems to have worked great though!
    Leah Faye
    a clover and a bee

  • Hey Jenna!
    Yes! It stays very sticky and it’s easier to work with after it has dried! 😀

  • Jay!
    Contact paper is already self-adhesive. It would work without the rubber cement.
    I’m not sure if wrapping paper would work (because I haven’t tried) but I am assuming it would!
    xoxo- elsie

  • Hi Les!
    The glue is so sticky, even after it is dry….. you can still stick fabric to it! 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • Awesome idea, I had no idea that rubber cement could hold up fabric onto a wall! I rent, so I’m going to test a few walls in my apartment to see if rubber cement will peel off of it easily. Thanks for the tip!


  • I plan to buy some shelves this weekend, I will have to do this now!


  • That is so pretty! I love that it’s renter friendly. I have a corner that could use some sprucing up.

  • SO cute. I always see people painting the inside of the shelves, but never with fabric! Great idea.


  • Wowwww this is beautiful!!!! I adore that white color along with the bright patterns. Very pretty indeed.

  • I love this!! I’m at university and definitely looking at ‘renter friendly’ ways to personalise my little room, you’re creativity never ceases to amaze me x

  • SO cute! What a great little pop of color! Definitely a good way to revamp your shelves! 🙂

  • Fascinating. I would never think to use rubber cement. I wonder if it’ll stay up after a while, but I guess you could easily tack the edges down again. I really like your fabric choice.

  • Wow- that look so very pretty!!!
    We just moved and I am collecting ideas for what to do with my new room…

    Feeling very inspired* Thanks

    Have a winderful weekend:

    Greetinds from Germany,


  • So you actually let the rubber cement dry on the fabric and surface before you place it and smooth it out?

  • Absolutely gorgeous! I gotta remember this for later.

    Greetings, Elina

  • quick question!
    you said to coat the surface and the back of the fabric with cement glue and then let air dry.
    (this is where it gets dumb lol!) but, so after we cover them with cement glue with let them dry separately and then one the glue is dry THEN attach or cover both and attach?

    i know you explain it sooo simply but im like huh?

    sorry and thanks! (:

  • I adore this project, and you KNOW I love fabric shopping. I am about to move a bookshelf downstairs to our living room but it’s a tad shabby. This is going to be a perfect spruce! Thank you! The bookcase is Ikea, so you know that sucker was going to be tough to paint…thanks for the fabric inspiration!

  • I have a very similar hutch. I painted the inside of mine with chalkboard paint but I love the fabric idea too!

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