Splashy Fabric-Backed Shelves

coral fabric shelves as initially black only

coral-fabric shelves

These laminate side shelves were in pretty good shape but certainly in need of a splash of colour! Besides being basic black and therefore not destined for my finished inventory(!), they were identical – that is, the doors opened in the same direction, which had to be a pain for whoever was on the side with the “away” handle!  I could not reverse the door without creating more damage than seemed necessary, so they sat in my workshop for several weeks while I contemplated them.  Then one day I opted for something a bit radical!

 original shelves with door removed  original shelves with back removed

The doors came off first, then the backs, which had only covered the bottom part anyway.

Then the holes got filled.

original door hinge holes filled

Next came sanding…

original laminate finish sanded

I have previously discovered that laminate actually takes primer and paint very well as long as it’s first coarsely sanded. The edges need sanding too, with a little extra care so as not to peel off the edging strips.  These strips are fine if they were well adhered in the first place. After a good wipe with a damp cloth, plus final inspection of filled areas, the primer went on. One coat was enough since there were no marks to speak of and of course no knots or stains.

white primer coat over original shelves

It was time for the splashy backs and a new skill for me!

measuring and cutting the backboard

I was pretty sure that furniture backboard was available for purchase, and sure enough, there it was at good old Home Depot.  It comes in 2×4 foot sheets, more than enough for the projects I do. It’s thin (1/8 inch/3 mm) and easy to cut with a utility knife.

I tried scoring only, then snapping it apart… but that definitely did not work.  It ended up like this.  The scored edge snapped away but the remaining edge tore.backboard rough edge when scored only before snapping apart

So I scored both sides of the board a couple of times, then put a little more weight behind a cut all the way through,and  ended up with a nice smooth edge.  Light sanding got rid of any errant flecks.

backboard clean cut when scored both sides

Next up, another new technique! I had noticed a number of photos of shelving units that had been spruced up with colourful fabric or paper applied to the back face, so I decided it was time to give it a whirl.  I found some bright cotton fabric (not that cotton would be particularly crucial, but I know how it behaves), washed it to avoid shrinking surprises, then cut out a piece a bit larger than the backboard itself.

applying varathane to the cloth backing

Instead of glue, I used Varathane to adhere it. Even before it dried, I slopped (nicely, with a brush!) a heavy coat of Varathane on the top side as well, smoothing out bubbles as it dried.  It worked like a charm. Before I tried this though, I had done some research on the subject, and came upon this delightful web site where Varathane’s virtues are well defined! Sarajane’s Polyclay Gallery. Take a moment to look.

I gave the cloth two more coats then let it sit for a day or two.  The result was excellent.  Strong colours and a tough finish.

dry varathane on cloth backing

 The rest was simple.  Cut the fabric to the edges, attach the backboard to the shelving units, and fill the small nail holes. Paint the outside back to match.


                                      coral-fabric shelves   coral-fabric shelves back


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