I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems this has been a record-breaking year for good design books. From The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well by Deborah Needleman (my newest arrival) to Design*Sponge at Home, my bedside table has become a literary Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s so hard to find bookshelves that hold their own in a well-designed room, so I decided to create my own with this bargain find ($15), one leather hide and a box of brass tacks. — Amanda
Read the full how-to after the jump!
- staple remover
- air compressor
- 1/2” long staples
- measuring tape
- yard stick
- 1–2 leather hides (55–110 square feet)
- sewing machine
- cardboard tack strip
- curve ease
- small piece of cardboard
- plastic nail glides
- tack hammer with wax tip
- brass tacks
Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.
1. When choosing a shelf, the simpler, the better, and make sure it’s made out of wood so you can staple into it. It also needs to be pretty sturdy, since we’ll be moving it around a lot, stapling into it and hammering on it. Before we start, we’ll sand all the edges to get them smooth and splinter-free.
2. We’ll cover the top and side boards with leather, so measure the distance around the sides and top and measure the depth of the shelf to determine how big our leather piece(s) need to be. We should have enough to wrap around the boards and staple to the inside of the shelf, so add a few extra inches to the measurements for pulling and stapling.
3. If you have an extra large hide (55+ square feet), you may be able cover the outside of the shelf with one continuous piece of leather. If not, you can sew the sides to the top* like I did. Using chalk, draw out your pieces on the back side of the leather and cut them out. Avoid any holes, scars or imperfections you don’t want to show.
*Measure the length of the top and add 1″ for seam allowance. The side pieces need to be a few inches longer for pulling and stapling to the bottom of the shelf. Attach one side to each end with the sewing machine.
11. Next, we’ll cover the underside of the top shelf. Let’s lay the shelf on its side, so it’s easier to work on. Cut out a piece of leather that is large enough to cover the underside of the shelf with a few extra inches for pulling and stapling. Staple about 1″ of leather along the length of the shelf. Be sure to staple on the back side of the leather.
13. Attach the cardboard tack strip on top of the leather we just stapled to reinforce the connection. Because we stapled on the back side of the leather, these staples will be hidden when we pull the leather to the other side. This is called a blind tack.
18. Using the flat side of the regulator, pull the leather tightly and tuck the excess into the teeth of the curve ease. To tuck in little bits that won’t go in all the way, run the pointy side of the regulator inside the teeth from one end to the other until all of the excess is hidden.
22. On the sides, attach a strip of curve ease. The curve ease should start right after the cardboard tack strip.
23. Once we’ve blind tacked the top and attached the curve ease to the right and left sides, pull the leather down and staple to the bottom of the shelf. Then tuck the right and left sides into the curve ease and hammer. Use a piece of cardboard tack strip to reinforce the staples on the bottom. Repeat Steps 21–23 for the other side.
24. Now that we’ve upholstered the sides and the top of this shelf, we’ll move on to the bottom. Cut a piece of leather long enough to cover the bottom shelf with a few extra inches for pulling and stapling. This piece also needs to be wide enough to go around the sides and staple to the underside. Blind tack one of the short sides on top of the piece we just stapled in Step 23.
25. Pull the leather tightly to the opposite side, fold under the excess and staple the leather to the underside of the shelf. Attach again on the opposite side to hold this end tightly in place. Since we’re only attaching the leather underneath, it’s really important that it’s pulled very tightly across this end so it doesn’t flap open.
28. Follow Steps 13–15 from Dining Chair Do-Over to attach dustcover to the bottom of the shelf. I’ve also added some plastic nail glides to keep the bottom from getting scuffed when I move it around. If you’re happy with your shelf as-is, you are now finished! If you want to add a little pizazz to your project, move on to Step 29 for nail-head trim.
29. This is the fun part! Draw out any design your heart desires in chalk on your bookshelf and attach your nail head with a wax-tip tack hammer. I chose a 5/8″ diameter French Natural nail to complete my shelf. Click HERE for a vast selection of tacks in every shape, size and color.
To keep your shelf looking clean, polished and scratch-free, I recommend a regular dose of leather conditioner. My favorite is Howard’s!
Meet me back here next month for Upholstery Basics as we tackle a brand new project!
Thanks, fellow Sprucettes, for all your help with this project: Meredith (tacking design); Frank (construction brainstorming); Katherine (photos & tack selection); and Clar (comic relief!)