before and afterDIYdiy projects

diy wednesdays: shelf makeover

by Grace Bonney

our intrepid craft editors derek and lauren from the curiosity shoppe are reporting from sunny hawaii today! their simple but stunning shelf makeover will be the first diy project of the day, followed by our four diy contest winners! i will post 4 winners, one an hour, starting at 10 am this morning. each project will be listed with full instructions so stay tuned! read one for derek and lauren’s aloha diy post…

greetings from hawaii! we’re taking a little vacation this week, visiting our dear friends conn and john, two talented designers who also happen to be some of the craftiest people we know. they were kind enough to share one of the amazing projects from their recent kitchen redo with us. it’s a great way to spruce up your standard ikea lack shelving (and you know we love an ikea makeover!) simply by covering them with woven grass cloth and applying a coat of stain.

derek & lauren

Shelf Makeover

here’s what you’ll need:
-ikea lack shelves
woven grass cloth (you can also use paper, fabric, vinyl, etc.)
-tape measure
-staple gun
polycrylic clear sealant
-wood stain in color of your choosing
-paint brush
-rubber gloves
-spray paint/primer

1. prime or spray paint shelves
2. lay shelf on top of a piece of grass cloth. wrap cloth around shelf until it overlaps 1/2″ and trim to size. staple cloth to back edge of shelf.
3. wrap short ends like a present and staple, tucking in all raw edges.
4. mix 3 parts polycrylic to 1 part stain and brush over cloth covered shelf. wearing your gloves, rub stain into cloth fibers with your hands.
5. let dry and finish with a coat of clear polycrylic.
6. hang shelves (tip: you can camouflage the hanging hardware and screws with acrylic paint.)

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  • Wow! This is such a great idea. I love the texture the grasscloth adds. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • You didn’t think we were here just for pleasure, did you? For those of you who are interested in seeing the rest of Conn and John’s little paradise, keep your eye out for the upcoming June/July issue of ReadyMade. In the meantime, you can visit their wonderful blog: cuckooforcoconuts.blogspot.com

  • Are there any parts of the shelf uncovered by cloth ? if i wrap around the shelf, the back edge will get stapled, but what about the two “short/deep” sides of the shelpf, which presumably are the sides that get wrapped like a present, they get stapled right ?

    Love the idea, but want to cover all bases before i give it a shot.

  • Aloha Harry,
    Yes, you are correct. the “short/deep” sides are the ends that are wrapped like a present. Make sure the tail of the wrap is towards the back of the shelf and tucked under and squared off. There are no parts of the shelf that are uncovered. The “short/deep” sides on my shelves are not seen as one side is against the wall and the other against the refrigerator. You could practice the folding with a pice of paper on one end to determine the best fold for your placement. Do what works for you… there is no wrong way to do it. To help disguise the staples if your ends will be seen, you can paint over them with some acrylic paint of a matching color. I hope this helps answer your question.

  • Does anyone have a good source for the cloth?

    I’m in the midst of repainting an old dresser that had been stained with a “concoction” dreamt up by my brother-in-law. Despite all attempts to prep the surface, it’s looking like no paint is going to stick.

    I suspect I could cover the surfaces with this cloth (a la Conn and John) and then paint the cloth.

    Who knows? Maybe it will look even better done up that way!

  • ooh, i *love* this idea! what a lovely way to add a dash of island style to plain ol’ bookshelves.

    mahalo conn & john for sharing!

    p.s. derek & lauren – have fun during your holiday in the islands.

  • LOVE THIS PROJECT. looks great. I plan to do this for some shelves in my nursery. Just curious – is priming the shelves even necessary???


  • I second stell’s question! Also wonder if another material besides grasscloth might work, like burlap? Hate to buy a double roll of wallpaper just for a shelf.

  • anu – thats actually EXACTLY what I am using (burlap). as you might expect – because its bulkier – it is sucking the poly dry. so you’ll need several coats of it. good luck! also, figured that the priming (which i wound up doing) would help with adhesion. i actually sanded a bit before priming too. and instead of stapling, we glued the burlap down with some spray adhesive. worked like a charm!

  • Stell, Anu + Stella,
    I just stumbled across your questions.
    The reason I primed the black shelves white is so that i could get the stain to show up. It also made the grass cloth look dirty without it. Of course you do not have to prime the shelves. It’s all in how you would like the finished project to look. If you were to use something that was not as transparent or had a tighter weave, you would not have too. Or just buy the color shelf you prefer. I just had these black shelves sitting in the garage and decided to spruce them up.

    Stella, sounds like what you did worked great. I’d love to see how it turned out.

  • Hi,

    I have these black IKEA shelves and would like them white. Can I simply prime and paint them rather than use the grass cloth?


  • Aloha Kimberly,
    I just happened to see this note.
    Of course you could. Keep in mind that sometimes things that get painted have a tendency to scratch. Also if you live somewhere humid, object might stick to the surface. We just painted 3 small versions of these shelves and have yet to have a problem. Another idea is to put a clear coat of polycrylic over the paint. We have done this with a few piece we built and painted and it has worked well. good luck with your shelves.

  • FANTASTIC idea!! I have 2 pink shelves and one black…was trying to figure out how to paint/stain them to match. I’m doing the burlap, so I’m glad some of the other commenters tried that (AND I was thinking about the spray adhesive) Yay for like minds!!