Add Graphic Pop to a Bookcase With Wallpaper

Learn how to give a builder-grade bookcase a high-end look with trendy wallpaper, then get tips for styling the shelves with chic accessories, clutter-concealing baskets, framed photos and books.

Before: Bland and Uninspired

This painted bookcase was nondescript and lacked the oomph it needed to serve as the living room's true focal point.

After: Bold and Graphic

Thanks to an Americana-inspired palette and wallpaper with a bold, oversized pattern, what once was a lackluster bookcase is now an eye-catching focal point filled with a family's favorite objects.

Step 1: Prep Surface

Before adding wallpaper, first remove the shelves then patch any holes with wood filler. Once filler has dried, sand the entire back panel to create a smooth, bump-free surface.

Step 2: Apply Wallpaper Paste

There are two main applications for installing wallpaper: pre-pasted or paste-the-wall. Pre-pasted requires adding water to the back of the wallpaper to activate the adhesive. Paste-the-wall requires wallpaper paste to be applied directly to a surface before the wallpaper is placed on top. Depending on what style wallpaper you've selected, either wet the back of the paper or apply paste directly to the back panel of the bookcase.

Step 3: Center Repeat, Cut Wallpaper and Position

Position wallpaper with full pattern repeat in the center of the bookshelf. Cut to size with scissors or a utility knife, then apply wallpaper directly to bookshelf's back panel, trimming off any excess.

Corral Clutter With Baskets

Fill baskets with magazines, catalogs and kids' or pets' toys so they're accessible without looking like clutter. Tip: When using a wallpaper with a bold, graphic pattern, it's best to stick with textural woven baskets in solid colors.

Add Organic Elements

One trick designers employ when styling a space is to add a few natural touches to make a room feel more alive. While plants or cut flowers require upkeep, sea life — such as starfish, coral or shells — is a great choice for a natural nod without any necessary care.

Add Color With Book Spines

The key to arranging books successfully is to randomize the spines' color, width and height. Arrange books with the majority of spines showing, but also turn a few around so the paper side is exposed. This will break up the monotony of the spines and lend a casual look.

Group Photos Together

It's important to be selective when placing framed photos in front of a wallpapered back panel. Images that are busy will end up looking like visual clutter. To avoid this, stick with larger photos, graphic in nature but which also feature easily identifiable subjects. To ensure a nice mix, choose frames that range in size and shape as well as a variety of colors and finishes.

Alternate Stacks

Keep books upright on some shelves, stacked on others. For the best effect, alternate the height and orientation of each stack, so some are vertical and some horizontal. Intersperse random objects with interesting shapes and different finishes to give the bookcase a collected-over-time look.

Opt for Sculptural Objects

The star of a wallpapered bookcase should be the wallpaper itself. To prevent objects from stealing the show, stick with sculptural pieces that have strong, contrasting shapes.