patchwork backed shelf tutorial

Sometimes a project takes me a long time from the initial idea to its completion. This is one of those projects. I first had the idea for a patchwork-lined cabinet years before I ever made the patchwork back for my desk. I had an open backed shelf I'd found on the curb back when we lived in an apartment

and although I'd been using it as-is since then, I thought it would be a perfect candidate for a makeover. It was fun and easy to do and I love how it turned out. I also love that I only used materials that I already had around the house.

First, cut a piece of cardboard to make the back. I used a flattened cardboard box and cut it to size with a razor blade.

As you can see, this piece of cardboard is not perfect. It has the folds of the box and there's a cut in one section. That's perfectly ok.

Next, cut pieces of decorative paper and wallpaper in a variety of sizes and lay them out on your work space with the other supplies you'll need: a sponge brush, Mod Podge and a container of water.

The yogurt container I used was perfect because when I was not using the brush I could set it in the small side compartment, but any container will work.

Dampen your brush in the water and then dip it into the Mod Podge. Brush the Mod Podge onto your paper piece and set the paper onto the cardboard. Continue this with the other pieces of paper, overlapping as you go.

I laid my pieces spontaneously, without a pre-planned design, but you could certainly do it differently. A couple other options: cut a single piece of paper for each section of the shelf or do mini-patchworks for each section. I used mostly cardstock-weight scrapbook paper and wallpaper samples. Any paper with a pretty pattern will work for this. Cover the entire piece of cardboard.

Because I wanted to lighten up the wooden shelf, I painted it, first with primer and then with a couple coats of color. I used the same bright green paint I was using for another furniture project. Whether or not you paint your shelf is up to you.

Now, attach the back. I used a variety of small nails and tacks because I wanted to use just what we already had on hand.

Spacing them somewhat evenly around, hammer the nails/tacks through the cardboard and into the wood of the shelf.

I ended up using 15 nails/tacks in all.

It's a little hard to see here, but near the top on either side I had to slice through the back to make holes for the hanging screws. The shelf already had holes and grooves for hanging. It's probably a good idea to plan for this before you create your collage, but it ended up working just fine with my last-minute figuring.

The shelf makes a happy addition to my studio wall.

Wishing you a Joy-filled, creative weekend!


  1. Wow, I love it! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Soooooo lovely! Light, airy and sweet.

  3. You have done such a great job Anne, and I love the colours of the paint and papers you have used. So very YOU!!! Thank you for walking us through the process.

  4. That's an awesome makeover! Squirreling that away for a rainy day :)


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