Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Behind Your Books Looks

I'm currently working with a client whose built-in, family room bookcases need a makeover. Her exisiting situation is something like the pic you see above. Warm golden wood, closed cabinets on the bottom, open shelves up top. She wishes to play down the large expanse of wood—the floor-to-ceiling bookcases fill more than 20 linear feet of wall space, wrapping from one wall around the corner and onto another. One of the options I suggested is to add color or pattern in the form of paint, fabric or paper to the backs of the cases.

As I began collecting images, I found most examples of this treatment used on white or painted cabinets, far fewer on stained wood cases. Still, there seems to be an endless array of choices, for both contemporary and traditional spaces. From every color of the rainbow in paint...


...including chalkboard paint behind shelves in a kitchen...


...to fabrics and papers ranging from subtle and softspoken...

...to bold and bright.



Some were clad in multiple fabric and paper patterns...


...while others used textural materials like beadboard...


...and brick. I can't say for sure, but what we see here could be that brick-patterned wall paneling that was so popular (but not so attractive) in the 60's and 70's. I think this application is very good-looking, however the designer pulled it off.


Not one of these looks exactly fits the needs of my client, but, as it turns out, we've shifted our thoughts anyway—from simply adding a decorative backing to completely painting the bookcases a color that coordinates with the room's new wall color. A "camouflage" effect if you will.

Have you tried—or would you try—a behind-the-books treatment like this?

Which of these looks is your favorite?

• • •

For a super-sensible tutorial on adding painted panels to the backs of your boodcases, click here. The same technique easily translates to fabric- or paper-wrapped panels too.

9 comments:

Kathysue said...

I have had several clients paint the back wall a color or the same color as the walls to give more of a see through affect. It works quite well for smaller rooms, instead of the eye stopping at the books it goes through to the color on the wall. Good luck with your project. Kathysue

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Wonderful ideas here. I like the room with the pink sofas best. Everything seems to gel best in that one.

Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design said...

I too have been noticing and admiring colour at the back of the bookcases. I have already marked and existing cabinet in our home to be wallpapered on the inside. A great way to add some colour without going overboard.

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

I just drafted a post over the weekend about this and what I did to the back of my bookcase, Tracy! How funny we are on the same page! My bookcase is also not painted, but an oak stain. My hubby made me a pair of these and put so much labor into it plus the coats of poly that I just can't paint over them {yet}. So I tried to just dress up the inside backs.

Sally@DivineDistractions said...

I love the idea of painting the backs. I have a similar situation in my own home, and I'd do that in a heartbeat if I didn't have to clean off all the shelves first !

Tracy F. said...

Love this post! I've always been fascinated with what people put in their bookcase! I have some white bookcases with a red wall behind them and white bookcases with a yellow wall behind them. Obviously, I love that look!

kay ellen said...

Love all the bookcases!!

Happy Thursday:)

Smiles,
Kay Ellen

SuSu said...

I have painted the back of my bookcases and love it! I did it in my kitchen but not in the library - it semed a bit much in that room. I collect (a lot of things!) English Blue Willow so I painted the kichen a Ralph Lauren color which I think is called Popcorn and the bookcase backs Rose Wine from ?????. Anyway, the cases are filled with my cookbooks and my very best Blue Willow tureens as well as a few pieces of yelloware and old glass. I also have an Oriental rug with terra-cotta and blue as the primary colors as well as a couple of blue rag rugs in the room. Somehow, it all comes together! Try it - you'll love it!

Struggler said...

Sorry to be so incredibly far behind the times.
I love this look and would totally try it. I do think it looks best on a fairly big bookcase, or better still, a whole wall. But I love the subtle punch it brings to a room, and how easy it is to change.