Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Burlap “Wallpaper” How To

Yesterday I shared with you that I “wallpapered” burlap to the back of my office shelves.


I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do to the back of the shelves.  Paint was an obvious answer but that seemed like a lot of work. And very committal. I hate commitment.  My husband is a lucky man.  I know you can repaint but I chickened out.  I also couldn’t decide on a color.  I know some people mentioned yesterday that they would have chosen a bright color.  That’s just not us.  We’re very neutral people.  I probably would have chosen brown.  Boring.  Whatever.  We’re a pharmacist and an accountant.  Crazy party people live here.

I then saw a post on How About Orange about using fabric as wallpaper.  It seemed easy enough.  The other positive was that if I didn’t like it I could just take the fabric down and wipe up the paste.  I was digging it.

I told Nate about my plan.  He gave me that “Are you out of your mind crazy woman beast?” look that I’ve been getting a lot lately.  (I think he is going to put a Pinterest block on my computer.  Seriously.)  I put up a good front and acted like I totally knew what I was doing and this project would be a piece of cake.

And surprisingly, it was.

Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Fabric cut to your appropriate dimensions.
    • This was probably the hardest step of the whole process.
    • I’d check out Chelsea’s tutorial for cutting burlap here.  She pays better attention at Joann’s than I do.  Or maybe her local Joann’s employees are a little friendlier than mine.  Just saying.
  • Cornstarch
  • Water
  • A brush  (I used a foam brush but any brush would do.)

Bring ~4 cups of water to a boil.  While you are waiting, mix ~1/2 cup of cornstarch with a small amount of water.  Just enough to dissolve the corn starch and make this milk looking sludge.


Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling water slowly while whisking.  I love whisking.  Seriously.  Favorite kitchen utensil.


Boil until thickened (~5 minutes).  Let cool.

I cooled my paste just so that I could handle it without scalding myself.  (I’m super patient.  I think my impatience was okay in this case though because this paste turns to sludge fairly quickly.)


I removed the shelves and then brushed the entire surface with a thin layer of the paste.  I found that I didn’t need a lot. A small amount would hold the burlap.  I did find that I needed press a small section for a few seconds to get the burlap to stick.  Burlap was a decent material to chose.  I am horrible at cutting and burlap is hard to cut.  It is, however, very stretchy and forgiving.  If my cut was a little off I could just tug and make it work.

Once the area was completely “wallpapered” I put the shelves back in, styled them pretty, and waited for Nate to get home to show him that I this was not the giant DIY disaster that we both expected.


I’ll keep you posted on how this holds up.  How long will it stick?  Can I really remove it easily when I change my mind about in this room in 6 months?  Someone has to be the guinea pig, right?

Who’s going to slap some fabric on their walls now?  Do it!  Anyone else going to soon be banned from Pinterest?  What’s the craziest pin you have attempted?


  1. If I ever decide to secure fabric to my walls I'll definitely come back to this tutorial. Thanks for linking to me, pal. I guess it pays to stare at the JoAnn lady while she does her thang.

  2. EASY! I wonder how long it will stick too. My husband also wants to ban me from pinterest. I think the only savior is the yummy crockpot recipes I've been finding!

  3. This looks wonderful! I can't wait to hear how it holds up. It could be a really nice touch for an apartment when you can't really do anything.

    I'm hesitant about commitment, too, which is why I still haven't gotten bangs yet (I've been talking about it for at least 8 months now).

  4. I can't believe how professional and amazing it looks! From someone who's in the middle of painting the back of a giant bookshelf, I can easily say that you made the right choice. That is a terrible, impossible job.

    1. I totally thought of you while reading this post!!!!

    2. That has to be the worst; all that taping and cutting in...

      The burlap adds nice texture without stealing the show--I like it!

      -Fellow neutral lover. :)

  5. WOW. Easy, cute, and you can change your mind later?! SIGN ME UP!

  6. I love the burlap. I think my husband is planning to ban me from Pinterest as well. I've been pinning like a fool and spending hours on there. He shouldn't be too upset though since I made a recipe I found on there for Super Bowl and he loved it.

  7. this is great!! it sounds easy...*knocking on wood as I say this* and I am definitely going to try this for the built-ins in our new guest room! the edges look so nice and neat. Very impressive :). I assume it would be a lot harder if the shelves were not removeable and you had to cut each piece.

  8. Thanks for the tutorial! So relieved to see it looks great and is easy to do.

    FYI, my Joann's people aren't super personable. But I think I hold people to high standards. I have 2 people at Lowes that I could call friends I am there so much, and they are SUPER helpful.


  9. Such a crafty lady, aren't you? voted for both of you...good luck!!!

  10. Looks good Michelle!! Burlap on brown is looking pretty fresh if you ask me.

  11. It looks so good. I never thought of trying this, but it looks great.

  12. Love this tutorial! Cornstarch, who knew. If I had a nice bookcase, I would definitely try this, I think it is a big impact. BTW, I also married an accountant, it keeps me from doing math ;)

  13. Oooh. I'm going to "Star" your post in Google Reader. I've been wanting to put either fabric or wallpaper on my son's closet doors, but don't want it to be permanant. My husband knows nothing about Pinterest and I'm going to keep it that way.

  14. That is totally brilliant...and I just am gaga over the burlap look (c: I'm making googly eyes at your pics as we speak, hehehe! Love it! And that would make my day too if Carrie got some more votes! Headed over!!!

  15. It looks great. It doesn't look crafty or half done. Very sleek.

  16. So the whole time I'm reading this, I'm thinking to myself: "DANG! I bet I could do that on the walls of [my daughter's] powder room." She has yellow tone-on-tone striped wallpaper that was put up by the builder in 1995. The walls were never primed before the paper went on and I am certain that the builder used Super Glue to boot. If we did manage to get all of the paper off the walls, we'd most certainly have to reskim the walls before we could paint. I have put this project off for the six years that we have owned the home because, well, I dread all of the tedious work it will require. I have contemplated sanding the seams and painting over the paper, but my father (who is a retired architectural coatings specialist) would likely choke me if I did. I have also considered wallpapering over the existing paper, but am just not a fan of wallpaper. I have, however, always LOVED grasscloth and other natural fibers like your burlap. Thanks so much for the inspiration!!!!!!

  17. I love this a lot! Like, A LOT, a lot. Love. A lot. And I totally just pinned it. :)

  18. Thanks for the shout out Michelle! And I voted for you too :)
    Btw, I've always wanted to try using fabric as wallpaper, but using burlap is genius. It looks just like grasscloth!

  19. This looks awesome! I love the A and Z bookends on there too :)

  20. Amazing!!! This looks awesome. What a cool idea. It adds so much texture and interest to your shelves. I love it.

  21. Whoah! I'm in LOVE. I'd love you to share this with my readers at my first link party!
    Following and Pinning now.

  22. Thank you for being the guinea pig! Love this! I also have a wire basket almost exactly like yours--you've really inspired me!!


  23. LOVE this! I am sooo going to do this in an alcove ! Love the texture and depth it adds! would love for you to link up to our Uncommonly Yours link party! Bonnie ;)


  24. This is such a fantastic idea. Bookmarking it for future reference!

  25. Very interesting idea! Love the burlap - the cornstarch paste, hmm. Adventurous!

  26. Some questions - now that about 5 months have passed, how is the burlap doing? Is it still sticking well? Did you wet the burlap before applying it to the pasted wall or was it dry? Did you apply any paste to the burlap?

    I love your idea!

  27. I love this idea. Love the burlap. I'm going to try it next summer when we move to a new home.

  28. thanks for the details about the wallpaper. Really very helpful

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