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Makeover Ugly Old Books for a Beautiful New Look!

Looking for an inexpensive way to update your shelves or bookcase? I’ve found an easy way to makeover your books for a beautiful new look!

Do your books look like this? Colorful and sticking out like a sore thumb in your bookcase? Mine have been like this for years. Finally, I decided to tackle a book makeover and create a more neutral look in my family room cabinet.

original colorful books before being wrapped in white paper

Clearly I’ve got an interesting set of books in my repertoire. I’ve had a long standing interest in marketing 😉 By using an “old school” and NO tape method my mom taught me, I’m going to show you how to inexpensively makeover books!

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How to wrap old books in white paper

Post contains hand selected products, with some affiliate marketing links {full disclosure here} 

How-To Makeover Hardcover Books with Paper 

First up is wrapping the hardcover books in white craft paper. Do schools still require this? In my school days, I remember my mom wrapping my school books to protect them in brown paper grocery store bags.  

She is the one who taught me the perfect method to wrapping books using NO tape. So the paper book wrappers are completely damage free, temporary, and removable!

  1. Mix of old hardcover books
  2. Scissors
  3. Frog Tape
  4. Roll white art or craft paper

I wrapped 10 books and had a TON of paper left over. It was only $8 for a roll! My plan is to use the leftover paper for wrapping paper and draw on it with crayons for fun 🙂

Step 1

Layout out paper under the book, with the book OPEN. Make sure to leave about 3 inches on either side, so they can be folded over the book cover and the book can be closed. 

Using the Frog Tape, fold paper over front cover and secure. This will help keep the paper straight, as you fold over the paper on the back cover. 

crease paper on all edges of book with fingers

Using your fingers, push down on ALL edges of the book. Top, bottom, and all sides. This will be your folding template later. 

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Step 3

Remove Frog Tape (gently to not tear the paper) and remove book from paper. Open up the paper and lay flat on the table. 

remove book and fold over top and bottom edges following the creases

To give you visual perspective, I’ve left the book open to show you how the paper will be folded. Using the previous CREASES fold over the top and bottom parts of the paper, which is equivalent to the top and bottom parts of the book cover. 

Step 4

Place book on top of paper as shown and gently slide the folded edges over the front of the book cover.  Keep sliding until you hit the crease you created earlier.

fold over top and bottom edges and insert front flap into folded area

Step 5

Repeat the same process for the back cover and slide the folds over the cover. Make sure you can still close the book. Make adjustments as needed by sliding the paper.

insert back cover into folded area and close book

Now the book is COVERED! Wow, wasn’t that easy to do and kind of fun 🙂 You can see that there is a bit of a stripe effect where the black book shows through the paper. It really doesn’t show much, when the books are placed.

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books wrapped in white craft paper with pink hydrangeas and white lamps

vertical books wrapped in white craft paper with pink hydrangeas and white lamps

Depending on the book in relationship to the width of the paper, the amount the book cover that will show through will vary. I liked the visual interest it created. 

How-to Makeover Paperback Books by Removing the Cover

This one almost seems TOO easy, but it creates a really cool look mixed in with the wrapped books!

If you have old books you know you won’t read, this is a good option. OR you can look for flea market finds in second hand stores for pennies on the dollar.

Removing the book cover literally takes 30 seconds! Just pull VERY gently.

remove cover from a regular paper back book

Don’t you love this look with the cover removed? For my bookcase, I removed the covers of 4 paperbacks and think they look SO COOL. Isn’t upcycling an old item the best feeling ever?

paperback book with binding removed in bookcase with blue walls

paper back books with binding removed in book case

Any color paper you can find in a roll or even brown craft paper would look nice and neutral to makeover books. It all depends on your home decor and I was going for gold, white, and pale blue look of course.

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how to makeover old books to a neutral look

blue-chair-facing-upcycled-cabinet-painted-white-blue freshly-painted-desk-annie-sloan-country-grey

Was this tutorial helpful? Find more helpful tips and DIY projects by clicking HERE.  To see the FULL makeover of this cabinet, click HERE.

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Until next time…

Porch Daydreamer



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  1. A different perspective…
    if I cover my books they would lose their identity, I would never be able to find them. That sounds snarky but I don’t mean it to. I read books and enjoy seeing the titles on the spines when I’m done, it jogs my pleasant recollections of each story. If I were in someone’s home who had all her books wrapped to be nameless shelf props, I would think it was presumptuous and a little ignorant. I would rather use all white or neutral objects on a shelf instead. I really like your idea of tearing the covers off thick paperback books, though! It gives them a shabby-chic look.

    Again, please don’t take offense by my feedback here. Just another perspective weighing in. Your photos are beautiful.

    1. To each their own! These are business books that have become dated and will never be read again, so I am perfectly fine to cover them because they own’t be missed. I will add a picture of the cabinet they ended up in, to show everyone how it looks. I didn’t use them in a library or on a bookshelf, but in a display cabinet so the neutral books add linear elements and interest.

  2. Wow! I had forgotten that I used to have to wrap my books in paper bags for school so long ago. My house is very Shabby Chic so I was thinking that if I could find a rose floral wrapping paper it would give me the look I’m after. Also after removing the covers of the other books I will probably add some lace to the spines and then stack 3 together and tie with jute. Thanks for reminding and inspiring me!

    1. Liz, what WONDERFUL ideas! In previous homes, I had a more shabby chic style and can total see what you are planning. Sounds absolutely beautiful. Glad I was able to inspire a new creative project – I couldn’t sleep last night stewing over how all my creative projects will get accomplished 🙂

  3. Tracey I have been thinking of covering up my books. Thank you for this book cover tip! In grade school I remember we had to cover up our books, which the school provided brown paper, so long ago. 🙂

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