Recycling Old Books Into Custom Decor

5 Materials
4 Hours

I'm on a roll with creating these pretty book sets from old discarded books. Its a great project for our current situation because we all have old books I'm sure and with a little paint, wrapping or scrapping paper and white school glue you can create these!!! Lets get started shall we?

Get a Stash of Old Hardcovers

Don't worry about them matching but try to keep them in the same relative size not the number of pages but the cover size. I think they look nicer when stacked if they all are able to stack neatly atop one another.

Book Option 1

This one I chose to do half and half by that I mean it's half painted and half covered with scrapbooking paper. You can certainly use wrapping paper as well for this technique. I will be using chalk paints but household or craft paints should be fine too because I seal everything afterwards with Mod Podge. ***NOTE : If you don't have Mod Podge you can substitute with two parts white school glue mixed to one part water. Mix a batch and store in a sealed jar, a little goes a long way.

Inside Cover

A tip I have to share is to make sure you open your book and paint that little edge you see here because when the book is closed you will be able to see this edge.

Applying the Paper

My paint was all dry I had my paper measured and cut to fit just around the spine of the book. Next I applied mod podge using a sponge or bristle brush onto the area I was about to place the paper. I laid my paper in place adhering it from front to back and when I had it all smoothed out I scored the seam with my scissor handles. There's always an indent there and this ensures your paper is glued right into that seam as well.

Seal Everything

Next I sealed everything with another layer of mod podge or you can use the white glue mixture.

Only Happy Accidents...

The famous Bob Ross quote applies here as well, you see I mistakenly painted my covers with two different shades of green!! No big deal...hey it's reversible now and I can chose whatever shade I like best!! 😄So on that note I think that can be a future tip for me...make the books half and half like this "reversible " genius accident!

Book Option 2

I've decoupaged with magazine pages, calender pictures, newsprint and so on so use whatever you may have access to and you'll be fine with this method. With paper napkins I first separated the 3 layers of tissue paper since I'll only be using the top, patterned piece.

Base Paint Cover First

I'm using a paper napkin but if you have tissue paper for gifts that should be fine too just note the color of your book cover will show through so you might want to paint it first in a matching shade. I'm using a black napkin therefore I painted the book with black first to conceal gold lettering.

Application Tips

You can use your hairdryer to speed up the drying time with the painting and glueing steps. So as in my previous post which covers this in a little more detail....I applied mod podge and worked from the front cover to the spine and lastly the back cover. I found that worked best to help me carefully lay on and position the tissue paper. Don't get frazzled with it and don't worry about getting all of the wrinkles out, I think they give the books character.

Final Step- Seal

As with the previous book the last step is to protect my work with another layer of mod podge and book number two is done!

Book Option 3

This one could have been a super fast one but I went the harder route but if you'd like to go the easy way you can. This book had a vinyl cover so when I removed it I had a nice white finish with a purple band so really all I needed to do here to make it match my set was to add the coordinating edge as seen above.

Title Added

I glued and sealed the spine edge piece then I got fancy and found a piece of matching scrapbook paper in my stash that had a suggested book title so I cut it out and glued that on. One thing led to another and then this happened...see video!

Maxed It Out

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I got really giddy, happy with all of the pretty papers let's just say and ahem ....we'll keep this to ourselves that I cant stop myself when it comes to glue! 😄😄😄

Finished Look

I cut out two hearts and glued on the spine to tie it all together, welllll actually it was another one of those happy painted fingers touched the edge and made a boo-boo on the paper! The hearts covered it up so there now you know there are lots of happy accidents...most of us are living proof! 👨‍👩‍👧😄

Full Set

So I have greens, metallics along with black and white in botanical and heart patterns, why? Because I made this set for my neice who is moving into her first new home and she's obsessed with houseplants, loves green and I love her! I'm so very proud of her so I'm making some personalized items as part of a housewarming gift.

Suggested Display

So these book stacks can add height to other objects such as small houseplants, an ornament or a paper weight. They can be placed on a side table, within a bookcase or on your coffee table for a decor accent.

Final Note

I hope you at least try one set for yourself, I on the other end now have three customized sets for different rooms within my home. If you'd like to see the other sets for further inspiration check out these links.</p><p>This" title="</p><p></p><p>This" target="_blank"> is a great, easy craft to try while self -isolating to challenge your creativity and brighten up a space in your home with a new piece of decor! Thanks for viewing and please stay safe!

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Have a question about this project?

3 questions
  • Crystal Cochrane
    on May 9, 2020

    Have you tried these methods on paperback books? I'm guessing it's possible?

    • Skilled Thrifty Creatives
      on May 10, 2020

      It will be in my newest post coming within the next day or so, I'm ecstatic with'll need a large piece of thick cardboard or wood panelling.

  • Beth
    on May 9, 2020

    These are pretty, but what happened to having books in your home because you are a reader, and they express something about your interests, your intellect, and provide conversations starters for your guests? I want my home to say more than "I have pretty things."

    • Pamela
      8 days ago

      Its optional,Beth!Im sure the person who posted this diy project,didnt pull books from her library to try this out on.But,if she did,it still wouldnt afford anyone the right to call her out on her intellect.Great idea by the way.

  • Mary Ann Stauffacher
    on May 18, 2020

    Could you also use fabric? I have a notebook (cover is ugly) that I use to showcase all of the quilting projects large and small and want to "pretty up" the cover using fabric of course.

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