Sunday, May 30, 2010

Of Covers and Craft Projects: A New Life for Old Books

I can't claim credit for the idea because I first saw it on etsy a few days ago. The seller, thelorestore, describes this item as a romance novel end table. What's in a name? The complete description of the item, in this instance. The top of this end table has been covered in old romance novel covers.

Photo credit to thelorestore

My first thought, what a cute idea!, was quickly followed by a second, I can totally do that.

Naturally, there was an issue. My biggest problem with recreating this cute table was the materials. I have a plain end table of the exact measurements, all purpose scissors that can cut through anything and a big jar of modge podge that hasn't been opened since 2005. What I didn't have were books.

Do I own old romance books? Of course. Do I own old romance books I'm willing to destroy? Erm, that's a no.

I have ideological issues with destroying books. Big, blatant, in-your-face ideological issues that apply to all books. Even books I hate, even books by people I don't admire, even books espousing ideas I'm fully against. It's the latent freedom fighter in me; books represent ideas and ideas are meant to be explored, not destroyed. So what to do?

I went to the Goodwill. The Goodwill is a waiting room for books ready to take that final push cart ride to the big library in the sky. In short, most of the books in the store are falling apart. Check it out for yourself sometime; the bindings are broken, the covers are creased, the pages are yellowed and loose. We're talking books that have been used, abused and all but recycled.  More to the point, exactly the type of book I needed for my project. I can't, in good conscious, destroy a book. But, if the book is already one accidental drop away from the trash receptacle, I can rescue it from certain doom and use it in another creative way.

And so, one Goodwill trip later, I had 6 beautiful, battered, barely-recognizable-as-books books for my decoupaging pleasure. I did take a different approach than thelorestore in creating my table. Instead of using only book covers, I used the actual pages to cover the table surface before using only a few covers to add a splash of color. Once I had everything as I wanted it and glued down, I spread two coats of mod podge over the surface to seal it, letting it dry and set for 20 minutes between each coat. I'm quite happy with the end results:
I also covered the entire top section of the table, instead of just the surface area.
Please ignore the cat toy, my animals dominate my life.

Here's another view of the end result.
Let's pretend the dachshund is pictured purposely for scale.

I tried to choose books that still had mostly intact covers.

I had a lot of fun with this project. It was quick, easy and I'm happy with the results. I'm also happy I was able to preserve what looked to be some interesting books in some small way.

*A few books were harmed in the making of this table. Rest in peace my friends, your cover lives on.


  1. How cute! I want one. :) But I'm glad it was fast because you're supposed to be writing. :)

  2. Thanks Trish! Shopping time not lincluded, it only took about an hour and a half. I was off doing other things inbetween coats of modge podge :)

  3. I saw this over at SBTB and I WANT one! What a great idea!!! But then it would be depressing because I couldn't read the novels all those hilarious retro covers represent! LOL

  4. Oh, I know. That's why I had to get books that were basically destroyed already. I knew I couldn't pull them apart myself!

    It's a really easy project if you ever find a fallen apart book and want to try it. I'm happy to provide the steps :)

  5. Coooooooooooooool. I can't have something like that in my house at this juncture because it would give my children evil ideas but maybe one day I'll trade you an end table for a full set of crocheted BDBs or something :)

  6. Hahaha, you've got a deal! Seriously, it was so super easy I'd be happy to make one for you when you're able to have it. And I saved the remaining pages for future projects (yes, even with already destroyed books, I couldn't just toss the pages).

  7. I decopaged (sp) old paperdolls with costumes on my sewing machine table. It turned out really cute too.

  8. Wow! You are so crafty. It would have taken me a week to do that. Very cute.

  9. Kelly - that's such a cute idea!

    Rae Ann - Thanks! I got my craftiness from my grandma. I had insomnia pretty bad when I was a kid, so she'd stay up all night with me and each night we had a different craft to work on. I don't know where she came up with all of them, but looking back I don't think there's anything we didn't try. I was probably the only 8 year old in the county with a professional wood burning kit :)

  10. So very, very cute...but I still lay some blame here for you showing up hours late to write! :) Hope you got home and there was no animal glued to the top!

  11. Psh, that only added to the extreme lateness that would have happened anyway :) And thankfully, Simon has not touched the table, which is now completely dry.

  12. What a terrific idea, Gretchen. I love modge podge and have done a lot of projects with it, but would never have thought of this. Echoing, Mary--thanks for sharing.

  13. Mary and Annie - I'm glad you like the idea. Thanks for stopping by :)

  14. I absolutely positively LOVE it! It's a great idea. :) Thanks for sharing!