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DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

Ever have one of those moments when you think, “My mom would totally laugh at me for this”? Yesterday, I had one of those.

When I was little I would sketch my first day of school outfits, redecorate my room on a random Saturday, eat the food around my plate one thing at a time and NONE of it could touch because…ew. (I’m confessing way too much here.)

Ya know…the quirks. The ones that your mom would just shake her head at and chuckle.

Welcome to my world of quirks a.k.a. borderline OCD. And this is exhibit A:

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

We’ve officially broken ground on our office makeover and one of the things that drove me batty about the home office was our bookcases always looked cluttered.

We had books from thrift stores, yard sales, my teaching days, Robert’s college days, our hundreds of browsing trips through Books-a-Million. And all of those books from all of those places ended up looking like this:

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

We had several book stacks hanging out on the floor too, but you get the picture.

This room is already looking a thousand times better, which I’ll be showing more of very soon.

But one big improvement was painting our books. Yep. Painting.

A year or two ago, I saw these pretty Restoration Hardware French mute book bundles and had the idea to DIY my own.

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com
Via: Restoration Hardware

They were $125 for five totally blank ones. Ummm….. no.

But it was the easiest afternoon project to streamline our office shelves and make our own books look extra fancy schmancy.

Supplies used:

  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White
  • Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax
  • A few brown paper lunch bags
  • Scissors
  • Mod Podge in Matte
  • Ultra fine tip black permanent marker
  • 2 craft brushes
  • Clean, dry lint-free rag
  • And a stack of your own books of course

I spread out all of our books on our kitchen table and opened them face down. I only needed to paint on one coat of chalk paint on the covers, but you can do two if you think it’s necessary. Make sure to paint all of the edges and creases of the covers too.

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

When the paint was dry, I rubbed on a coat of the clear wax to seal them. If you wanted to make yours a little more antique looking, you could follow the clear wax with some dark wax, but it’s completely up to you.

Since we had paperback books too, I ripped the covers off so just the pages were showing.

Using the brown paper bags, I cut them up into rectangular pieces to use as the labels, wrote on the book titles with the permanent marker, and pasted them to the book spines with a little Mod Podge.

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

My handwriting isn’t perfect, but I think that’s what makes them look authentic to the real French Revolutionary style mute books or “couverture muette”.

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

Oh, and I found this concrete finial statue at the thrift store the other day that fits right in.

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

I’ll have to eventually rearrange all of our books into genres, but for now, they at least look like decor on our shelves. William Shakespeare and Nicholas Sparks will just have to be buddies for now.

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

There’s lots more happening in here that I’ll be sharing with you guys tomorrow.

So what do you think? Have I totally lost my marbles painting our books? Is there a librarian out there somewhere cringing? (Sorry, Mom.) Or are you ready to paint yours too?

As long as I can still read them, my bookworm self is happy. Got any amazing must-reads on your book list? Maybe if I start stocking up the summer reads now, warmer weather will arrive. Maybe? Maybe?! Here’s hoping.

UPDATE! If you want to check out the rest of the projects in our office, you can find all the links below:

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

You can see all of the other thrifty before and afters from my Trash to Treasure Transformation friends on their blogs too:

DIY Restoration Hardware French Mute Books | blesserhouse.com

Clockwise from top left:  Confessions of a Serial DIYer | Artsy Chicks Rule | Girl in the Garage | Prodigal Pieces

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40 Comments

  1. This is such an awesome idea! Absolutley love it, be doing it myself soon.
    I know exaclty what you mean about your mom mine is the same! Andalso the OCD!
    I’ll be hunting out the books to paint now.

  2. Being new to DIY I’m not sure what type of wax I need to buy. Does it come in a spray can/ painted on with a brush/ or rubbed on?
    Thanks so much!

  3. For all of the bibliophiles out there she is only painting the cover, not defacing or changing the pages or the story. I think they look great.

  4. I love this idea! I am an aspiring minimalist and while I won’t be painting some of my books (the heirlooms, etc) I will DEFINITELY be doing this to my paperbacks and a few hardbacks that are worth more pretty than in “original condition”! Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks, Katie! I did the same thing. I didn’t paint the valuable books with pretty covers. Just the ones that were already looking shabby or ones I found at the thrift store for 50 cents. 🙂

  5. Those look AWESOME!! You’ve inspired me to do this! I have my books all painted but am wondering if you would mind elaborating on the paper bag labels. I don’t have mod podge on hand, do you think I can get away with just using a glue stick on the back of the ‘labels’?(if not, I’ll go buy some) Also, did you put anything over the labels? Thanks so much!! 🙂

    1. Sure! I don’t know if I would use glue stick as that may not be strong enough. But regular Elmer’s school glue would probably do the same job as Mod Podge. The reason I like Mod Podge though is you can seal the labels by putting it on top too.

  6. I like it. A lot. I would not have been able to rip the covers off paperbacks, though. My husband would leave me over it. Just kidding (I hope.)
    🙂

    1. Haha! I know. I had major hesitation about that too. I’m a former English teacher and my mother is a librarian. Goes against everything I was ever taught, and I kind of feel guilty for loving it. 😉

  7. Do not care for this look . . . Would rather simply turn the books around where all you see are the pages versus all the different bindings (if you didn’t like the look). . .

    1. It’s certainly not for everybody. For a long time, I had the books turned around so I only could see the pages, but then it was aggravating not being able to see the titles on the spines to pick out what to read. It was more of a functionality decision but that’s just me.

    1. Haha! My mom is a librarian, and I’m a former English teacher. The teacher in me was freaking out but the decorator in me just kept saying, “Do it! Do it!” Totally torn here (literally). 😉

  8. So clever! If you have a ton of books, I love the library feel of them in the background, but if you have less than a whole wall full, they can look cluttered. This is a fun solution!! XO

  9. Ohhh and no one has said, “We love your cursive”. It just makes the project more distinct! Plus I liked how you kept a couple books and how you set them out. Fun!!

  10. I really love this! I’ve been wanting to make our books look uniform but maybe in a less permanent way? I think my husband would look at me like I’m a crazy person if I started painting our books, ha! But yours look amazing so maybe I can work up the courage!

    1. Haha! I know what you mean. I actually just saw a tutorial yesterday on Joanna Gaines’s blog for how she covered book covers with white linen fabric and it’s BEAUTIFUL! That might be a better less-permanent solution if you used a gentle adhesive.

  11. Lauren I love your idea! It looks so very tres chic!! And it’s a great way to unify the bookcase instead of having chaos. I recently flipped all of my books backward so that the page side shows and now I have all these cream and antique white pages. It looks so much better and creates a neutral and calming background for whatever else I want to add as decor. It is really beautiful! One pet peeve, we do not cut the Game of Thrones books…ever!! 😉

    1. Haha! I know. I might be fed to the dragons for that. The Harry Potter books were left untouched though. Does that save me? Maybe? 😉

  12. Looks super nice. There is no way my husband is going for that, but I like it! He is willing to cover books with brown paper, but white would be nice too!

    Question: Will there be paint cracking with the movement of reading the books or does it seem flexible?

    1. Yes! You could definitely cover them with white paper and get a similar effect. As for the paint cracking, the clear wax that seals the paint protects them from that. So far so good!

    1. I had to hold my breath and rip the covers off like a bandaid, Larissa. Haha! The bibliophile in me was pretty nervous but the decorator in me is so happy now that it’s done. 🙂

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