Here's The Perfect Upcycling Project For Book Lovers That Will Cozy Up Your Space

March 31, 2023

Over spring break, I had time to let my creativity flow and tackle something I’ve been considering for a while: decorating an old wooden stool that’s been sitting in my room for a few years. I’ve always loved the idea of upcycling, or taking something old and creating something new with added value. Upcycling reduces landfill waste and reduces the need for manufacturing. Even better, reusing is usually the most environmentally-friendly option, since recycling still produces some level of carbon emissions. After consulting Pinterest’s DIYs and upcycling tutorials, I couldn’t wait to start my first upcycling project. I dug out my bottle of Mod Podge and gathered some supplies.

For some context, I got this stool from a coffee shop a few years ago. It’s a lovely piece, but it’s covered in colorful writing—what seems to be a list of bands that I’m unfamiliar with. 

a wooden stool with colorful writing on its legs

When the owner of the coffee shop first gave it to me, I thought this was so cool! I liked having something that was clearly loved by a community of creative music lovers who frequented the coffee shop that felt like home to me. But now, it just doesn’t fit with the rest of my room. The colors felt too messy and distracting, so I started thinking about ways to decorate it. I found plenty of Pinterest posts showing decorations or collages using pages from old books, or even specific quotes or poems. Once I settled on my favorite “look,” I dragged it into the bathtub for a thorough scrubbing (which, surprisingly, washed away some of the marker). 

The Process


I used an old sheet to turn my room into a makeshift painting studio for a few hours while I worked on this. 

a wooden stool on an old sheet with a paint can, a rag, and three paint brushes    a cat smelling a paint can on an old sheet next to a wooden stool

As you can see, I had some help from Maya, who so desperately wanted to dip her paw into the paint bucket. Even though some of the “artwork” was scrubbed off, streaks of red and green were still visible. Instead of using white paint, I grabbed a bucket of Kilz multi-purpose primer. This worked well to conceal some of the colorful markings, but I ended up needing three coats to get a completely solid color.

Gluing The Pages

After this, it was time to start the most exciting, and mildly nerve-wracking, part: decorating the seat. I used an old book that had a bit of water damage. It was one that I probably wouldn’t have read anyway, so it was perfect for this upcycling project. Even so, it pained me a bit to rip pages out of a book!

I started by coating an area on the stool with Mod Podge, laying a piece of paper over it, and smoothing out any air bubbles. Then, I brushed over it again with Mod Podge. I’m not sure if this was necessary, but I was concerned about the pages coming loose while drying. The extra coat during this step kept each layer smooth. 

the seat of a wooden stool with glue and book pages

I repeated this process until the entire top surface was covered. Getting the paper to stick on the curved side of the stool was the most difficult—I felt like I was finger painting with glue—but in the end, the paper stayed in place.

the seat of a stool covered in book pages

I allowed this part to dry overnight before cracking open the bottle of Mod Podge once again. The pages had to wrap around the curved edges of the seat, and I was afraid they would not stay in place. The final coat eased my worries.

The Final Product

The result: a clean-looking stool, perfect for someone who loves words (and perfect for cats who adore perching on things). This seemed intimidating at first, but allowing my creativity to flow was cathartic. In fact, studies show that creativity can boost positive emotions, which can be helpful for coping with day-to-day stress. Creative projects can be a great way to relieve negative feelings, and fostering an optimistic outlook can help one to adapt to change.

 I learned that I, too, can participate in the personalized upcycling trends all over Pinterest. Even armed with cheap paint brushes, an old sheet, and worn book pages, I created something that I like. Arty projects are sometimes intimidating to me. I love doodling and messing around with colorful paints and scrapbooking, but I have little experience with DIY projects. It was refreshing to try a new creative outlet, and I can’t wait for the next upcycling project opportunity. Maybe I’ll try turning some old fabric into a DIY rug!


a stool decorated with book pages

The final product!      

before and after redecorating a wooden stool with white paint and book pages

Before and after.

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Photo: Cassidy Klingman


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