We all know that it’s what’s on the bookshelf that really counts. A plain, empty bookshelf doesn’t really make or break a room — until now. Your big, comfy couch is great and all, but why not make your shelves the conversation piece? From colorful paint to funky wallpaper, here are 36 beyond brilliant ways to give the back of your display case a major upgrade.

1. Shades of Yellow: Transform a boring bookcase with different patterned wallpapers in the same hue. In this case, a sunshiney yellow brightens up the dining room (and matches the chair pillows). (via House to Home)

2. Geometric Fabric: This seriously easy tutorial is actually an IKEA hack. While we love the turquoise fabric used in this DIY, feel free to experiment with any fabric that strikes your fancy. (via Eddie Ross)

3. Eclectic Mix: If you can’t decide which print to back your shelves with, take a cue from this funky childrens’ bookshelf and use ‘em all! While this may be the tiniest shelf we’ve ever seen, we’re positive that it would look amazing in a way larger scale. (via Aprill Aprill)

4. Shade Variety: Give your shelf a colorful update by painting each backing a different neutral shade. We love how the beige palette brings a whole lot of interest a simple wall unit. (via HGTV)

5. Maps: Even if you’re not a world traveller, maps make beautiful decorations. Take your fave map and plaster it to the back of any bookshelf or cabinet for an instant feel of wanderlust. (via Design Mom + Half of Vamh)

6. Beadboards: You can easily DIY this modern bookshelf by painting some ol’ fashioned beadboard a warm shade of gray. (via An Urban Cottage)

7. Simple Patterns: A simple geometric pattern can work wonders on shelf backs. In this case, the navy and white wallpaper create the perfect nautical vibe in this adorable cottage. (via Caitlin Wilson)

8. Funky Fabric: Fabric-lined shelves create the perfect backdrop for vintage objects and flower bouquets. While you could go with a neutral, where’s the fun in that? (via A Beautiful Mess)

9. Glitter: These shelves are backed with glitter. ‘Nuff said. (via Heather Garrett Interior Design)

10. Stripes: Before installing a built-in bookshelf, wallpaper the area with something that has personality — like these stripes, for example. You can buy this exact golden stripe here. (via Martha Stewart)

11. Wallpaper Flowers: This gorgeous DIY features plain IKEA bookshelves backed with a vintage-inspired wallpaper from Anthropologie. Although this particular style is no longer available, there are plenty more beauties to choose from. (via Design*Sponge)

12. Raw Wood Shims: We’re the first to admit, we’re huge fans of color here at Brit HQ. But sometimes, a rustic raw wood can look quite brilliant. And it’s beyond affordable, so there’s that. (via Country Living)

13. Rainbow: The bright rainbow hues that back this otherwise white bookcase turns this room into the most fun living room, like, ever. All you need is a few cans of paint to make this lovely piece yours! (via Half Asleep Studio)

14. Parisian-Inspired: If you can’t travel to Paris, bring it to you. That’s what this DIY blogger did with an old bookshelf, some paint and a Paris-printed fabric. Tres chic! (via My Passion for Decor)

15. Touch of Gold: When you’ve got your walls plastered in a paper this cute, don’t cover it up with a bookshelf! Instead, use a backless unit and let that paper shine on through. While we’re totally crushin’ on the gold floral wallpaper in this kid’s room, we could see it going the glam route, too. (via Apartment Therapy)

16. Bright Blue: A creative and easy way to fix up some shelves is with a coat of bright blue paint. Paired with a zebra rug and an eclectic mix of furnishings, this bookshelf ties the whole room together. (via Quiet Home Paints)

17. Ombre Grayscale: We all love a good black and white interior, but this ombre bookshelf makes a seriously strong case for gray. There’s something about the gradient that makes the space look clean and organized… and who doesn’t want that? (via Mad About The House)

18. Vintage Wallpaper: Steal an idea right out of Jessica Alba’s Beverly Hills home by wallpapering the back of your bookshelf with vintage print. Here, Jessica chose a feminine floral pattern. (via Domaine Home)

19. Colored Crates: You may as well thank us now, because we’re giving you two DIY ideas in one here. Take some old wooden crates, paint the insides with bold-tones and stack ‘em up real high. (via Houzz)

20. Chalkboard: One of life’s greatest inventions is chalkboard paint. Here, it’s used to mark the parking spaces for a little boy’s cars. (via Apartment Therapy)

21. Color Block: While it may look like the backs of these bookcases are painted with every color under the sun, they’re actually only decorated in orange and blue. The colorful books (and crazy-awesome couch frame) are really what makes this shelving unit pop. (via House and Garden)

22. Black and White: Black and white is always nice, but it’s even better with a splash of color. This classic wallpaper serves as the perfect background to hot pink baskets and an array of colorful books. (via Jenn Risk)

23. Bookshelf Paper: Here’s a clever thought: Adorn the back of your bookshelf with pictures of books. That way, it’ll never look empty! (via The Glam Pad)

24. American Flag: We’d gladly pledge our allegiance to this bookshelf… because let’s face it: No home is complete without a little dash of Americana. Double creativity points for using the American Flag in a way we’ve never seen before. (via Little House on the Valley)

25. Upcycle Old Drawers: We’ve got another two-in-one for ya. If you ever come across an old, beat-up dresser in your thrift-shopping, flea-marketing travels, turn those drawers into a unique and quirky bookshelf. If you’re lucky, they’ll have adorable vintage drawer-lining already in there. If not, there are plenty of paper options to choose from at your local craft store. (via Country Living)

26. Mirror Shelves: These floating shelves can inspire a major mirror-backed DIY moment. The reflection can add a modern elegance to any ol’ shelf — especially in the bathroom. (via Houzz)

27. DIY Wallpaper: Believe it or not, this is a tutorial for DIY geometric wallpaper! Grab an X-acto knife, construction paper and some Scotch tape to make this graphic background. (via Our Fifth House)

28: Polka Dots: Who can say no to a fun polka dot print? Not us, that’s for sure. (via Frau Haselmayer)

29. Busy Paper: This tutorial may be for those cute little bud vases on the top shelf, but we’ve got our eye on that busy pink paper that’s backing the bookcase. (via Hi Sugarplum)

30. Color on Color: What’s better than shelves packed with colorful crafts? One that’s backed in colorful stripes that’s also packed with colorful crafts. We know. Unreal. (via Color Me Katie)

31. Unexpected Pairings: Who says you have to choose between neutrals and brights? This large shelving unit proves that aquas and browns can most definitely work together. And check out those backlights! (via House and Garden)

32. Organic Stripes: This stunning limited edition bookshelf was once available as-is at the IKEA over in Sweden. But now, all we can offer you is this inspirational photo to guide your next DIY. We’ll take it. (via IKEA)

33. Contrasting Hues: Cool and warm colors can often look great when paired together. Just choose a shade that’s opposite of your wall color and get paintin’ for a lovely contrast. (via Apartment Therapy)

34. Bold Stripes: These graphic back panels and bright doors are available for purchase if you want to pimp out your IKEA bookshelf, but you can totally knock this one out on your own. (via Panyl)

35. Rustic: Add a rustic touch to your bookshelf with wood pallets. If you’re extra thrifty, you can probably find some wood lying around fo’ free. (via It’s Our Pinteresting Life)

36. Newspaper: Here’s an awesome way to upcycle those day-old (or forty-day-old) newspapers. Decoupage the back of your bookshelf or display cabinet to make any colorful object stand out. (via Nest Full of Eggs)

How are you backing your bookshelves? Let us know your decor tips in the comments below or Tweet us a pic of a recent project!