Where to find decorative shelf edging and shelf paper

Carrie writes:
I was wondering if you have ever done any research on Shelf Edging and if so where could I get some.  I don’t think that I ever mentioned that the previous owner had placed shelf edging in the linen closet and also in certain cabinets in the kitchen.  Since I have lived in my house for almost a year now the shelf edging is starting to tear and I would like to have some more on hand when I am ready to put more up.  
vintage-shelf-edgingAny information that you have would be greatly appreciated.  Always remember that you are doing a wonderful job in making Retro Renovation what is has become.  I appreciate more and more the smalls details of my house that everyone else would take for granted.  I sent you some pictures of the shelf edging in my cabinets I hope they help.

Thanks for the question and for your lovely words of support, Carrie. This was a fun one to research. From what I can tell looking online, there were four waves of shelf edging design:

  1. In the “early days” I am betting the major name making this was Meyercord. They are also known for their furniture and cabinet decals. The paper shelf edging was, I am quite sure, a way for women to dress up their farmhouse and apartment kitchen shelves without having to go to the expense of renovating.
  2. In the postwar era, the big name seems to have been Royledge also marketed as Roylies and as Roylcraft. I also see some Betty Brite out there. You should also note that the edging came either as “just edging” or as edging attached to white shelf paper – but all still in one piece.
  3. In the 60s, I am seeing plastic, pleated / ruffled , self-adhesive shelf edging from Contact. I like this idea a lot. As you demonstrate with your experience – that paper is going to tear in any high-use area. Also, the adhesive is pretty nifty. Otherwise, I am thinking that housewives earlier put the edging down with thumbtacks.
  4. Today’s limited options “new”.

Where to get shelf edging and shelf paper?

Betty Brite "Edge 'n Lining" shelf paper from RetroRubbish. 12" deep, 15' wide, $10. Click on the image to go to the listing.
Betty Brite “Edge ‘n Lining” shelf paper from RetroRubbish. 12″ deep, 15’ wide, $10.
  • Etsy seems to be a great source. The going price for a 15′ strip seems be $5 and up. Search terms: shelf edging, shelf paper, Royledge, Roylies, Meyercord, Betty Brite, Vintage Contact Paper
  • You can also watch ebay…
  • New #1 — I found a company in Scotland — Diana Forrester— selling gorgeous fabric shelf edging embroidered in France.

    cotton and linen embroidered shelf edging from diana forrester
    cotton and linen embroidered shelf edging from diana forrester
  • New #2 — And a company that sells vinyl, pre-pasted, lace style edging. You can buy it here, and I also read it may be available at places like Wal-Mart.
  • Finally, if you are handy, you could also make paper edging yourself out of wallpaper (new or vintage.) Create a decorative edge with scrapbooking scissors that you can find at Target; this is going to take a very steady hand, though. And, unlike the vintage edging – which is white where it sits on the shelf itself – your wallpaper-edging is going to be visible on the shelf, too. This may not be desirable. Trying to seam the decorative paper to a white piece of shelf paper may not work either as such a seam would be vulnerable to tearing.

This was a fun question to reseach, Carrie. Good luck!

  1. Alice Rains says:

    There is another way. You can improvise using small round paper lace doilies such as are used under cakes and/or pastries. I once did a shelf edging using small paper lace doilies, each one centered with a round cut from decorative paper. Then fold each circle in half. Half slips under the shelf paper (I use brown kraft paper because it is durable.) and half hangs down over the shelf edge. It gives you a series of big scallops. Can be taped or thumbtacked if necessary.

  2. Sherrie says:

    Thank you for the article. I was searching for information on what the 4 thumbtacks on each shelf in my salvaged cabinets were for (I believe they were from a butler’s pantry in an old Victorian home in Seattle). They have been painted over then u*** [edited] marbled shelf paper wrapped each shelf. We picked them up in an architectural salvage store for our renovated 1909 farm house. I’m excited to clean, strip and return them back to their original glory and find some vintage edging! Currently some of the links in your article do not work any longer. But I’ll do some more searching.
    Thanks again for the information!

  3. Pingback:California Kathy’s vintage shelf edging

  4. Downboy66 says:

    What a wonderfull solution to the unattractive leading edge on new wire shelving systems. May I also suggest salvaging lace edging from otherwise unuseable table linens, which proliferate. as any Executor can attest. As a 28yr Housepainter, I have the priviledge of being the last to see many time capsules. Y’All don’t want to know the rest… Thanks for creating this beautifull forum!

  5. sumac sue says:

    Funny — I got to the end of these posts to tell about bulletin board border, and there was Missouri Michael with the same idea. It comes in lots of styles other than school themes — plaids, flowers, snowflakes, etc. Not quite like the originals, but, inexpensive and easily acquired, as Michael says. (I’ve not used it as shelf border, but, I used to be a teacher aide, and had great fun tacking it up around bulletin boards.)

  6. This makes me think of bulletin board border. It comes in many styles, with different edge types, scalloped and straight. You can find it at your local school/teacher supply store and they make it in countless styles for almost any bulletin board theme. I would imagine that it would be easy to tack up to the edge of the shelf to use as edging, and it is really inexpensive, so you could change it out through the different seasons of the year, if you so desired!

  7. RetroCo says:

    I can’t stress how important it is to carefully check for original paper! It took me three tries before I found the originals under the pastel country contact paper in our house. The fun, colorful originals remain on almost every shelf in the house and seem much more resilient and better attached than their newer counterparts. If you still have some stickiness remaining from the removed contact paper, Magic Eraser works well, but you have to be careful not to scrub too hard or some vintage papers will scratch.

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