Introduction: Designing Cardboard Furniture

Picture of Designing Cardboard Furniture
Create more spaces that weren't there before, save a tonne by creating you're own furniture out of cardboard and watercolour tape.

You'll find several nifty tricks and tips here and in following instructables about how to design your own cardboard furniture.

Some pieces can be completed in a day or two, depending on your design.

I came across Eric Guiomar's DVD titled How to Design Cardboard Furniture by Vinestreetworks, then his first book, and then this instructable was born.

Here's some new techniques you can use to design uniquely shaped furniture.

New! Eric Guiomar's new pdf book part 2 is available.

Check out many French Cartonnistes personal websites below:
French Cartonnistes Websites

In this instructable, I demonstrate how I made an extremely sturdy three-storey book shelf made of six ply cardboard. Simply follow the same principles to create any design you like.

Step 1: Sketch Your Design & Measure & Cut Accurately

Picture of Sketch Your Design & Measure & Cut Accurately

Check out books and catalogues for inspiration. The first cupboard I planned to make was a Chinese style black and gold one. In this instructable the same methods are used for every type of object you plan to make. I will show step by step techniques of how I made a craft cupboard to store my knicks knacks.

Check out my other instructables for details on how to make your own door hinges -
new tips and tricks for cardboard furniture:

So now you've figured out you basic construction. You will be surprised at the strength of your cardboard structure. This cupboard below holds up to 80kg of folders.
After 3 months its still standing!

Look for clean cardboard thrown away in electronic superstores. Large complete pieces are ideal - the size of a refrigerator or plasma tv. I clean any visible dust with hospital grade 90% alcohol. Let dry.

You will need to work out the measurements for thicknesses for each layer ON PAPER.

6-10cm is ideal space between each LAYER.

Thicker ply of cardboard is definitely going to make aa stronger cupboard or chair or table.

In one structure I used 2-ply cardboard other times 3-ply.
1 ply is all that's necessary for the shelf layers (more on this later)

When cutting the shapes of the cardboard use a simple craft knife. Slice 3-4 times over the line you've drawn without using pressure. You'll be surprised how effortless it is compared to working with WOOD.

Sharpen your knife often. I used the side of brick and its brillant.

Accuracy in MILLIMETRES is essential, or your structure may collapse. (Seriously.) NOTE THE DIRECTION of your cardboard. If you cut on the vertical GRAIN each piece will be stronger than if you cut a horizontal grain.

Step 2: 3 Silhouette Shapes

Picture of 3 Silhouette Shapes

Now you will cut out the silhouette shapes.
Cut 3.
The middle one and the front one you will cut out the spaces for the shelves.
The 3rd silhouette will not be cut out inside as this is to be the BACK of the shelf.

In the pictures here, some like to cut 4 silhouette shapes for extra support.

Step 3: Measure and Cut Struts

Picture of Measure and Cut Struts

1. The strut will be as long as you want the WIDTH of your structure to be
2. The strut is the inside skeleton that supports the whole
3. The width of each strut will be the same width as the THICKNESS of each layer.

A. Cut and measure your strut pieces. You will only need ONE silhouette to cut struts. This is the MIDDLE SILHOUETTE. You can create more than 3 silhouettes for extra strength for a long chest of drawers for example.

Label each SILHOUETTE : top and bottom, front and back.

B. Cut the struts approximately HALFWAY both on the silhouette and the strut

C. They are insert DOWNWARDS FOR EVERY SHELF SECTION except the bottom, where they are placed UPWARDS

Step 4: Layer Silhouettes on Top of Each Other

Picture of Layer Silhouettes on Top of Each Other

1. Place the uncut inside silhouette on the bottom level
2. Place the middle silhouette that has struts attached
3. Finally place the top level which will be the FRONT OF STRUCTURE
4. Put weights to add slight pressure so you can tape the pieces more tightly. I used coloured sand in zip lock bags.

A. Using very STICKY DUCT TAPE attach the stuts at the top, bottom, middle. This takes a while to do, but its relaxing exercise.

Warning, you must be very accurate in measuring and assembling at this stage or structure may collapse because edges do not meet exactly. The other main cause of collaspe is if the ply is less than 2 or 3 ply or the direction of the stripes on the cardboard for the sides are horizontal instead of vertical.

With my first Chinese cupboard, I had problems because of a slight measurement off here and there. Use a FILE or RASP to even edges sticking out.

Step 5: Measure, Cut and Insert Roof and Bottom of Each Shelf

Picture of Measure, Cut and Insert Roof and Bottom of Each Shelf

1. Measure your depth of each shelf space. Cut out accurately using 1 PLY cardboard for the roof and bottom shape to insert into TOP SIDES AND BOTTOM of inner space. 1-2 ply thick is enough for inside. The strength lies in the 3-PLY silhouette frame and internal skeleton.

2. Sticky tape all joins carefully with duct tape for good quality strength. Aim for a FLAT and SMOOTH edge. This helps when decorating with paper to sit nicely.

Step 6: Cover or Decorate Your Construction

Picture of Cover or Decorate Your Construction

1. With the Chinese cupboard I covered everything with duct tape then spray painted it black

2. The second cupboard was covered with double-sided tape and gift wrapping paper

Eric Guiomar's recipe includes wallpaper paste, water and acrylic paints stirred together, to form a thick glue and thinly painted onto the Nepalese papers then attached to your cardboard structure. Once dry it is waterproofed with bottle of acrylic varnish (normally used to polish the kitchen lino floors.)

When you paint with the wallpaper paste + ACRYLIC PAINT I found when I put too much water the cardboard collapsed. Minimal water is recommended, or paint in the sun, small sections at a time.

Rice Starch Glue Paste recipe
Rice flour (or wheat flour found in Asian shops)
2 T Salt dissolved in boiling water
optional - Drop of eucalyptus oil to prevent mould

1. Cook until translucent. Keeps in fridge 3 days. This is used instead of PVA for decoupage or papier mache techniques.

Gesso mix
1. Mix the above recipe with the milk paint formula below and add gypsum / whiting / chalk and 1 cup of PVA glue extra. It will look the mask and bowl pictures below with the finish, having a nice smooth wood-like appearance.

2. If you use rabbit sizing instead of PVA it needs to be cooked at medium heat. Whisk until smooth. First soak the granules overnight to 15 parts water. Do not boil.

3. Tempera powdered painted can be added for colouring. Gesso sticks best to a rough surface and may crack when painted.

4.(I made a chalk board with this Gesso mix formula and it was extremely smooth).

5. When dry sand with fine sandpaper. The suface can be painted, inlaid with metal or anything you like.

1870 Milk Paint Formula

1 Quart skim milk (room temperature)
1 Ounce of hydrated lime by weight
(Available at hardware stores. Do not use quick lime (calcium oxide), as it will react with the water and heat up. Hydrated lime has been soaked in water then dried.)

Stir in enough skim milk to hydrated lime to make a cream. Add balance of skim milk. Now add sufficient amount of powder pigment to desired color and consistency (Pigment powder must be limeproof). Stir in well for a few minutes before using. For best results continue to stir throughout use.

Apply a thin layer milk paint with a cheap natural bristle brush. Allow project to dry sufficiently before applying next coat. Extra paint may be kept for several days in the refrigerator, until the milk sours. Double or triple the recipe for paint.

Allow to dry thoroughly 3-4 hours before use. For extra protection, give paint a coat of oil finish or sealer. Color may change - test in inconspicuous area.

Very Durable Weather Resistant Paint

5 parts cottage cheese or dry curd cheese
(Dry curd cheese is cottage cheese without cream or flavoring added. You can make a similar cheese by putting cottage cheese into cheesecloth and hanging it until it stops draining. Use cottage cheese if you are in a hurry.)
1 part hydrated lime or slacked lime

Mix hydrated lime with water to make a paste. Add to cottage cheese and stir in well. Leave for few hours - the cheese lump will dissolve completely. Select some powder pigments and add to solution (Pigment powder must be limeproof). Add more water if too thick; powdered skim milk if too thin. Strain if you want a fine paint (old nylon stocking works well).

Step 7: Adding Hinged Cupboard Doors

Picture of Adding Hinged Cupboard Doors

The door imitates the internal structure of a single piece of 1-ply cardboard.

1. Cut 3ply struts into strips that nearly reach the edge of your cupboard door.
2. Hot glue
3. Cover the door and edges to create a sturdy box door.
4. Decorate the surface of door then glue a piece of balsa wood / masonite the size of a hinge. Drill holes for screws. The wood provides solid support for the hinge. I experimented with fabric hinges rather than metal ones.
5. Attach a hinge to cupboard and door. Attach a magnet or velcro.

Please check out for leather hinge instructions

Step 8: Other Sample Work From Interesting Designers

Picture of Other Sample Work From Interesting Designers

You'll be so inspired by these Design Ideas below!

Here are some other Cartonnistes - Cardboard Furniture Designers from France. Go to and click under the title MEET THE CARTONNISTES!

Also check out

Also see below the Retur designers using a different construction technique with screws and satay sticks:


Skinnymom69 (author)2017-11-19

I would really like to make the round one with shelves straight acrossed.could you give me written instructions of the best way to get the measurments i will need please?i also need to know how to apply the shelves

Scriptone (author)Skinnymom692017-11-29

Hi I have an instructable for this one with video. The measurements depend on the longest pieces of cb you have at hand. I think I used a box for a fridge from the recycling bin outside the hardware furniture store.

We need to check the 'grain' (way the inside tubes run) should be north to south for the strongest structure.

AFter all the years of building the lovely the circular shaped one, it is still super strong. I made another version which I've not made an instructable yet, with doubled wall thickness.

This was pretty durable even though I didn't paint it or cover it with tissue paper. Hope this helps you, feel free to ask any questions I'll try to help.

MarcioWilges (author)2016-02-04

This looks really creative and interesting indeed. I bet with creativity, you can create almost any type of furniture with just cardboard alone. However, I wonder what is the maximum weight load that it can truly withstand as most of our household necessities are quite heavy to accommodate. Nevertheless, they provide convenience as they are lightweight so you can easily move them around. Should you intend to move out, you do not need to hire furniture removals to help you move bulky furniture to storage or elsewhere.

Omhend (author)2013-05-07

i make a cardbord furniture you can visit my blog

Anathematized1 (author)2011-10-10

Does anyone know how to get Eric Guiomar's DVD? doesn't seem to be a valid url anymore. The only thing I've really come across is a video rental for

Scriptone (author)Anathematized12011-10-11

You're right, the screen goes blank! I found out Director (of Eric Guiomar's DVD and owns Gregor Scheer he's a forum moderator at you might be able to contact him there.

ArtsyFartsyGirl (author)2011-10-03

On July 3, 2011 I went to a craft museum in Los Angeles. There was an installation by an artist named Ann Weber. She had created huge "forms" from cardboard strips, tape and staples. The staples were obvious too. They had odd shapes, and some were "grouped",(The Wedding Group, all painted white) some were painted and some unpainted.
I couldn't believe my eyes that someone would use cardboard for "forms" and consider it "Art"! And she had a video showing her having her "forms" manufactured.
Just goes to show you!

Interesting! thanks for the info

amusacchia (author)2011-09-20

scusa è possibile avere il tutorial della libreria a spirale? è fantastica

Scriptone (author)amusacchia2011-09-22

Agree its fantastic! However, I tried guessing how it was made and tutorial is here and another method here

Están de acuerdo es fantástico! Sin embargo, traté de adivinar cómo se hizo y el tutorial está aquí y aquí otro método

amusacchia (author)2011-09-20

scusa è possibile avere il tutorial della libreria a spirale grazie....è fantastica

vcaskey (author)2011-08-16

I really like the YinYang shelf and have followed the link a few of you have posted hoping to find directions on how to make it. The site is in French and I don't see any directions. Anyone know where I can get instructions for this?

ajackson16 (author)vcaskey2011-09-11

If you have Google Chrome there is an option to translate the site to english.

Scriptone (author)vcaskey2011-08-30

I tried making it here but on a minature scale -

jcroasmun (author)2011-05-27

how can get info on how the violin was made?

Scriptone (author)jcroasmun2011-06-20

Maybe contact

mary candy (author)2011-05-20

this ible is the first I saw. I was searching for furniture made with cardboard.
It's your fault , now I am a Instructables addict .

Scriptone (author)mary candy2011-05-23

LOL ^ - ^ very nice of you!

kleinjahr (author)2011-03-06

Tres bon, very nice work. I've got a couple of old books around here on cardboard/corrugated construction, furniture and housing. I'll have to go through them again. I do remember them suggesting, for a very strong panel, to glue layers together with the corrugations of each layer at right angles to the last layer, like plywood.

Scriptone (author)kleinjahr2011-03-20

Thanks! just noted your comment.. I'm experimenting with constructing the woodwork way, in my Mushroom Bookshelf and Circular Shadowbox. I think it works well on a small scale, (see image curves add strength to a structure) but I'm not too sure the woodwork construction method is strong on a large scale though. Perhaps external struts will strengthen a furniture piece.

live_corrugated (author)2010-12-22

Thank you so much for taking the time to show your process and beautiful product. It has been inspiring to pore over this rich variety of examples by you and other artists/craftspeople. Cardboard so lends itself to a diversity of form in large scale, its just a wonder that more people haven't been working with it.

Your welcome! Its so simple to make I thought quite a few people would be interested in crafting with it. You should put up your compilations too : )

Hi again Scriptone,

I created an instructable. Check it out through my profile, because it isn't coming up through a keyword search yet. Will have to get down to the bottom of that. Maybe you could offer some comments to get my next one up to speed with the average user? Or is it even about the average user? ppl on Instructables seem quite above-average.

"Cardboard book shelves, like a carpenter"

I checked your instructable out it looks great the final cupboard, nice colour too. For the people new to cardboard furniture, they might find it useful to see more photos step by step next time. Was it very strong?

Noted. Its stronger than the final photo suggests. With 20" long shelves I would feel comfortable filling it with paperbacks and a few folios.

thepelton (author)2010-11-26

I have an Epilog laser, and recently I decided to make a doll chair, and show it to my landlady, who also happens to run a doll sales and repair shop called the "Doll Doctor". Here is my first attempt, copying an Adirondak chair and reducing it 1/12. It's made of four pieces, the two sides, the seat and the back, and stands about 2 1/2 inches high.

Scriptone (author)thepelton2010-11-27

that's a gorgeous design! should be an instructable!

thepelton (author)Scriptone2010-11-29

Thank you very much. I'll keep that in mind.

bobworld (author)2009-04-25

For a 7th grade science fair project, I made a chair and bridge to get to the chair out of cardboard, inviting all to cross the bridge and have a seat. This was in 1970! My teacher gave me a D- for a grade. I was pissed! Thank you for validating my efforts. Nice stuff you have! With new inspiration from you, I may go back to drawing board after 30+ years!

Dr.Bill (author)bobworld2010-10-28

Sounds to me like your teacher had some kind of problem.
Hand that rocks the cradle ya know.

insructoperson (author)2010-06-17

Do you know if there is a how to on the yin yang bookshelf, that would be perfect for my bedroom!

Scriptone (author)insructoperson2010-06-17

Many people like this design, I wrote this comment below last year The uncovered cd shelf is by: The yingyang design is by Patricia Dessoulles

insructoperson (author)Scriptone2010-06-20


Scriptone (author)insructoperson2010-06-20

Your welcome, there's instructions for spiral furniture in Eric's latest book, its e-book, instantly downloadable after purchasing.

bob201092 (author)2010-05-12

your products are amazing great ideas i doing a project like these u have givin me some good ideas to start with thanks

wdlaurie (author)2010-01-15

Where to get cardboard so that you can furnish your home? We moved recently, and these two strategies gave us more boxes than we needed:

1. Call liquor stores and ask when you can pick up discarded boxes. Since the boxes have to hold fragile/heavy items, these are good choices.
2. Drive up to behind your local shopping center where the dumpsters are. Our local RiteAid had unpacked all their Valentine's day merchandise, and they had more boxes than they could fit into 2 dumpsters. I made sure the boxes were clean/dry before I took them away.

I like food (author)2009-09-27

What if you put cardboard in a blender than molded it like clay?

Scriptone (author)I like food2009-12-13

(This how to papier mache waterproof crafts video is one of the best I've seen straight from Kashmir.)

Scriptone (author)I like food2009-09-27

I think that would work for modelling specific things, but I'd said it would take a while to dry etc.

Its a special craft developed in India for quite a while.

greenbeanmusicmachine (author)2009-12-13

 is there anywhere I can get a template or instructable for that spiral cd rack / shelf. It's so cool.

I'm pasting this link from a post below for you - you might be able to ask the Designer herself Patricia Dessoules  - (email on her site)

The uncovered cd shelf is by:
Found it at last.

The yingyang design is by Patricia Dessoulles

melody_yesterday (author)2009-10-08

i would love to have the pattern for the hangers ...
is there one already online or what ?

Would you believe it there's an instructable on this just put up in August.<br /><a href="">Making Cardboard Hangers</a><br />

WoW ! Scriptone!
Those are excellant ! 
THANKS !!!! 

yula (author)2009-05-06

Here are some of the cardboard furniture I made... luv this material !

jrock5150 (author)yula2009-09-25

the shelf on the left is almost the exact style I had in mind for when I have a go at cardboard construction. Great piece of art.

yula (author)jrock51502009-09-26

thanks !! I kind of made it free hand, thus the curvy lines :) I'm working on another piece right now... hope to post it when it's done.

Scriptone (author)yula2009-05-06

That is stunning construction and design! And your surface decoration has arty, textural feel. Did it take you long?

yula (author)Scriptone2009-05-06

Thanks ! These are my first two (and the only) pieces, so they could have taken a while to make, but I was so obsessed with them, that I worked for 3 days, almost non-stop. Hope to make more soon...

dizzlefoshizzle (author)2009-09-14

I've made a design for a bookshelf I'm looking forward to making. Its similar to the red bookshelf you have in your examples. Is there any way to reinforce the cardboard so it can hold heavy loads?

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