finished bookcases

IKEA Hack: a custom bookshelf/desk assembly

What is your favorite thing to do when it gets too hot to be outdoors for very long?  I (and my handy hubby) have been working hard on some indoor projects these last few weeks, and one or two of them are finally far enough along that I can show you what we’ve been up to.

I may have mentioned the sad lack of shelving and storage in our little house, and my plans to remedy that situation asap.  Well, my mom and I had the opportunity to make a quick trip to my beloved IKEA in Salt Lake last month, and I picked up some EXPEDIT bookcases for our living room.  I bought two of the 2×4 size, and two of the 2×2 cubes.


Images from ikea.com

My plan was to take this wall (shown previously in a piano bench makeover), and add a desk with bookcases flanking each side.

Of course, since I completely disliked the current peachy beige wall color, it needed some new paint.  Instead of painting this wall the same grey color I am painting the rest of the living room, I decided to go bold, very bold.  The bookcases have an open back, so I wanted a bright orange color to really make the items placed on the bookcases to pop.  Why orange?  Because it is a bright, cheerful, modern color that works well with my young family, and white bookcases look completely awesome against it!  I chose Benjamin Moore’s 140 fruit punch, color matched to Behr’s new Ultra, paint and primer in one, in eggshell.

The next step was to assemble the bookcases.  I actually did this before I painted, because I am impatient, and then I had to wait until my husband had some free time to help me completely assemble the whole thing just the way I wanted it.  After waiting, and waiting, and waiting (he never has much free time), I finally just said it was time to get these beautiful shelves off of the floor before they got ruined and became a permanent resting place for random and assorted junk piles.  So, he got to work cutting and drilling holes in aluminum for desk and shelf brackets (which I spray painted white so they blended a bit better) and 6-8 hours later, my dream system was finally complete!  Needless to say, this simple little desk/bookcase arrangement I had concocted in my head was a lot more time consuming than I had anticipated.

Because I wanted the side shelves taller than they came, we left off the base piece of the 2×2 cubes and instead used those two pieces for a desk and shelf in between the side shelves.  We stacked the cube shelves on top of the 2×4 shelves to create a tall shelf that is almost 8 foot ceiling height.  My husband used some metal strapping pieces to connect the two sets of shelves in the back.

He used aluminum L pieces to mount the ‘extra’ bases between the two side shelves.

He also drilled a hole in the top of the desk for my computer cord to go through, and I inserted a plastic sleeve for a finished look.

During this process, we decided that although these systems from IKEA are relatively inexpensive and surprisingly strong, they really aren’t intended to be manhandled and drilled and otherwise abused.  We had to be very careful not to chip the white finish when drilling, and to keep the working area clean.  We also learned (the hard way) that hammering and dropping pieces can cause them to shatter.  I hadn’t originally intended for there to be two open double shelves, but as we were attempting to adjust the fit of the vertical insert, it dropped out and the corner smunched on the carpeted floor.  It would have worked still, but I decided I preferred the varied look of the larger opening, so we left them off on both sides.  But, just so you know if you are wanting to attempt an “Ikea Hack,” you have to be extra careful.  It is also good to have plenty of helping hands!


Without further ado, here is the finished bookcase/desk assembly!

And a view from the kitchen/dining room.

If you look too closely, you can see that I removed the baseboards in order to get the shelves flush to the wall, and I haven’t cut them down and replaced them yet.  Coming soon.  I left the bookcases empty for these pictures, so you can anticipate another post on how I go about styling it!  Bottom line though, I absolutely love this new setup, and I really like having a little place where I can sit and work on my laptop.

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