Here is our IKEA built-in shelf/closet project in our living room!! Read on to see how we got here…
Also see our latest IKEA built-in project. . .
The latest project is one that we’ve seen on HGTV and online (like here and here): to take premade bookshelves and cabinets and add molding and baseboards to make it look built-in. We especially wanted to try this on the first floor because Shirley has a lot of books and there’s not a single closet on this floor. We started with the living room, in part because we wanted some place to put the vacuum cleaner.
Here is how the living room looked right before we started the project.
As big IKEA fans, we decided to use IKEA shelves (Besta) and wardrobes (Pax). Chris took a few measurements, looked over the dimensions of various IKEA items, and sketched out a quick plan that had great potential:
We went to IKEA on a Thursday afternoon (it’s nice to be able to work at home), bought 5 shelves and 2 large wardrobes, and fit it all into Chris’s mom’s station wagon (with the back hatch not fully closed). Everything was flat packed, so it was relatively easy to transport, though some of the boxes were quite heavy (125 lbs).
Shirley wanted the backs of the shelves to look nice (that was her job). At first we considered covering them with fabric or wallpaper, but we noticed it would be difficult to get the shelf backs to fit if we changed the thickness significantly, because the backs have to slide into a small grove in the shelf sides. So we decided to paint the shelf backs (made out of fiberboard and coated with a plastic laminate/melamine coating). The paint store guy made a big deal out of using the right primer to ensure that it would stick to the IKEA material.
Here are photos of Shirley priming the shelf backs and Chris painting them. (Note: it’s important to wear sunglasses when it is really sunny out and you are using white primer. Also note her awesome The OC “Free Marissa” shirt, circa 2005. Cue singing of “California…”) We painted the shelves a light blue (with greenish tinge) called Misty Harbor (from Kelly-Moore). We already had a quart of the paint because we had been trying different colors to paint our kitchen cabinets.
We then cleared out the existing furniture in the space and took a few pictures of the empty (and clean!) space (while the kids were asleep… we did a lot of the project then).
Chris also had to remove the existing baseboards so that we could have it all tie together. We assembled the Besta shelves while watching HGTV. We lined them up along the wall to see how they would look. We used the 50”-tall shelves so they would fit underneath the high window along that wall. We also bought some timber blinds. Chris built a little platform out of 2x4s and 1x4s to raise the shelves enough so that the 5-1/2” baseboards that we used would fit correctly. The Besta shelves have little feet on the bottom that you can raise and lower using an Allen key in order to level the shelf (there’s a tiny hole on the bottom shelf so you can do it when the shelf is in place). It was quite handy, as we could raise the shelf about a half inch.
The next step was to build the Pax wardrobes. These things are quite large: 39” wide by 22” deep by 93” tall (luckily, we have 9 ft ceilings on our first floor).
We also painted the backs of the Pax the same Misty Harbor color, repeating the process with the primer and the paint. Chris also built a little raised platform out of 1×6 wood to raise the Pax to get the baseboards to fit under the doors. In easily her handiest moment since painting the back of a shelf when she was 39 weeks pregnant, Shirley nailed the painted back to the Pax frame.
Here are all of the pieces in place.
On the side closest to the front window (the one with curtains above), we had intended to put the wardrobe flush against the wall but forgot that we had planned to install window trim (including a window sill) around the front window. The trim would have jutted so far out that it would have interfered with opening the Pax closet door. Here’s a photo of the Pax closet flush against the wall.
We ended up moving the Pax closet one inch away from the wall and installing a small piece of trim to cover the gap. Here’s a close-up photo of the front window trim/window sill showing how close it is to the Pax door. The door just barely touches the window sill as it opens.
Here’s how things looked with the Pax doors installed but no baseboards or window trim around the upper window. Also notice that there is now window trim around the front window (on the right side of the picture).
Below is a photo of the finished built-ins with window trim around both windows and baseboards all finished. We still need to add clear glass knobs onto the doors. We might eventually add crown molding to the top of the Pax wardrobes.
Finally, Shirley couldn’t wait to get her books onto the shelves… If you met USDA loan requirements and are a home owner at the moment, you may try such built-ins too.
We’re pretty excited about how it turned out. It’s a far cry from how this part of the living room previously looked like.
Summary of the project cost
2 – 47×50” Besta – $130 x 2 = $260
1 – 23 x 50” Besta – $80
2 – 39 x 93″ Pax wardrobe $100 x 2 = $200
4 – Pax Bergsbo doors $50x 4 = $200
Pax Door hinges $40
Pax shelves $50
Closet rod $10
Paint + paint supplies $40
Baseboards Free (reused existing baseboards)
Assorted wood (2x4s, 1x4s, 1x6s) – ~$10
Total ~$970 (including tax)
UPDATE: Our project showed up on ikeahackers!