Before and After: This Chic Playroom’s New $560 Storage Is Actually IKEA

published Sep 19, 2023
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If there’s one thing a kid’s room or playroom absolutely needs, it’s ample toy storage. And this IKEA KALLAX toy storage in Selma Chatto’s (@chateauchatto) son’s playroom is both stylish and functional.

The playroom was originally a formal dining room “which was pretty outdated from the previous owner” Selma says, “and didn’t seem to be used often.” The very ’90s room had magnolia walls, busy patterned carpets, and bulky curtains that blocked out light — and it didn’t get much light to begin with. 

“I hated the busy carpets — I hate carpets in a playroom anyway — but I liked that it was a space I could totally revamp,” Selma says. “I knew straight away with already having one child — a 2-year-old at the time — and wanting more children in the future that this would be the perfect place for the playroom (and a generously-sized one at that). Plus it is just next door to the kitchen, which is ideal to keep an eye on them. Plus you can see the garden out the back window.”

Selma gave the room a nature-inspired mural, a fresh coat of blue paint (Lick’s Blue 04), and new floors, but the real standout in the space is the massive IKEA KALLAX storage along the back wall.

Credit: Selma Chatto
Credit: Selma Chatto

It started as three black KALLAX units. 

“Storage was a massive problem in our previous home, and I was looking for DIY hacks to build a huge storage unit across one of the walls,” Selma says. “We couldn’t afford to have a carpenter build this, and I’m obsessed with IKEA hacks, and I already had KALLAX units, so I knew they would work well as toy storage … We straight away started on the storage unit as toys were everywhere, and I desperately wanted a tidy place where my kids could play and thrive.”

Selma and her husband, Stuart, calculated they’d need three two-tier KALLAXes to fill the space, and Selma knew she wanted doors and drawers on the units for concealed storage. “KALLAX units are so cheap for the size of them — even with the additional add-ons,” Selma says, adding that a ready-made unit of this size would have cost double or even triple what she paid. 

Her IKEA shopping advice for pieces with doors is to buy extras. “If you live quite a distance from an IKEA (like I do), make sure you buy backup doors and drawers,” she says. “You will need them. Some IKEA doors are very fiddly and easily broken.” Her other advice is to go for the wood grain option if you like a natural wood look or if you want to paint the pieces later. “The KALLAX units I picked were black, which I quickly started to dislike as they were too dark for the space, so I added wood grain vinyl to the units which isn’t for the fainthearted,” she says. 

Credit: Selma Chatto

Wood grain vinyl turned them into expensive-looking storage. 

Selma’s wood grain effect looks expensive, but it was actually “cheap £3 roll from eBay,” she says. (That’s $3.71 USD.) “I had never used vinyl before, so that was a learning curve with all the bubbles and how you have to secure it down with heat — especially on the edges,” Selma says. “But I love the result. It brightens up the room compared to the bulky black unit it was before.”

Selma says that in hindsight, she would have purchased the wood grain option from IKEA to begin with, but she’s someone whose home decor changes from year to year. 

Credit: Selma Chatto
Credit: Selma Chatto

Plywood pieces make the whole thing look seamless.

Selma also originally wanted a large, durable countertop to stretch over the KALLAX units “so it looked like one piece of furniture,” she explains. But all of the countertop slabs she and Stuart looked at were too expensive, and they also realized a seamless piece as long as they needed wouldn’t fit along their hallway and into the door. 

“So we got plywood cut into two sections,” Selma says. “We sanded and varnished the plywood and used no-nail to secure it down.”

Selma’s advice for doing a similar project? First, “definitely measure, measure, measure,” she says. Second, she recommends bolting the KALLAX units together especially if the top will only be connected with no-nails, and third, she recommends giving the top a little overhang so it extends all the way to the back of the wall and sides of the wall for a built-in look. “The units won’t be pushed back right to the wall because of skirting boards, so make sure the counter top goes right to the wall and there are no gaps,” she explains.

Credit: Selma Chatto

Oversized knobs give the unit some style. 

Selma finished off her piece with some chunky wooden handles — “cheap eBay bulk handles,” Selma says, that she painted black, which also helps to elevate the look of the big-box find. Her recommendation here, for painting hardware, is to use a durable paint because hardware will get a lot of wear and tear. She used Frenchic’s Blackjack.

The units in her kids’ playroom certainly do, but that means they’re ultra-functional. “I love the layout of this room now, and the amount of storage I have is a game-changer,” Selma says. “Tidying up after each day is so easy because everything has a place and a system. You really can have kids and a tidy house. It is possible if you have functional storage systems in place … ​​I know as my kids grow this storage system will grow and change with them.”

And already, the storage system works for the grownups in the house, too. “After the kids go to bed this becomes our cinema room because of the massive TV and I can relax in this room child-free without feeling like I’m in a playroom,” Selma says. “It is definitely dual functioning.”