19 IKEA Hacks That Transform Plain KALLAX Shelves into Something Special

updated Nov 10, 2022
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After: Green credenza with textured doors and gold hardware

Aside from the fact that IKEA makes furnishing a living space quick and easy (well, kind of easy, at least), it has also blessed fans with products that can be personalized on a whim. Those RAST dressers and EKET cabinets may look basic, but with a few helpful hacks, you can turn your IKEA HEMNES (and pretty much every other item from the Swedish chain) into a DIYed masterpiece.

Another piece that’s totally rad for the DIY inclined? IKEA’s KALLAX line — or if you have its older rendition, the storage unit formerly known as EXPEDIT. It turns out, this simple bookshelf lends itself to an endless assortment of DIY projects suitable for just about any room in your home. It’s proof that one apartment dweller’s big box bookshelf is another’s customized treasure. 

So the next time you’re unable to splurge on a designer bookcase, just take a glance at our round-up of awesome hacks using KALLAX shelves. 

1. Make a mid mod music shelf.

Instagram user @toujourspaloma turned a set of KALLAX shelves into a super chic mid-century modern inspired music shelf. Turned sideways and bolstered by thin table legs, this set of shelves holds a vinyl record player and a set of speakers. She’s used the storage area to house her impressive vinyl collection. 

2. Create storage for an entryway.

How beautiful is this black hallway table by @mysecrethouseaccount? She turned the 30×57 KALLAX sideways and painted it black for a dramatic look. The gold-rimmed mirror on top adds to the elegant, modern aesthetic. 

3. Behind the couch.

By removing the drawers in the middle part of this Kallax shelving system, @silvitadecora created a beautiful addition to her living room. This elegant piece contains plenty of storage but also a nifty place to display favorite books and other knick knacks.

4. Level up a schoolroom.

In this clever KALLAX hack, @clutter_cover added plastic drawers from the TROFAST system to the middle, while hiding potential clutter with doors on the left and right side. It’s a great way to create a clutter-free classroom or homeschooling area. 

5. Loft your bed.

One lucky little lady got an instant bedroom upgrade when her dad (@_home.at.number.7) used several KALLAX systems to create a fun and funky lofted bed for her. With plenty of storage below and a super-rad accent wall behind, we’re definitely seeing green here! 

Credit: @debeitsyou

6. Create something completely unexpected.

Not everyone wants a storage cabinet adorned with a plaid-clad reindeer on the front. But, if you do, the KALLAX is here for you. We love this adorably funky design created by @debeitsyou. And somehow, it totally works. What would you paint on your KALLAX storage system? 

7. Put it in the bathroom.

In this clever KALLAX hack, @adel_archideco turned an 8-cube unit on its side to create an affordable bathroom vanity. Cabinet door covers in alternating colors and a vessel sink on top complete the look. 

8. Completely change it up

Husband and wife duo Starr and David added doors to their KALLAX cube shelves for a glam storage system makeover. They added half-round molding to the plywood doors for texture, and then painted it all a dark gray-green, plus added gold pulls.

9. Create a custom showstopper

You would never believe that this statement stacked bookcase is actually KALLAX shelf units bolted together. Each opening offers space for a new décor accent. 

(Image credit: Lauren Bleackley)

10. Embrace the Scandi style

This gorgeous Scandi-mod sideboard started out as a KALLAX shelf, believe it or not. It received tapered wood legs and gorgeous fluted doors.

(Image credit: Mandy Pellegrin)

11. Make simple upgrades 

Legs from Home Depot and hardware from Anthropologie were simply added to this KALLAX unit which is used as a living room console. 

12. Style a home bar with a mid-century look

Blogger Jazzmine turned an ordinary KALLAX into an extraordinary home bar. The midcentury-style doors have a secret: They’re not real wood! Instead, Jazzmine used wood-patterned contact paper over the KALLAX’s white doors, plus brass ring pulls to complete the look. The setup provides plenty of storage for barware, cute accessories and more.

13. Create a rustic cabinet

The simple shape of the KALLAX makes it easily adaptable to a range of styles. Blogger Shannon Acheson took a smaller style of the KALLAX and turned it into a rustic-looking cabinet by using distressed one-by-four boards to make the farmhouse-style doors. Now, it looks more like something you’d find at a flea market than in the aisles of a Swedish big-box retailer.

14. Construct a storage-rich kitchen island

Blogger Jen Lou Meredith used a KALLAX to create a kitchen island that won’t break the bank. The hack is an excellent way to revive your cooking space without completing a major reno, and you won’t be sacrificing any of the storage space the original piece provides. Key elements: a wood top, towel bar and handy casters.

Credit: Terra Link

15. Give plain shelves a vintage library catalog look

Library catalogs are so stylish but can often be quite expensive, which is why we were thrilled to discover blogger Terra’s KALLAX hack. This revamped piece fits the KALLAX two-drawer units with file cabinet pulls for a vintage-cool vibe. All those drawers look great, and they provide tons of practical storage for a home office, too.

16. Glam up plain doors with overlays

You don’t have to change the color of your KALLAX to give it a high-impact makeover. Get inspired by blogger Ceres and turn your KALLAX into a totally chic sideboard fitted with Greek key-inspired overlays. Lean a luxe mirror on top, and the setup looks totally high-end.

(Image credit: The Sorry Girls)

17. Make a mini wardrobe for clothing storage

Yes, you can use the original KALLAX for folded clothes, but Becky and Kelsey of The Sorry Girls show that adding a clothing rod to the inside offers hanging storage, too. Wood legs and doors add some warmth to the white piece.

Credit: Delia

18. Keep it simple by just adding legs

Adding legs to your KALLAX shelf is a simple yet completely stylish way to upgrade the piece and ensure it will complement the other items in your home. Midcentury modern legs look lovely in blogger Delia’s space.

19. Create a functional flat file cabinet

Flat file cabinets are a smart way to store documents and other small items, and blogger Bettina created one using a KALLAX four-cube unit. Wood drawer fronts in a dark color provide a just-right level of contrast.

Additional reporting by Carolin Lehmann