14 Brilliant Ways to Use the IKEA Kallax Bookcase

updated Feb 26, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Ashlee White

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 MDF 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.

Today, I’m zeroing in on the chameleon that is IKEA’s KALLAX line — or if you have its older rendition, the storage unit formerly known as EXPEDIT. What is one apartment dweller’s big box bookshelf, however, is another’s customized treasure, which is further proven by these 11 projects. So the next time you’re unable to splurge on a designer bookcase, just know you can lean on these ideas to make even the most wallet-friendly shelving units live up to your style expectations.

1. Create a multifunctional piece.

Instagram user @do.it.yourself.mum created something absolutely stunning from a simple IKEA KALLAX. She added a hearty piece of wood to the top, and lined the bottom and the backs with wood. A fresh coat of handsome navy paint coordinates perfectly with the dark wood tone, coming together to create a masterpiece that could be used as a bar cart, nightstand or small bookshelf. 

2. Add a charming reading nook.

Two KALLAX units are at the center of this pretty little reading nook for kids. Instagram user @mybuttercuphome_ placed one vertically and the other horizontally to create a comfy place to read, then used storage baskets to hold books and other belongings. 

Credit: @debeitsyou

3. Add some custom art.

A KALLAX box becomes a whimsical place to sit thanks to @debeitsyou’s cute design. She added a sweet dandelion print to the side of a white KALLAX box, then provided a comfy chair pad on the top for a bit of extra seating in her place. 

4. Separate your space.

Blogger Natalia of Natalys Corner managed to eke out more storage and decorative display space with the help of a beautifully styled KALLAX shelf. By situating it between two rooms, you can carve out distinct zones for anything from a workspace to a reading nook in style. Oh — and don’t forget to add a lot of plants. That way you’ll add life and color to this special spot, too. 

5. Make room for happy hour at home.

Household happy hour just got a whole new meaning. Rebecca Anderson of The Place Next Door used KALLAX shelves to create the towers of this stunning home bar and used IKEA’s BESTA units to construct the bottom half. Who knew that a classic flat-pack product could be transformed into an Art Deco-reminiscent statement piece?

Credit: Tea at 83

6. Zhuzh up a basic bookshelf.

Yellow paint, diamond contact paper, and mid-century modern-inspired hairpin legs gave this KALLAX a totally new, vibrant lease on life. Instagrammer Tea at 83 shows how easily a little splash of color and a fresh pattern can instantly revive a plain set of shelves.

Credit: Ashlee White

7. Beautify your vanity.

Even minimalists can make a few tweaks to ensure that big box furniture feels bespoke. Just follow in the footsteps of Ashlee White. Elegant gold pulls and a matching gold mirror allowed White to take her KALLAX from basic to a chic, more expensive looking design.

8. Keep with your color palette.

Instagrammer Hannah of Mama and Mini Mees didn’t have to reconstruct her KALLAX or even paint it for that matter to make it feel updated and customized. Working in some playful pink and white storage baskets that corresponded with the rest of the room’s decor, she made her IKEA staple look like a totally different item.

(Image credit: Bookshelf Porn)

9. Layout your own library.

Most bookworms dream of amassing a collection of their favorite reads, where one can slide from shelf to shelf on an enormous ladder. If you’re still waiting on a room big enough to make that happen, this is a perfect smaller space solution from the Bookshelf Porn blog. Stack a few KALLAX bookcases placed side by side, source a vintage ladder, and you’ll be all set.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

10. Sub a KALLAX in for your nightstand.

There often comes a time when you get bored of your current decor situation. If the room you’re itching to redo is a bedroom, try swapping out your nightstands with KALLAX or EXPEDIT bookcases, as seen here from Skona Hem. Just this one tweak can quickly  change your room’s look. If you’re extra short on space, you might even consider mounting a small KALLAX to your wall as a floating bedside table.

(Image credit: IKEA Hackers)

11. Elevate your work area.

Your WFH space deserves major love, especially when you spend all morning and afternoon there slogging through those emails! Frame your desk with KALLAX shelves, like IKEA Hackers did here with EXPEDITS to make room for all those books and accent vases you’ve collected over the years.

(Image credit: IKEA Hackers)

12. Get super artsy.

This is another perfect example of how to divide a room with one of IKEA’s most beloved items, courtesy of the IKEA Hackers blog. Using steel frames and custom metal legs, DIYer Jules Yap was able to lift her shelves and even add in an art display.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

13. Amp up an accent wall.

Who said an accent wall had to be 2D or even 3D for that matter? Why not make your space pop by filling the wall with bookcases like in this New York apartment? You won’t find a more perfect way to display your favorite reads and those cool tchotchkes you brought back from your travels and never really found a home for yet.

(Image credit: IKEA Club)

14. Make room for everything.

There are some pesky must-haves in life that kind of float around your home with nowhere to go — a printer, for instance, or those files of random receipts and documents. In this case, you can lean on a DIY KALLAX to make room for all those things and then some. This hack from IKEA Club proves this method can keep all your miscellany looking clean and streamlined, too.