transformation month

These 3 Easy DIY Projects Can Transform Your Plain IKEA KALLAX into a ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s Masterpiece

published Sep 1, 2021
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Before: white four-cube IKEA KALLAX shelf laid horizontally on white carpet
Credit: Cat Meschia

September is Transformation Month at Apartment Therapy! That means we’re sharing stories about home transformations — from big renovations to tiny tweaks — all month. Head over here to see them all!

In terms of versatility, it’s hard to beat the IKEA KALLAX. The shelving systems come in sizes ranging from small two-block-by-two-block cubes to giant four-block-by-five-block full-wall units. Besides that, they of course come plain, but can also be fitted with IKEA’s own drawers, shelves, and doors to create a piece that fits your unique needs.

Of course, the style for all of the KALLAX options remains pretty consistent: simple cube shapes in either white or black-brown. It’s clean, modern, and — best of all — completely hackable. That’s why it’s such a great candidate for a redo in virtually any style — and in honor of Apartment Therapy’s Transformation Month, we wanted to reimagine this classic piece with three very different design interpretations. For inspiration, we looked back to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and tapped into the most design-forward trends of those decades.

Read on to see what this familiar piece looks like through the style lenses of bygone eras — and click into each to get step-by-step instructions and photos for how to put it together yourself.

Credit: Trisha Sprouse
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A Small KALLAX Gets the 1960s Brutalist Treatment

Brutalist furniture was all about raw materials, showcasing blocky geometric designs paired with natural wood finishes. To bring the look to an all-white KALLAX, you’ll just need stick-on veneer, scrap wood, stain, and glue. Get the full DIY tutorial here.

A Long KALLAX Becomes a 1970s-Style Burl Wood Credenza

There’s something that feels ultra swanky about shiny, mottled burl wood, especially when paired with gold accents. While the real thing is pricey, you can fake the look with contact paper and a little patience. Find the full how-to here.

Credit: Cristina Chavarriaga
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A Plain KALLAX Goes to Memphis with a Funky 1980s Update

The 1980s were all about big hair, big shoulder pads, and big design choices. The best example of the latter: The Memphis design group, whose funky, colorful, and offbeat style was a hallmark of the 1980s. Want a little of that retro flair in your home? You can get there with some clever wood cuts and a some specialized paint finishes. Get the step-by-step here.