I Turned an IKEA Bookcase into a TV Console (Without a Single Power Tool!)

published Jul 1, 2024
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Ikea bookshelf used as TV/Media stand.
Credit: Photo by Amy Bartlam; Styling by Kelly Dawson

A funny thing happens when you do something for a long time — it becomes a part of you and a part of how you see the world, without you having much of a say in it. Case in point: After years of writing about other people’s homes professionally, I knew the spaces that best resonated with me were those most reflective of their owners. People who loved displaying souvenirs always spoke warmly about their travels, just as those who love a certain living room paint color always seemed to be wearing it during our chats. Homes feel their best when they’re treated like mirrors, and I wanted mine to reflect me. So when I first stepped into an angular, sunny apartment in my hometown, honestly, the first thought I had was the furthest wall from the door needed a long console. 

I could already picture how I would style that piece. I’ve learned from many, many interviews with designers that you almost never want to block natural light or stick all of your furniture up against walls, which meant that a full-length slider on one side of the living room was best left unencumbered, and putting a sofa on the opposing wall simply made no sense. The apartment also had limited storage in a single closet and a hallway cupboard, so the living room’s square footage would have to do a lot. By the time I signed the lease, I already had a living room layout idea

Here’s another funny thing about doing something for a long time: You know where to find the deals. I knew long consoles don’t come cheap, and IKEA would likely be my best bet for one. Furthermore, I didn’t want a short build. After using a tape measure and painter’s tape to map out the room, I determined that a console a little over 9 feet wide and 3 feet tall would be perfect. That way, I could center it beneath a television, and the combination would make the wall look balanced. 

IKEA’s VIHALS bookcase fit these needs nearly to a T, in proportions and possibilities. I like to write about DIY projects more than I like to undertake them, and the vision I had for this unit only required assembly. The abundant shelving provided an opportunity for color, texture, and layering that also encouraged my love of collecting books. I chose the white finish for the shelves so that they’d almost disappear behind those books, magazines, and knicknacks. By the time the shelving and television were in place, I pictured art hung symmetrically on either side of the frame and plants growing in the corners. The bookshelves turned console make the living room feel lived in, although nearly everything in it is brand-new. 

Here’s one more thing I’ve learned over the years as a design writer: Styling takes patience. I started by lining the middle shelves with a continuous row of books, tricking the eye into believing that the bookcase is all one piece (it’s three smushed together). I moved titles around until they were as even as possible, and then turned my attention to objects. I’d place one piece down and step back to see how it looked and then another, noting gentle contrasts between shapes and shades. It’s best to do this when you have time to spare. 

Credit: Photo by Amy Bartlam; Styling by Kelly Dawson

The large woven baskets on the bottom of the bookcase hold blankets and my nephew’s toys, while the small sage boxes match the rug and hold more unsightly things like cords and instruction manuals. I moved the National Geographic magazines toward the top of the console in two separate cubbies to balance out the covers’ bright shade and then found the “right” spots for ceramics a friend made, souvenirs, sentimental keepsakes, and HomeGoods scores from post-dinner strolls down the aisles. Move one thing here, another thing there, and yet another thing over there until it all feels harmonious to you. 

My bookcase turned console is perhaps my favorite piece in my home. It’s the first thing anyone sees when they walk in, and I’m glad it makes a statement. But that statement is also entirely me: someone who loves to read but can’t stop watching TV, someone who once subscribed to National Geographic but is routinely scared of the dark, and someone who loves being at home and wanted it to feel like such.