7 Domino-Approved IKEA Kallax Hacks, Whether You Want a Console or a Dining Bench
Think outside the box—literally.
Updated Mar 8, 2023 10:46 AM
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Whether you’re an ardent book cover color-coder or a master of the vignette, styling a shelf is one of the quickest ways to make a space feel totally your own. So what about taking it a step further and customizing the piece of furniture itself? IKEA’s Kallax shelving unit is about as blank slate as it gets.
Clean lined, easy to construct, and available in only a handful of neutral shades (once you’re on the lookout, you’ll spot the white flat-pack unit everywhere), it offers the perfect canvas for first-time DIYers—mount it to make an elevated record display in a matter of minutes or add a lick of paint to create a splashy backdrop for cactus and curios. Ahead, we’ve rounded up seven of our all-time favorite IKEA Kallax hacks. This is one project where it helps to think outside the box.
Paint It the Same Color as the Walls
This room in designer Katherine Thewlis’s home does it all: It’s a playroom, storage area, and bonus nap zone for her baby. Views by Clare sets the backdrop for the space, and by painting the two IKEA bookshelves the same blue hue, the units fade into the walls, giving the storage a luxe look. Adding a changing pad on top and a dedicated cubby for diapers right below nixed the need for a changing table.
Tuck Away Toys
It wasn’t just the sheer simplicity of this fix that struck us the most, it’s that it looks better than an ordinary cabinet with doors. For the Kallax units in her daughter’s room, London designer Jo Sampson tacked on slivers of fabric panels to the frame. To secure it, we suggest adhering sew-on Velcro backing to the curtain and the shelf, as it will make it easier to remove for washing.
Take a Seat
The great thing about the singular Kallax is that it’s the perfect height to sit on. Rather than spend a fortune on a custom kitchen banquette, design blogger and author Medina Grillo made her own bench by topping it with a painted piece of wood.
Make It Float
Molly Torres Portnof and her husband, who owns a record label, are both huge audiophiles, so Portnof wall-mounted the Kallax to display his prized record setup. The designer recommends bringing the eye up as much as possible, especially in smaller spaces, and this floating unit does just that. Pro tip: Be sure to use wall anchors when securing the unit, especially if your wall is drywall or plaster.
Give It a Facelift
Lauren Bleackley of the fashion blog Black With Navy has owned her Kallax shelf since her college days, and it has served many functions. When she realized she was growing increasingly weary of its original espresso color, she opted for a refresh with $19 worth of white paint, plus the addition of drawer and door inserts and tapered wood legs (see the full DIY here). She transformed the open shelving unit into closed storage with fluted textured door fronts, so her new and improved Kallax now serves as a sideboard, perfect for a dining room or entry space.
Get a Leg Up
Unable to find a record shelf she loved on the market, Romina Halewat made one herself. Working with a single-shelf, four-cubby unit, she added sleek cabinet doors and ultra-thin tapered legs to elevate the Kallax’s basic building blocks with a mid-century modern vibe. In quintessential Scandi style, the functional media console houses all her vinyl in one easy-on-the-eyes piece.
Think Outside the Box
In the ultimate reimagination of the Kallax, pro IKEA hacker Linda Kullenberg transformed the square unit into a sky’s-the-limit play station for her three kids, inspired by their obsession with household appliances. With designed-to-fit vinyls and some basic rod-and-hooks hardware, Kullenberg fashioned a play kitchen on the front and a laundry room setup on the back. “The lights run on battery, so there are no cords or anything in the way,” she explains. One lesson she learned the hard way: Measure and think small scale. “My first try was a total failure, since I used the top of the shelf as the kitchen counter, and my daughter couldn’t reach it!” she recalls. The midlevel shelf gives room to grow—it’s more easily accessible for children, and then you can add wheels or table legs when your kiddos start needing a little extra height.