IKEA Shelving, Modified

July 17, 2012

Progress continues on the playroom to study transformation – I’m trying to get it all done before the kids go back to school in late August.  One of the major changes I wanted to make was to have a wall of shelving that would contain books, art supplies, games, and a modern TV for the kids to view videos on occasion.

You may recall the laminate entertainment center that used to sit in the space – a fabulous piece but always a little bulky.  It jutted out into the room, but that was necessary to hold my old college television and my kids would watch their VHS movies on it.  We decided to donate that piece of furniture to the Alma Project family room so I went in search of some new shelving for this space.

I wanted to something streamlined, modern, narrow, but wide too and I most definitely did not want to spend a fortune.  Enter the IKEA VITTSJÖ shelving unit, $70 bucks each!  It comes in black metal with glass shelves, but I wanted to transform it to suit our home, so I painted it white and substituted dark wood shelves for glass – here it is.



The unit when assembled looks like this.


But I thought white with wood shelving would be better fit for our home. These transformed inexpensive shelves are now perfect for this space !

ikea shelves side view cg



There is just enough room for educational books, artwork, and some greenery.

green magazine file folders cg


green magazine file folder history

kids books on shelf


The magazine file folders are get this – painted!   Seriously.  It’s cause I’m cheap resourceful like that.  I already had the set of four orange canvas ones from a few years ago (I think I found them at The Container Store?) so I painted them with a craft paint – reinvented for pennies!

painted magazine folders

blue magazine folders and kids books

That cute green oversized clothespin is adorable, I know!  I found it at Pottery Barn Kids five years ago, sadly it’s no longer available but I say bring it back in all kinds of colors because it’s not just a decorative accent, it can hang on the wall and hold art, love that.

Hedgehog, otherwise known as Mr. Prickles, is running joke in our home.  Long story short, it’s the one forest animal our daughter stumped us on last year in a 30 minute game of “Guess The Animal” making us “furious!” and every time the kids want to make us mad they say “Hedgehog” and then get tickled to death.  Mr. Prickles has a place of honor in our home – acrylic watercolor purchased from Dimdi on Etsy.

hedgehog and dark shelves

This is a good time to talk about those shelves – they are made of birch plywood.  I didn’t like the idea of glass shelves in this space and I’m smitten with the white + dark wood combo (see these end tables and my personal Pinterest board dedicated to the subject) so I decided to replace them with stained wood shelves.

I headed to my local Lowes because it has a pretty good selection of wood.  I could have cut up a piece of regular ol’ ½” plywood but I opted instead for the prettier birch.  I have to tell you I stood there debating over cutting up the $30 piece of of inexpensive plywood and spending $75 for nicer birch (4’ x 4’ sheets) for half an hour and ended up choosing the latter because I liked the grain so much better.

Lowes offers free cuts for their wood so I had their guy cut my ten shelves to the size I needed. I also grabbed three cans of Rust-Oleum spray paint in semi-gloss to turn the shelves from dark to light.

rustoleum spray paint minwax stain


I used my leftover stain from the X base table – two coats – then added one coat of Minwax Polyurethane in ‘Satin’.

minwax special walnut stain

minwax wipe on polyurethane


Plywood has unattractive edges, so the best way to disguise them is to cover them with iron on edging, use wood putty, or take the easy route and paint the edges with some dark brown paint – a solution I’m satisfied with in this circumstance since the edges aren’t that visible anyway because they mostly sit inside the shelving unit.

hide plywood edges


Both shelving units are secured to the wall with these earthquake straps- the same ones we had on the old entertainment center.

earthquake straps


The final result from staining the birch plywood is a nice contrast between dark shelves and the white painted frame – it plays well with the adjacent dark wood table and white window seat.

colored pencils and books cg


I love how integrated the smaller flat screen TV is…

ikea hack vittsjo shelving cg


… five bazillion points if you can identify this movie.

smaller tv on shelf


I really love how I can display a rotating art gallery on top.  Picasso said it best, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”   The butterfly art is from IKEA but the rest are *masterpieces* created by the children.

kids art on shelf cg


art on display above shelves


And that’s the story on how a plain ol’ IKEA shelf became the perfect fit in our house!

vittsjo shelving ikea hack

The whole project including two shelving units, new wood shelves, and spray paint cost me $225 because I spent the extra $$ on the nicer plywood, but I’m crazy loving this new sleek modern wall of shelving in our home!

ikea shelves side view cg

ikea vittsjo shelving makeover cg


Want more ideas for personalizing the Vittsjo pieces? 

Take a peek at this follow up post (think color, rustic, and glam!)



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131 Responses to “IKEA Shelving, Modified”

  1. CB says:

    i LOVE this hack and just bought all the “ingredients” to put this together except I cannot find the white spray paint (Rustoleum one) in semi gloss, here in Canada i just seem to find the “Gloss” or “Flat” which would you suggest if any or another brand?

  2. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi CB, you can go with any white spray paint, but make sure it’s one that works on metal, otherwise you’ll have to prime first!

  3. Allie says:


    My boyfriend and I plan to give this a shot at our new apartment. We would be using the same size Unit that you used in the tutorial. After reading the comments I have some nervousness about shelf sagging under book weight. You mentioned that your unit has a center support for each shelf. I just wanted to double check that they came with that bc when I look at the picture on the ikea site the center supoorts dont appear to be there…its possible they photo shopped them out to make the glass shelving look nicer but I just thought I’d ask before I dove into this project.

    Thanks so much!

  4. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Allie, they are definitely there on the larger pieces, but not the skinnier ones. There is a 3/4″ metal bracket that sticks out underneath the Vittsjo shelf to support it on those larger units I used.

  5. Thomas says:

    Additionally, what size did you get the ply wood cut?

    Thanks so much!


  6. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hello Thomas, I used the existing shelf and took it to Lowes where they used it as a template to cut the plywood to fit exactly.

  7. The shelves look amazing! What a great “hack.” How has the white paint held up?

  8. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Korrie the paint still looks great!

  9. amy says:


  10. Paige says:

    how is the quality of this IKEA line? I love your ideas!

  11. CentsationalGirl says:

    So far, it’s really great Paige, shockingly good for mass produced – IKEA does it again!

  12. Julie says:

    Hi! I plan to spray paint mine too soon. My question is, using that kind of spray paint, did you just spray it on the metal? And how many layers did you do? :)

  13. Bridget says:

    Love it! Where did you get the rug from by the way?

  14. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Julie, 2 layers of paint, and I used RustOleum directly on the metal, no priming.

  15. Julie says:

    Alright thanks! I actually decided to prime mine just to be sure. Using the compatible rust-oleum primer spray.
    day 1: prime
    day 2: 1st layer of paint

    I noticed on one area (one bar actually) there is some micro cracking. SHould I sand just that area, then prime and paint again? I was hoping since it’s just micro cracking, maybe I can just paint over it :p

  16. kristin says:

    This looks great and simple to do! I do want to add that I have seen the over-sized clothes pin at AC Moore (it’s in the unpainted wood section).
    Great Job on your hack!

  17. Ashley says:

    you can find those giant clothespins now at Michaels Arts and Crafts Stores—sometimes they are a seasonal item so call ahead to be sure but they’re huge, colorful, awesome (and paint well if needed!)

  18. Nicole says:

    This idea is so awesome! I have been looking for a new shelving unit and this seems like the perfect solution. I looked up the unit on Ikea’s website for size dimensions but they don’t give a dimension for the shelves…just the entire unit itself. What are the measurements (LxWxH) of the “cubbies”? Want to be sure before I make the drive to Ikea and purchase. Thanks!

  19. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Nicole, IKEA does lists their dimensions, here they are (for the shelves we used)
    Width: 39 3/8 ”
    Depth: 14 1/8 ”
    Height: 68 7/8 “

  20. Lisa says:

    one of the opening scenes from Star Wars. The original Star Wars

  21. CentsationalGirl says:

    Awesome Lisa, you got it! Lots of folks thought it was Spaceballs! :)

  22. lolo says:

    LOVE this look! I have been attempting to track down your area rug on the web–can you tell me where you bought it??


  23. Kristina says:

    Michaels’s craft stores have giant clothes pins like that right now for I think only $3 a piece

  24. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Emily, I don’t know the exact dimensions, I just used the existing shelf that comes with it as a template, so whatever the measurements of that IKEA shelf are, those were the measurements of the new shelf.

  25. Heidi says:

    I love this IKEA hack! I am going to do it soon, once I get to an IKEA store (4 hours away). What size tv do you have? I am going to buy a tv for this shelf and am not sure on the size for it. I love how it fits nice and doesn’t look out of place!

  26. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hello Heidi, the screen measures 14″ tall by 18″ wide.

  27. Oriah says:


    I’m wondering now that you’ve been living with these shelves for a while, are you happy with them? How are they holding up? I just bought two (they’re on sale for $59/each) and am having them delivered because i just can’t face a 3 hour round trip drive (if traffic is “good”) to the ikea outside DC.


  28. CentsationalGirl says:

    Still holding up perfectly Oriah! Very pleased with them.

  29. Tracey says:

    Great job with the shelves. I love the rug. Thanks for the link. They now ship to Australia!! Lucky for me!

  30. Rachel says:

    This is gorgeous! How do you secure them to the wall? I want to do something like this but I am afraid I won’t be able to since it would be on an exposed cinderblock wall. Thanks for your help.

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