Before and After: A Stylish and Practical DIY Transforms this Drab IKEA KALLAX

published Sep 12, 2023
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Before: Empty white IKEA KALLAX 5-by-5 cube shelf
Credit: Michelle Malia

One way you can make a small room feel bigger and more functional? By creating “walls” using large shelving to lend privacy and help divide certain areas from others. This trick came in clutch for Michelle Malia and her husband, who bought a large IKEA KALLAX shelving unit to help make the most of their 250-square-foot Manhattan studio apartment.

“We liked that it doubled as storage and as a divider to create a sense of separation between our bed and table,” Michelle says. “From a functionality standpoint, it did wonders! It held our books, art supplies, electronics, clothes, plants, etc. etc.”

But they started to grow tired of the open shelving look after a while. “I love the look of open shelving when you also have closed shelving to hide your unsightly items, but when open shelving is all you’ve got, it can start to look like chaos,” Michelle says.

Not long after, the couple moved to a larger loft in Brooklyn where they wouldn’t need the shelving as a room divider — but they didn’t want to lose the ample storage it provided. “Throughout the move, I’ve tried to buy new as little as possible to minimize my carbon footprint,” Michelle says. “So instead of donating or selling the KALLAX and buying something else that fit our needs, I thought I could solve the issue by adding doors to the unit.”

Credit: Michelle Malia

Inspired by furniture she saw at Anthropologie and Crate & Barrel, Michelle reached for cane webbing to give her KALLAX a whole new look. Michelle’s shopping list was minimal: pine for the door frames ($30), hinges for the doors ($15), material for new pulls ($20), and cane webbing, which was the most expensive item at $275.

Michelle’s father-in-law, Mike, is a talented carpenter and lent Michelle a hand in the building process. “Not only did he let me use all the tools in his workshop, but he was also kind enough to teach me how to use the ones I hadn’t touched before, like the router and biscuit joiner,” Michelle says. “I’m very much a beginner when it comes to building and I’m so thankful for his willingness to help!”

Credit: Michelle Malia

Once Michelle built the doors, she installed the cane webbing and created new pulls from leather straps fastened with brass bolts. Her multi-door design gives her unit a totally custom feel, and gives full access to all of the shelves inside.

“Before, the shelving unit looked drab and worn. The new doors are much easier on the eyes and they match the aesthetic of our new loft, with its white brick, tall ceilings, and big windows,” Michelle says. “I love the way this DIY came out! It combines form and function perfectly.”

This post originally published on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A Stylish and Practical DIY Transforms this Drab IKEA KALLAX