This Ikea Hack is packed with deep cubbies, expensive-looking trim, and multiple ways to organize your life!
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by what seems like the Everest of underwhelming spaces. Without a game plan, it’s even harder to figure out what you want.
Just when it seems that all is lost, Coach Hack enters Stage Left.
“Yes Sir,” we say. "You say 'Kallax,' I say, 'How High?'”
To which he responds, “The ceiling!”
If you're struggling to establish organization in your home -- whether it be in an office, a playroom, or even a basement bar -- look no further than the ever-versatile KALLAX (formerly known as Expedit) shelving system.
In the following steps I will show you how to take a blank slate Kallax unit and turn it into a one-of-a-kind piece that suits the style of your home. This project is perfect for getting comfortable using a table saw and for learning the ins and outs of custom trim!
All you need to do is channel your inner Coach Hack.
Supplies Needed for Your Kallax System
Disclaimer: this list includes affiliate links, which means I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) should you purchase any of these referred materials. For more, see my disclosures.
- 1 Large Kallax Unit (8 cubbies)
- 1 Small Kallax Unit (4 cubbies)
- 1 set of LINNMON hardware (if you're adding a desk)
- One large sheet of beadboard ripped to two sheets 15-3/8" wide by 8' tall. The excess beadboard will be used for your header. *If your ceiling is taller than 8 feet you may need a second sheet of beadboard.
- Wood glue
- Chair rail molding
- A scrap piece of 1x6 to span the width of your small Kallax
- Scrap 1/4" plywood to cover the front of your cubbies
- White paint (mine is Behr Ultra White in Semi-Gloss, which I use on pretty much everything).
- Spackle to cover nail holes
- Paintable Caulk (I like DAP!) + caulking gun
- Nail gun
- 1-1/4" Brad nails
- Crown molding of your choosing
- Miter saw
- Quarter round shoe molding
- Accessories: cubby bins, hooks, wire baskets
Okay I know this list is intimidating but I promise it's easier than it looks. For the purposes of keeping this post concise the 3-Part Desk build is explained in further detail in this tutorial.
This post should really be called "Trick My Kallax" because that's essentially what it is...
Putting All of the Kallax Pieces Together
Step 1: Assembly
Start by assembling the large and small Kallax units according to the instructions. I'm actually one of those people who finds their instructions amusing/helpful. Visual learners, unite!
Step 2: Position
Position your large Kallax where you want it in the room. I removed the entire baseboard prior to this step because I was redoing the entire room anyway. If you only want to cut out a notch around where your Kallax unit will be going, I recommend using an oscillating multi-tool.
Set your large Kallax unit in place. Stack your small Kallax on top of the large one like this.
Step 3: Anchor
Once everything is positioned where you want it, anchor your Kallax units to the wall using the assembly pieces provided by Ikea.
Step 4: Fancy it up
I had the guys at the lumber mill rip down my boards to 15-3/8" wide since that is the depth of the Kallax. I kept my ripped boards 8 feet long (how it comes in a sheet) since my ceiling is 8 feet tall. I did have to trim it just a smidge because my ceiling isn't perfectly level (shocker!).
Attach beadboard to both sides of your Kallax with wood glue. Secure with brad nails.
Step 5: Add 2x4 Supports
Before adding any special trim, I added small 2x4 supports inside the gap between the Kallax and the ceiling. Again, I wanted a good frame for the future crown molding. Not sure much how it helped, but it certainly didn't hurt!
Step 6: Add All of Your Finish Trim!
Next I added beadboard to the front of my Kallax to cover the gap below the ceiling. You're going to nail it into that small piece of 1x6 you added to the top of your small Kallax earlier. My piece was 30-3/4" across, but measure the width of your gap just to be sure.
After you've secured your top board, continue adding trim made from scrap plywood ripped down by your table saw. The pieces will look something like this (measure to verify):
Now add side molding (such as base cap) to just the sides of your front. Trim to length and secure with wood glue/brad nails.
You can already tell how much better it's starting to look with all these layers of trim!
Step 7: Finish with Crown Molding and Baseboards
Now it's time to cap off the top and bottom of your unit. I added cove molding all around the top of the unit. If you don't know how to cut outside 90-degree corners, I explain the process in greater depth here:
You can see here how Kallax The Great looked once the crown was added. Everything got a coat of paint as well which I will describe in the next few steps.
The last trim you're going to add is a small piece of shoe molding (also know as base cap) around the base of your Kallax. The easiest way to add base cap is to cope your inside corners and cut your outside corners at 45-degree angles with your miter saw.
Final Steps: Surface Touchups and Paint
Now that all your trim is in place, it's time to give everything a layer of frosting. Fill in all of your nail holes with spackle, and fill in all the gaps around your strips of trim with caulk. Just caulk, caulk, and caulk until everything is filled in.
A word of caution: unlike spackle, caulk is not sandable, so only apply it to places that don't need to be perfectly flat (in corners and ridges, etc). The best way to apply caulk is to have a small bowl of water and paper towel nearby so that you can smooth it out with a slightly dampened finger.
Once your spackle has dried, sand down your surfaces so everything is smooth. Make sure the caulk is dry too. Now you can finally paint! Paint, paint, paint.
The next step is completely optional, but I really wanted a three part desk system and didn't like the plain looking desk suggested with the LINNMON hardware.
Luckily for me, the LINNMON hardware works with any kind of desk system. It screws right into your wood surface. Here's how it looks at the attachment points.
You've made it to the end! Give yourself a pat on the back, that was a lot of steps! This is the last part (and fun part) -- add bins, hooks, mail slots -- basically anything that's going to make your life easier.
And yes, I had to empty out these slots for staging purposes. Normally they are STUFFED with important files, business cards, and the like. That's the point!
If you'd like to see how I made Horizontal Shelf Dividers you can see that tutorial here. I also made Vertical Shelf Dividers with a secret slot system!
If you'd like more tips and great info feel free to join the Top Shelf DIY Handywoman Facebook Community -- it's a great place to ask questions and feel supported. If building stuff is your kind of jam, we'd love to have you!