IKEA Crafting Cabinet Hack
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
Welcome to my inaugural blog post! I developed this blog after hearing over and over again that I needed a better method to share my hacks and projects. My most recent project (a DIY crafting cabinet) received so much positive attention and requests for tutorials that I finally bit the bullet and designed this blog.
A few days after Christmas, my sister-in-law showed me a link to a product called the "Dream Box". It appeared to be an arts and crafts fanatic's dream come true, a place to organize and store all your materials, complete with a Murphy Desk--and the best part was it would fold together into a traditional piece of furniture!
The only downside was the product cost around $2500. Unfortunately for me, that was a non-starter.
I searched the internet for ideas...but strangely could not find an already-existing hack! So I endeavored to invent an IKEA hack that would meet the same standard, but for $500 or less.
Every time I wander the endless corn-maze that is IKEA, I feel like I am Vizzini...challenged by all those nonsensical product names to a battle of wits. Either I will invent a brilliant new piece of furniture...or I will die hysterically laughing, believing in my own flawed genius even to the end.
What do you think?!?
...I'm not one to gloat,
but I feel like I nailed it...
I will try to provide a step-by-step tutorial, as well as pricing wherever possible. If you enjoy this blog, please subscribe as I will periodically post new hacks and crafting tutorials!
First, let's start with a shopping list!
2x IKEA Billy Bookshelves (31.5" x 11" x 79.5")
(Price varies by finish, for the black I paid $80 each)
4x IKEA Oxberg Doors (15.75" x 38.25")
(Price varies by finish, for the black I paid $45 each)
1x Safety latch (there are so many amazing latches out there, but I highly recommend you have one to keep the doors shut, especially if you have curious toddlers around! I couldn't find a link to the specific latch I chose, but it looks like this:
5x 3" Door hinges in oil rubbed bronze finish
(I purchased mine at Lowes for $2.78 each)
Gatehouse 3-in Oil-Rubbed Bronze Mortise Door Hinge in the Door Hinges department at Lowes.com
1x Arch cup cabinet door pull in oil rubbed bronze finish
(Lowes for $2.38)
allen + roth 2-1/2-in Center to Center Satin Nickel and Black Arch Cup Cabinet Door Pull in the Drawer Pulls department at Lowes.com
1x Arch handle cabinet door pull in nickel finish
(Lowes for $4.48)
Brainerd Caroline Collection 3-in Center to Center Satin Nickel Arch Handle Cabinet Door Pull in the Drawer Pulls department at Lowes.com
2x Decorative drawer knobs
(I used Lowes' dusty blue and satin nickel cabinet knobs for $4.97 each but I encourage you to be as creative as you like on the hardware!)
Brainerd Ceramic Pumpkin 1.7677-in Dusty Blue and Satin Nickel Round Cabinet Knob in the Cabinet Knobs department at Lowes.com
3x Packs of furniture glides--$2.97 each (this will ONLY work if you will be keeping your cabinet on a hard surface...if you want to store the cabinet on carpet--good luck! You will need to find a caster wheel solution that I was unable to come up with...more to follow on that nightmare)
SoftTouch 4-Pack Carpet Non-Swivel Furniture Glide in the Furniture Glides department at Lowes.com
2x Table leg straight top plate
(Lowes for @2.98 each)
Waddell Metal Table Leg Straight Top Plate in the Table Leg Hardware department at Lowes.com
Sanded plywood: you will use this to build the top of your Murphy Desk. The interior of your bookshelf is 30", so it is up to you to decide what is a comfortable height for your desk. I went with a simple 30" x 30" square. I was challenged to find a piece this size, as most of the available pieces at the hardware store were 24" x 48". Begrudgingly, I bought an 8' piece of beautifully smooth sanded plywood (which was quite expensive, I believe it was around $45) and I will use the excess to finish the IKEA hack built-in dartboard that I am also working on (blog post on that project to follow)
You will need approximately 12' of any type of wood that is 1/2" deep...it doesn't really matter how wide (I went for 2" wide and 1/2" deep), this will be used to support the Oxburg doors, which create the effect of a faux front to the cabinet
Trim: You will use this to create a more finished effect on the top of the cabinet, my advice would be to find something that is about 3" high and relatively narrow in depth. I will go into more detail on the trim further in this blog post. You will need AT LEAST 7 feet...but possibly more if you are as bad at making bevel cuts as I am.
Odds and Ends:
Contact paper: You will use this to cover the unfinished backing to the IKEA shelf. You can be as creative as you like, there are THOUSANDS of different contact paper designs out there! I selected this one, and purchased 4x rolls...(I probably needed five but I was able to make do with just four)
Amazon.com - GLOW4U Self Adhesive Vinyl Decorative Floral Shelf Drawer Liner Paper Peel and Stick Wallpaper for Cabinets Shelves Dresser Drawer Furniture Wall Sticker Crafts Decal 17.7x78.7 Inches -
Table Legs: These will be as tall as you feel your desk needs to be for individual comfort. When measuring, remember that you need to include the extra height the hinge will add to your calculations (more on this later). You may want to buy your table legs AFTER you have determined where your Murphy Desk will sit inside the bookshelf.
Adhesive: You will find that you will be using contractor-grade adhesive several times throughout this project...remember that this stuff is no joke, and if you use it wrong you had better invest in a chisel (I had to!)
LOCTITE PL Premium Max 9-fl oz Gray Multi-Purpose Construction Adhesive in the Construction Adhesive department at Lowes.com
Polycrylic Finish: I LOVE this product! I refaced all my kitchen and bathroom cabinets in this sealer.
Minwax Polycrylic Clear Flat Water-Based Polyurethane (Half Pint) in the Sealers department at Lowes.com
Now let's get building!!
Open your IKEA Billy bookshelf packaging and assemble according to package instructions.
STOP before you place the backing on the shelves!
Remember, you are creating a faux front using the back of one of your shelves, so you will need to cover the UNFINISHED side to the shelf backing in contact paper, so your finished side can still face out:
As you can tell...I didn't figure this out until I was working on the second shelf backing...thankfully I was able to just make my second shelf the outward-facing one.
You could run the contact paper long-wise...but it's much easier to control contact paper if you do shorter runs and I figured horizontal lines would be much easier to hide with shelves than a vertical line.
Once you have assembled both bookshelves, place one face-down on the floor, we are going to begin assembling the faux front. Remember you need the finished side of the backing facing outwards.
On the IKEA bookshelf, the backing is not flush with the edges of the shelf, there is a 1/2" gap. You could place the Oxburg doors solely on the back, but the unfinished edges of the shelf will show. I opted to float the doors from the shelf edges to the center using some 1/2" braces.
This is where you will use your 1/2" deep boards. I opted for two that were 1/2" x 2" x 6'. I quickly painted them a flat black, using regular acrylic paint.
Honestly, I know IKEA claims these shelves are "black-brown"...but all my espresso stains were too rich and multi-colored for this project. My best match was a flat acrylic black paint, which I then sealed using a polycrylic in satin finish.
Affix the braces along the fold lines in the backing using the contractor-grade adhesive.
After you give it a little time to dry, spread the adhesive on the tops of these braces and on the unfinished edges of the bookshelf, then place the Oxburg doors on.
This adhesive is NO JOKE, and it can be very difficult to spread, even with a caulking gun.
Just look at that handsome man! (My husband got tired of watching me using an oven mitt to protect my palms while trying to spread the adhesive, I highly encourage making this project a team event!)
A word on door placement. IF you are choosing to use a decorative trim along the top, make sure you temporarily place that trim at the top so you can measure the door placement off of where you want the trim to end up.
Glue the decorative drawer pulls while the bookshelf is lying face down and let the adhesive dry overnight.
My husband is a big fan of the book series (and to a somewhat lesser extent the TV series) The Strain...he is convinced that I have built the Master vampire's coffin...he's totally creeped out by it when it's all closed up. The decorative trim and handles helped immensely with this and I might paint flowers or something on the exterior to make it a little less boxy.
In this step you need to ignore ALL the above pictures featuring caster wheels on the bottom of the bookshelf. I went around and around and around with these wheels (ha! because they're wheels...get it??!) and at the end of the day I could not figure out a way to make these suckers safe.
I started with little casters, planning on spreading the weight evenly over MANY casters. The problem with small casters is the bottom of the Billy shelf actually sits 3" up off the floor. By the time I had upgraded to casters that could clear that 3" gap, they could no longer fit side-by-side, limiting the number and placement options. As soon as I placed the bookshelf upright, it was so narrow and top-heavy that it immediately tried to fall over...and I mean immediately. Granted once the hinges were on there likely would have been enough weight to help stabilize the thing, I also needed to lift the other shelf a similar amount to make the two sides of the cabinet flush. I also have a toddler and two VERY rambunctious dogs. In the interests of safety, I gave up on affixing wheels to the bottom and instead opted for the much more economical carpeted furniture gliders. These nail into the bottom of the unit. I placed 10 gliders on the moveable side and 4 gliders on the base side of the cabinet.
**If anyone can figure out a safe way to affix wheels to the cabinet, PLEASE reach out with your own tutorial!
While both bookshelves are on the ground, line them up and attach your safety latch, then stand them up and attach the hinges. Make sure you include at least three hinges, one being close to the top (but at least 3" down from the top if you intend to include decorative trim), and one being close to the bottom to ensure that the ends of your cabinet remain as flush as possible.
A word about this decorative trim. It's a NIGHTMARE
In the next step we are going to talk about how to cut the bevel edges and attach the trim, but very quickly--remember that when your bookcases open on
their hinges if you place trim on to top of both bookshelves on the hinge side, you will not be able
to open the bookcase all the way. This is
because the width of the trim when placed next to itself will be wider than the hinge can open.
For many this may seem like common sense, but it was a very nasty revelation for me. One that required power sanders, chisels, touch-up paint, and a lot of thanks that the hinge side was facing the back corner of the wall.
I recommend you sand the backside of the trim as thin as you can go, that way the finished side facing out still looks fresh.
I also recommend placing a gap about the size of your finger between the two bookshelves when the hinges are closed. This allows more space between the bookshelves when they were opened all the way. If you close the safety latch while installing the hinges, the swinging-out face of the cabinet will close flush while the pivot-point of the hinge will have a little extra clearance to open...even with the trim.
If you choose not to include the decorative trim, you can skip the next step and you don't have to worry about the hinge placement as much...but your cabinet will appear more boxy. Also, if you do not include the trim make sure that your doors are flush with the top when applying the adhesive, and you will be able to see a 3" gap on the floor which you may need to install another piece of painted and sealed wood to disguise.
This step is all about technical skills such as making bevel cuts (I was able to accomplish this using a miter saw).
First thing I learned the hard way was that the inside edge of the bevel cut needs to be the full width of the shelf. Your target for the front is 31.5". I made the mistake of measuring 31.5" and then making bevel cuts...as a result my trim was about an inch too short. You need to figure out how deep your trim is, multiply that by 2 and add that amount to the initial measurement.
My trim was 1/2" thick, so I added an inch to my initial measurement and that got me basically to where I needed to go. For anyone uncertain on how to make bevel cuts, I recommend reaching out to YouTube or other resources, because I am definitely not qualified to give pointers. Thankfully, my husband had an extra piece of trim stashed away for a project he was intending to complete...I *ahem* reallocated it after my first string of disasters and was able to make it work
Again, aim to place your hinge-side in an area that receives little foot-traffic, because you cannot place a piece of trim on the pivot-side back bookcase if you want the cabinet to open fully. You still can place trim on the back bookcase on the swing-out side.
See? By strategically placing your cabinet your guests can't even tell you had to chisel off the trim on the opposite side. Hopefully if you are still following along in this tutorial...you won't have this problem.
Affix the trim with the adhesive. If you are like me, even your best bevel cuts will not create absolutely perfectly-matching 45 degree angles. Use a little wood filler to seal these gaps, once it dries you can lightly sand it, paint, and seal the corners to create a more polished and professional look.
Again, after much trial and error my best match was a $2 bottle of black acrylic paint from Walmart and my trusty polycrylic sealer.
The basic bones of your cabinet are done! Now onto the Murphy Desk. This took all my Vizzini-level aptitude to design, but the execution is pretty simple.
Remember, these measurement were based on what I felt was a comfortable sewing height with the chairs I had available. You need to determine what that height is for you before beginning this step.
I hunted and sought for someone at Lowes to help me cut a 30" x 30" piece out of my gigantic 8' piece of sanded plywood I was forced to buy. Not to worry, I have some really exciting things planned for all my extra little pieces of that insanely-expensive plywood.
I sanded the edges and then filled them with wood filler to better disguise the fact that this table is only plywood. Once the wood filler dried I was able to sand down with a really fine finishing grade sandpaper. After cleaning off the excess, I was ready to paint.
I learned this hack five years ago when I painted accent walls ALL OVER THE HOUSE. The best and most perfect way to get professional cut-in lines is unbelievably simple:
1) Paint one side of the line you are hoping to make with the desired color and allow to dry
2) Affix painter's tape
3) Paint over the tape in the same color as step 1--it's perfectly fine if it's a mess but I recommend you pick the lighter of the two colors for steps 1-3
4) Allow to dry, then paint the second color, up to and including the sealed tape
5) Before the second (hopefully darker) color's last coat is dry, peel the painter‘s tape
I chose a teal spray paint to do my accent colors. I chose to also spray paint the table legs I had purchased at the height equal to my Murphy Desk plus the extra height of the hinges. Once this coat was dry, I re-taped along the same line (3" in from the exterior on all sides), then I re-spray painted the taped line, except this time the tape was over the teal instead of the unfinished wood. Once it dried, I stained the center square. Once all coats were dry, I sealed it with the polycrylic.
In hindsight, I really wished I had painted the center square with chalkboard paint...I believe I will probably go back and apply chalkboard paint at a later date, it would give such an exciting extra feature to the Murphy Desk when it is folded up!
Finally, turn the desktop over, you can leave it unfinished or give it a quick paint and seal. Then attach the table leg attachment plates to one side. Turn the desktop back over (finished side up) and attach a handle to the same side as the table leg attachment plates. You can choose to either place the handle in the center, two on either corner or just one to the side. Whatever you find most visually appealing and is most comfortable for you to lift the desk.
The main lesson from this step is "don't think like the hinge...think like the wood attached to the hinge".
I had decided early on that I wanted the pivot point for the Murphy Desk to be at the top instead of the bottom. The bookshelf was already heavy...tall...and narrow. Not a good mix for stability. I wanted to add extra weight as low as possible, so instead of folding down like a traditional Murphy Desk...this one folds up.
The simplest way to do this was to have one of the removable shelves work as the legs for one side of the table. The only problem being the removable shelves are already designed to be flush with the edge of the bookshelf, and I needed the shelves to close on themselves.
I simply measured the thickness of my plywood (3/4") and then using a circular saw, cut 3/4" off of the unfinished back of one removable shelf.
HOWEVER...with IKEA furniture the removable shelves attach with pegs that embed into the particle wood...so then I needed to measure 3/4" forward from each existing notch and (using a drill bit) create identical notches 3/4" further forward on the board. Now I had a shelf that sat 3/4" further into the shelf than all the rest.
I was CONVINCED I could attach the hinge to the bottom of the narrowed shelf. I fell victim to one of the Classic Blunders...I thought like the hinge...not the wood attached to the hinge.
The hinge can pivot from 90 degrees to flat without a problem, but my 30" tabletop
was not flush with the floor--because IKEA Billy bookshelves have a 3" gap from
the floor to the bottom-most shelf (see: caster wheel blunder).
As a result, my Murphy Desk is 30" tall but is attached at 27" to its shelf. The wood cannot pivot the way the hinge can when there is overlap. Headache aside, the solution is simple:
Put the hinges on the top of the shelf! No one can see it anyways...
Measure from the floor to the top of the fattest part of the hinge...that is how tall your table legs need to be. If all else fails, add small wood shims underneath your table legs until your tabletop is level, then glue those wood shims together with your contractor-grade adhesive and paint them the same color as your table legs. I guarantee no one but you will notice.
Let’s re-examine this picture...can you see the shims underneath the table legs? They are about two inches tall—but almost impossible to see until pointed out.
Your cabinet is done! Now you will need to determine how you want to organize your shelves. I fell back on some tried and true organizational hacks:
1) Magazine holders hold so much more than magazines:
2) Tension rods double nicely as ribbon holders and keep small items such as paint from falling off the shelves:
3) Cut up diaper boxes (or any other cardboard...Amazon boxes...you name it) into uniform squares, use these to fold fabric into neat "booklets" and you can stack like Joann's!
4) Shelves placed close together hold yarn very well:
5) Swirl craft paint inside a regular mason jar to create beautiful decorative containers for paintbrushes, glue sticks, scissors...you name it!
The possibilities are endless and entirely customizable for your individual crafting needs! Thank you very much for following and stay tuned for more hacks, crafts, and project ideas.
Let's celebrate those Mad Mommin' Skills!