Read on to learn how an easy Ikea Hack solved a storage and décor problem in one!
Our house is very old. It was born in 1919 to be exact! And in a pretty classic old-home scenario, it comes with very little in the way of storage space. Upon moving in we were presented with a whole number of challenges with regards to how to make the space function well for us. Fortunately I love problem-solving, so these kinds of challenges make me excited! We’ve enjoyed figuring out solutions for everything from no-shoe-or-coat-storage at the back door (which opens right into the dining room) to the fact that there wasn’t a linen closet in which to store linens, towels, toiletries, etc.
My brilliant big sister has often reminded me to think about how you really live and what will serve your home well when making décor decisions.
How do we really live, day-to-day, and how can this space be used to add value to our lives? Another way of putting this is to ask 2 questions:
1) What types of problems exist in my physical space that need solving?
i.e. Do I have a recurring mess that exists due to lack of storage or organization? Or, is there an activity I value that I can’t easily engage in because of a fixable layout or furniture dilemma? I’m sure you’re making a mental list as you read. (Quick, get your pencil out and make it a physical list! List making feels gooooood.)
2) How can I solve that problem in a way that is realistic for how we actually live?
The solutions have to be realistic for me to adhere to them in real life. For instance, in make-believe life I fold underwear. In real life, it’s thrown in helter-skelter. So, solution? Have a drawer-insert that fits my underwear. So I can throw it in but it’s not at risk of getting mixed up with other things! Win! Another example: In make-believe life, I will regularly dig through boxes in my basement to find the correct file in which to file ________ (manuals, kids memorabilia, car repair receipts, dog vaccination records…). In real life, I have a filing system NEAR AT HAND to put it in right away so that the counter mess doesn’t get insane. And so on.
I’m a believer that the house should serve family values. This is how I define homemaking: making a physical space – a house – into a good, safe place where the life of a family unfolds; a space where flourishing happens. (I want to elaborate on that SO BADLY, right now (!), but I’ll save the elaboration for a future post.)
Something I struggle with – and I KNOW I’m not alone here, people! – is the little cluttery crap that collects on big surfaces every day, accumulating into a mass that shakes it’s messy fist at me, threatening anarchy and mutiny and all kinds of other scary out-of-control revolt-type scenarios.
The kitchen counter and the dining room table are the top two collection zones for this dangerous miscellanea.
(Same in your house? Yep, I knew it.)
Some of this mess has been redirected by the handy-filing system set up in our main-floor. But another huge culprit has been the ongoing production of crafts by our dear children.
Don’t get me wrong, the fact of them drawing and crafting hard and regularly is so good. But we needed a spot for all the stuff to go away, and we knew this spot had to be super accessible in order to be realistic.
DINING ROOM STORAGE NOOK!
This little zone is a double-whammy because it adds some aesthetic relief (+greenery! 🌿) to an otherwise-boring area of the dining area and it stores away all the misc crafty stuff that would otherwise go NOWHERE (and therefore, EVERYWHERE!). This custom nook was cheap and fun to make, and I think it looks much more costly than it really was, thanks to the affordable IKEA cabinet and shelving, and some simple DIY touches to give it a custom vibe.
- 18”x15’x30” Ikea Sektion Wall Cabinet and Veddinge White door
- ½” thick slab of laminated pine for cabinet top (we used a ⅝” thick piece which we got planed to ½” because I thought ⅝” was too thin, but 1¼” was too thick)
- 2 sets of 7½” ikea Ekby Bjärnum Brackets
- 2 Ekby Hemnes Shelves (7½”deep, 31⅛” long), cut down
- 1 sweeeeeet knob, from Forge Hardware Studio (Etsy store)
- Krylon Colour Master Paint + Primer in Deep Grey –
- Wood glue
- ¾” wood screws
- 1-1¼” wood screws
- Palm sander
- Sanding block with fine grit sandpaper to finish and round edges and corners
- Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
- Minwax Wood Finish in Early American
- General Finishes High Performance Waterbased Top Coat, in Satin
For the cabinet top, the cheapest option we could source for a wood top was to purchase a slab of ⅝” laminated pine, which we got planed to ½”. Marcus cut two pieces at approximately 19½”x17″ (so, too big on purpose), and then stacked them one on top of the other to make a 1″ thick slab. These he laminated together using carpenter’s glue and some screws (drilled in on the underside, after first making pilot holes so the wood wouldn’t split). *You could, of course, avoid all of this by sourcing a chunk of 1″ wood, but for us this was the most economical option.
He then cut the laminated now-1″ top to the precise dimensions we needed: 18½” wide x 15¾” deep. The wall behind the cabinet is not straight, so the cabinet itself sits a wee bit out from the wall. So the cabinet top actually overhangs on the back and the front of the cabinet in order for it (the wood top) to be flush with the wall. The overhang we liked optimally for the front ends up being ⅜” past the front of the cabinet door, if that helps.
We then sanded the top and sides before proceeding to stain it our desired tone.
For staining I started with Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to ensure that the stain would absorb evenly. Here’s a pic of the bottom side of the cabinet top where half the stain is applied without wood conditioner. See? It’s not nice. So buy the wood conditioner PLEASE. I made sure to condition at least an inch of the underside edge all around, because with the overhang, you’ll want the edge of the underside stained.
I followed the wood conditioner with Minwax’s Wood Finish in Early American. I think I did 2 or 3 coats. Finally, when all of that was dry, I finished with my FAVOURITE top coat, purchased at some expense at Lee Valley tools. Honestly, this stuff is a bit of an investment, but my last can lasted for about 1 million projects (plus or minus), and I happily bought it again. It’s called General Finishes High Performance Waterbased Top Coat, in Satin.
Marcus attached the wood top by screwing it on from underneath (from the inside top of the cabinet). Again, we used pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood. This meant that I had to hold the top perfectly still while he drilled the pilot holes through the cabinet frame and into the wood top and then drilled the screws in. It was a tense moment but, as they say, all’s well that ends well 👌.
As you can see here ➡️, the cabinet looks lonely without shelves above it (this pic was taken before the top was installed, obviously). So, we added some IKEA shelves. I didn’t love the brushed metal look of the brackets for our slightly Scandinavian and understated dining and living room space, so opted to coat them in Krylon’s Colour Master Paint + Primer spray paint in Deep Grey. It was easy peasy. But a word to the wise: wash the brackets with soap before you spray them. It’s really annoying when you spray-paint something and discover that some greasy fingers left residue on it that is causing the paint to separate and go all funny. So, seriously, just wash it first.
Marcus cut down the shelves to approximately 18-18¼” each, making the finished width of the shelves – with the brackets on – 19” each. We installed them at 17¾ and 30¾” respectively above the cabinet top.
Then we mixed and matched some fun plants and planters (or cups, as the case may be) and that was that!
Inside the cabinet it looks like this:
I am regularly thankful for this budget-friendly and cute little storage nook! And as the kids get older, I’m sure it will be converted to other excellent uses (homework storage?).
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Have a great weekend, friends!