Ikea Bookshelf Hack & Styling

You like the look of the high end, custom furniture.  Your budget likes mass produced and inexpensive furniture.  I understand the dilemma.  Seriously, why can’t I get a Restoration Hardware piece of furniture at an Ikea price?  So I set out to DIY my own custom piece of furniture to give it a little personality without breaking the bank.

This IKEA bookshelf was sitting in our bedroom looking sad and neglected.  The black was too dark for the room and it frustrated me to no end when a thin book would get pushed all of the way back and slide down.  Who wants to move a whole bookshelf to fish out the small thin book stuck in the back?

Updating the basic Ikea cube bookshelf. Ikea bookshelf hack. thedempsterlogbook.com

The first thing I tackled was the color of the shelf.  I used Pure White milk paint, which not only lightened up the shelf, it also allowed some of the black to show through which gave the cabinet more depth than just a solid white surface.  The result is a more vintage feeling white, something with character.

Ikea bookshelf hack. Adding milk paint to update a bookshelf. thedempsterlogbook.com

The above picture is from the first coat.  I ended up using two coats of paint.

Next it was time to resolve the issue of the books sliding down the back and falling off the shelf.  I picked up thin pieces of lumber at the lumber yard and stained them a slightly darker color.  Then we laid them down across the back of the shelf and used a drill and some screws to secure them into place.  No more missing books!  And the shelf now looks like it was custom built!  (Which I guess I can now say it was a custom build.)

Adding a pallet backing to a bookshelf. Ikea bookshelf hack. thedempsterlogbook.com

Adding a pallet backing to a bookshelf. Ikea bookshelf hack. thedempsterlogbook.com

If you want to update your own bookshelf you will need:

Ikea Kallax Shelving Unit,or any other brand of cube shelving

Paint and brush

Wood cut to size.  For my shelving unit I used 5 pieces of 1 by 6, cut 58 inches long.

Stain for wood

Cordless Drill and screws. (*affiliate link)  

Ikea bookshelf hack. Adding milk paint and a pallet back to give a bookshelf a new look! thedempsterlogbook.com

This bookshelf ended up being the perfect mix of both modern and rustic.  The clean corners of the shelf and white color keep it modern, while the hints of black showing through the paint and the pallet wood backing give it the rustic flare.  Just right for my modern farmhouse.

Ikea bookshelf hack. Adding milk paint and a pallet back to give a bookshelf a new look! thedempsterlogbook.com

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  1. This is GORGEOUS!! I’m wanting to get these ikea shelves for my small shop inventory in my craft room and this is the perfect diy idea to make them beautiful!

  2. O my gawd!! So cute!! 😍

  3. This looks really nice!

  4. so much better! :) Love it

  5. love how rustic you made it look!

  6. Ohhhh i love a good IKEA hack! This looks great! How is the paint holding up? We’ve tried to paint ikea furniture before with zero luck :( I recently hacked the IKEA vittsjo!

    • So far the paint is doing well! It is hard if the furniture is more of a laminate surface. Maybe needs a little roughing up first? Have you used the milk paint before? I loooove it :)

  7. This is probably one of my favorite IKEA hacks ever! LOVE it! Where did you get those pictures frames? I love them :)

    • Thanks so much! I love how it turned out! Picture frames were from target – but a year or so ago :/

  8. Perfect! I imagine it’s a lot more stable, too! Thanks for sharing with us on Throwback Thursday & we’re looking forward already to what you’ll bring next week! :)


  9. I have this shelf and was looking for a way to change it! Love this! Is milk paint the brand? Do you have a link? In the photo I see the can says “chalk” it looks like. I’m just starting on some furniture projects and would love more information about which paint you use. Thanks

    • Hey Amy! I’ve actually used two different brands of paint for furniture. Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. This bookshelf was done with Annie Sloan paint. There are pros and cons to both. Miss Mustard Seed is cheaper, but you have to mix the paint yourself. Annie Sloan paint is pre-mixed and I feel easier to work with, but it is more expensive. If you have never used a chalk or milk paint before I would probably start with Annie Sloan if you can find it nearby. You can search for her retailers on her website: http://www.anniesloan.com/stockists/#/ Best of luck!

      • Amy Gates says:

        Thank you so much for the information!! Yes, I am new to all this furniture painting so your information was perfect! And I found a place fairly close by that sells Annie Sloan paint. I am very excited and so appreciative of your response and all the information you included…I’m ready now! Ha.

        Thanks again.

  10. I have these exact shelves and always wondered about painting them. How is the milk paint holding up?

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