On Monday I shared Justin’s work office reveal and without question the star of the show was his shelving unit! Today I’m sharing all the details about the hack that took these three Ikea shelves and kicked them up several notches.
We bought three of these Vittsjo shelves from Ikea. Initially I had hoped to use this double Vittsjo, which is a bit more cost-effective, but it was out of stock in my store. This ended up being a blessing because I actually love the look and scale of three even better! The units came with glass inserts to create the shelves, but I was inspired by the chunkier look that Kim and Scott from Yellow Brick Home gave their Vittsjo and we decided to create a similar look. (Note: If you’re interested in doing this hack for yourself, I’ve included a full list of all the materials we used at the bottom of this post!)
Once all three units were assembled, we lined them up against the wall and Justin took measurements of the total length and width of one shelf spanning all three units and sketched out an outline, making sure to include all the places we would need to make notches to accommodate the vertical posts.
Each shelf would have a length of 60″ and a width of 14″. We bought a sheet of 1/2″ plywood, which was enough to make three long shelves and three small pieces for the bottom shelf . The sheet was 4′ x 8′, so our first step was to cut it down to the correct length. It was a gorgeous day, so Justin wheeled his work table outside!
Justin planned to use his circular saw for cutting the plywood to length so after measuring and marking the 60″ length, he also measured and marked out exactly where the edge of the circular saw’s guide would be when it cut the length. We clamped down a piece of scrap wood with a straight edge right where the circular saw guide would run so that Justin would have a solid wall to keep the saw’s guide flush against. This ensured a super straight cut! He also tossed a couple of larger blocks of scrap wood on top to keep the guide wood firmly in place.
After taking this picture, I was in charge of holding the side of the plywood hanging off the work table (since the saw couldn’t be directly over the table or it would have cut into it) and catching the part getting cut off. We saved that excess piece to make the bottom shelf pieces later!
Once the sheet was cut to length, the next step was cutting the width of each shelf. We repeated the same process as before – measuring and marking the width (14″) and also making a mark where the edge of the circular saw guide would be.
Here’s a close-up of the two marks he made. Can you see the little mark right on the edge where the guide wood is placed? That is exactly where the edge of the circular saw will be when Justin cuts the shelf to length. The other pencil mark along the edge is marking where the saw blade will cut the shelf to the correct width.
We repeated this process two more times to create three shelves with a 14″ width.
Next up was marking and cutting out all the notches. Using the outline he had drawn with all the shelf measurements, Justin used his combination square to mark where each notch should go.
This step took the longest, but creating a precise outline of the notch was necessary so he would know exactly where to cut. We highly recommend double checking measurements! Justin initially measured to the wrong spot and the notch would have been off but I noticed it in time and we were able to correct it before cutting. Measure twice (or three times!), cut once!
To cut out the notches, Justin used his jigsaw. He first cut the two parallel lines coming in from the edge.
Before cutting the top line, he drilled a small hole near the top of the notch.
This hole served as a place to start the jigsaw for a more precise cut on the final line at the top of the notch.
Justin repeated this process for all the notches and then lightly sanded all the edges and corners with 120-grit sandpaper. We tested this shelf to make sure it fit on our Vittsjo units (it did!) and then this one served as a template to trace notches on the remaining two shelves.
Once all the shelves were cut and we made sure they all fit, I started applying this 1/2″ edge banding on all the exposed edges. This step is definitely optional if you like the look of the layers of plywood, but we used it for our DIY play kitchen and I liked the cleaner look that edge banding provided.
The edge banding has dried glue on the back that is activated by heat. I turned my iron on to the cotton setting (a pretty high heat – around 400 degrees), placed the banding glue-side down on the side of the plywood, and ran the iron over the banding.
I kept the iron moving the whole time, rubbing back and forth over the same small area for 4-5 seconds, working my way slowly down to the end.
When I got near the end, I used a scissors to snip the band right at the edge of the plywood, and continued ironing to seal the end.
The nice thing about edge banding is if you get a little off and your band is crooked or slipped a bit, you just run the iron over it again to heat up the glue and then you can slide it to adjust positioning or even totally take it off and re-apply. I think it’s a very beginner-friendly DIY trick to elevate the look of plywood!
The edge banding was slightly wider than the plywood so we got this edge banding trimmer to shave off the excess. We had to adjust the blades so it didn’t shave too much off and the tool itself required quite a bit of forearm strength to use so Justin handled this task. 😉
Once all the edge banding was trimmed, Justin did a quick round of sanding with 220-grit sandpaper on his orbital sander to give the shelves a nice smooth finish. I wiped them down with a tack cloth . . .
. . . and proceeded to stain them. We used stain and polyurethane we already had on hand and I used foam brushes to apply one coat of stain and two coats of polyurethane to the shelves.
After letting them dry, I very lightly buffed by hand using 400-grit sandpaper. Then it was time to assemble them in their new home in Justin’s office and style them!
You’ll notice we also cut three individual pieces to fit the lowest shelf. These were much more straightforward than the other shelves because the Vittsjo units came with a piece of rectangular wood to fit in each bottom shelf and we decided to keep that recessed look rather than cut another shelf like the other three. Justin just traced the wood three times onto the excess plywood we had after cutting the other three shelves to length, cut out each rectangle, and I stained them. No funky cuts or edge banding required!
We are thrilled with the way the edge banding looks. It creates the look of a solid piece of wood instead of plywood and looks so streamlined!
One of the shelves holds Justin’s coffee maker and some drink options, so we’re glad we put two coats of polyurethane on top to help with durability in case of a spill.
The wood look also brings in a lot of warmth and contrast to a room that otherwise was pretty bland and sterile-looking. It also provides a great base for displaying a variety of pieces that reflect Justin’s personality and profession.
We’re so happy with the results of this Ikea hack! It gave the simple black shelves an elevated look full of character and was just what this space needed!
Materials Used (for a complete list of sources on the shelves, check out this post!)
-1/2 inch sheet of 4′ x 8′ plywood
-sandpaper (we used 120 grit, 220 grit, and 400 grit)
-scrap wood with a straight edge