I love bookshelves as much as the next guy – Ikea’s Expedit shelves, to be specific, although it’s saddens me that they’re a discontinued series. They are wonderfully functional and clean-lined. The problem, for me, lies in optimizing their functionality with style…and doing it on a budget. Of course, there are loads of coordinating boxes and baskets out there to fit perfectly into any and all cubby squares, but what if you already have a bunch of mismatched boxes? They work just fine, but don’t look very well.
Not a pretty sight, is it? The thing is, I dislike wasting things, and I love reusing things that I already have. Which is why, if you’re in a similar ugly-shelving situation at your house, I’m going to show you a very inexpensive (maybe even free) way to get the coordinated look you love without having to buy new boxes for your shelves.Ready to get started? Let’s go.
- Foam board (aka insulation board, sold at most hardware stores in 4’ x 8’ sheets)
- Fabric of your choice
- Measuring square
- Razor blade/box cutter
- Hot glue gun & glue sticks
Step 1: Measure the height and width of your cubby openings. My Expedit cubbies measured 13.25” square.
Step 2: Measure and cut out the foam board. The foam will serve as the structure of your cubby “door.” Make these into rectangles that are the width of your cubby opening but 1” less than the height (13.25” x 12.25”, for example). Tip: If your foam board doesn’t cut precisely, change your razor blade. This stuff requires the cleanest and sharpest of blades in order to get a clean cut.
Tip: When measuring the width, cut just the tiniest bit less than the actual width of your cubby opening. This will allow for a snug fit – but not too tight – after the fabric is wrapped around the foam board.
See the clean cut? This is because I changed my razor blade for a brand new one. It’s worth the extra 2 minutes, trust me.
Step 3: Cut out fabric. Lay down your foam board and use this to cut your fabric. I’d recommend an additional 2” on each of the four sides. Tip: If using fabric with any sort of geometric pattern, such as stripes, pay attention to keeping the print squared up to your foam board before cutting.
Step 3b: Check the fit of your foam board in the Expedit unit cubbies. Make sure the fit is snug but not too tight, and definitely not too loose. Make any necessary adjustments to your measurements. (I failed to do this and ended up with one foam board being a bit too tight so that it curves ever so slightly. Learn from me, friends, and do as I say not as I do.)
Step 4: Cut out eight of everything (or however many cubbies your shelving unit has). I also added in some felt, cut about 11.25” x 10.25” (or, in other words, 2” less than the height and width of my foam boards) to serve as backing when all is said and done. The felt is technically optional but highly recommended. You’ll see what I mean in a few steps.
Step 5: Hot glue opposite edges. Run some hot glue quickly along one end of your foam, then pull the fabric taut and smooth it down. Do the opposite side the same way. Tip: Make sure, if your fabric has a distinct pattern or print, that each foam board is laid on the same way so you don’t end up with three doors with stripes going sideways and the rest going vertically.
Step 6: Glue the corners. Corners must be crisp and perfect in order to give your cubby doors a clean look overall. Start by running a little line of glue directly onto the side of the foam in one corner.
Step 6b: Fold corner into glue and smooth it down.
Step 6c: Glue the top flap down to your foam board and smooth crisply. You want minimal bumps, so run your finger along the edge and really fold it down tightly. Tip: In all of this corner-gluing, make sure some of the hot glue attaches to the foam board itself and not just on other glued-down fabric.
Step 6d: Repeat steps 6-6c for all corners.
Step 7: Glue the flap up onto the foam board. Add a drop of glue inside the bottom flap of the corner and smooth (do this for both corners on the edge you’re working on), then hot glue the entire flap up onto the foam board. Smooth from the center of the flap outward toward the corners, being careful that the fabric is taut with no bubbling on the edge.
Step 8: Add a drop of glue to the corner fabric if necessary. You really want the fabric to be snug against the foam board (or other fabric), so if there is a bump or bubble at all, lay a small drop of hot glue down and smooth the corner. Repeat for all four corners.
Step 9: Repeat for opposite corners and sides. Your foam board should now look something like this (although probably with more equal fabric alignment than what I’m showing you here).
Step 10: Lay a piece of your cut felt down onto the back of your board. Make sure it fits well and that no sides will be popping out.
Step 11: Hot glue felt onto foam board back. Again, make sure the hot glue attaches the felt not only to the fabric but also the foam board itself. Tip: Run hot glue right along the edge of the felt so it is completely flat and secure and there is no pulling back.
Step 12: Place foam board doors into your shelving unit. Hopefully, if you tested each cut foam board before you added the fabric, these will fit perfectly for you.
Step 13: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the now-coordinated look of your shelves! That extra inch up top allows you to pull the “door” off and access the chaos underneath – over and over again as needed – without bending your foam board.
What other budget-friendly ways have you found to coordinate your Expedit (or similar) shelves?