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Whether your kids are ready for some furniture upgrades or you’re headed towards an empty nest, Swedish home goods manufacturer IKEA has you covered. Their familiar blue storefront with the giant yellow logo has been a must-shop paradise for modernist-influenced home goods, often at entry-level prices. But before you toss out your kid’s old IKEA furniture, check out what you can create for them by upgrading the unused furniture with a couple of tools and a little crafting.
What is IKEA All About?
IKEA devotees know that the modern design and focus on affordability are cornerstones of the business. From its founding in 1943 in Älmhult, a small Swedish village in the countryside, IKEA began by selling furniture through a mail-order catalog. Today, the IKEA headquarters for design is still located there, despite an ever-growing global footprint.
One of the company’s core values is sustainability, using innovative processes and materials to promote environmentally friendly corporate policies, along with a corporate pledge to use materials that are sustainably manufactured, recycled or recyclable. Those efforts mean that innovation and a sense of playfulness are at the heart of the corporate strategy.
Play is Essential
One might even say that hacking an IKEA product is a core company value. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the hundreds of innovative uses and repurposing of products for children in the IKEA brand. Much like the company focuses on being environmentally responsible, a sense of playfulness (for both little ones and adults) is a company value as well.
The idea that play is a core value of childhood isn’t just given lip service. The company has issued three play reports — scientific papers designed for a general audience — to reiterate its commitment to the benefits of playing. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child asserts that play is a universal right for all children. From sensory play, we learn how to connect, create, recharge, escape and explore, all of which are values reinforced by the playful ways in which some creativity can infuse these everyday IKEA products with new purposes to encourage a happy, active environment for your child.
IKEA Hacks For Kid Products
Some of our favorite IKEA hacks focus on organizing the many small items that populate the bedroom and play areas of small children. Here are a few examples of IKEA toys being converted into practical use items, displays or furniture.
IKEA offers a popular play kitchen called the Duktig kitchen (pictured above) in plain white, which is perfect for hacking. Check out these Duktig kitchen hacks from creators around the world.
Here, one adventuresome crafter used contact paper, spray paint and marker to customize the Duktig to plan for a future dream kitchen of their own.
Another Instagrammer and blogger, Motherhood_Union, focuses on the self-directed play skills learned in the Maria Montessori method of education. Her take on the Duktig kitchen offers a soothing color scheme and encourages play apart from screens and electronic devices. Another color scheme in pink shows how the kitchen can easily be tailored to reflect both child and parent’s personality.
Another great product designed for hacking? The BEKVAM spice rack, a low-price, wall mounted shelf intended originally for organizing the bottles and jars of common kitchen spices. Design specialists Apartment Therapy are big believers in industrious uses for products to save space and have a nice collection of innovative advantages of the BEKVAM rack for all over the house.
We’re particularly fond of this jewelry rack, but by far, the most popular use of these spice racks isn’t in the kitchen. It’s a bookshelf or bookcase in a child’s room, allowing the books to be stored front-facing for easy accessibility.
Another versatile product, the KURA bed, is designed to be a multipurpose cornerstone of your child’s room. Its unfinished white pine frame is suitable for painting to match décor, of course. But its real genius lies in the fact that the bed itself is movable, and can be on the floor for younger children, then face raised up to create a space for study plus play. The possibilities are endless.
And while your own carpentry skills may not be enough to combine bookshelves and the Kura bed plus other materials to construct a mock farmhouse, the KURA is flexible enough to accommodate all sorts of imaginative reinventions.
A German family made their KURA into a cabin in the woods using paint and beadboard-type wainscoting panels. More straightforward possibilities include using a wooden rail and fabric panels to create a canopy bed.
The KURA offers so many possibilities that full web pages are devoted to customizing this popular product. For those kid rooms with storage and space limitations, the KURA also combines well with other IKEA products under the bed to help organize and declutter even the busiest child’s room.
One of the most versatile products in the IKEA range is the KALLAX series of shelving products. Available in five finishes and seven sizes, KALLAX also offers several options to repurpose each KALLAX shelf’s individual nooks. In fact, the KALLAX is such a versatile product that there are also countless web pages devoted solely to ways in which the shelving unit can be customized.
An ambitious project uses chalkboard paint to make one side of a KALLAX shelf into a memo board. The KALLAX inserts offer doors that come pre-painted in a chalkboard finish for older kids. Other drawer inserts, like these, can be customized with fabric or stencils to fit the décor for rooms ranging from nursery to teenage kids.
Another one of our favorites includes the use of the small, four cube shelf with a particleboard backer and removable cushion to create an area that combines seating and storage.
Speaking of older kids, as the demands of homework increase, consider building a custom approach to a study nook using the SVALNÄS system. This bamboo product offers countless permutations and options in the IKEA store, but again, the limits on design and décor are only your imagination.
This mom used paint and some galvanized accessories to create a rustic-looking functional study space for her six-year-old first-grader.
Another DIY project uses sanding and staining the frame plus spraypainting the hardware to create an upscale look inspired by midcentury modern storage units. The SVALNÄS series is a favorite of IKEA hackers, not just for kids’ rooms.
For larger rooms, older kids or even for your own workspace far away from the chaos of the playroom or living room, consider building a custom workspace makeover.
This project, which combines two, three-drawer MALM dressers for storage with a kitchen worktop. We like the oak veneer KARLBY worktop; an all-white laminated model, the LILLTRÄSK, is suitable for that minimalist use and is surprisingly durable and affordable. The white materials in that project make a modern, clean workspace for around $200.
Prime it Before You Build it
One tip: most IKEA products need a bonding primer/sealer in order to prevent aftermarket paint from peeling off the sealed finish. Legendary home improvement guru Bob Vila offers some guidance and tutorials on primers to make sure your projects can withstand the test of time and accidents.
We use the Zinsser Bulls-Eye primer exclusively (found on Amazon) because of its ability to be applied in nearly all temperatures and its easy cleanup as a water-based product.
While most IKEA furniture products come in a limited palette of colors (white and natural wood finishes being the most popular), a little bit of primer and paint is maybe the cheapest option to create a customized piece, like these STUVA cabinets.
Let The Hacking Commence
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