When I decided to turn our dining room into a playroom, I knew I wanted to create something that could blend in with our living room decor, be functional for kids yet stylish for adults, and have the versatility to grow with our family. I knew it was time for an IKEA Kallax hack.
The IKEA Kallax shelf: it’s brimming with possibilities! Who knew such a simple piece of furniture could be so versatile, functional, and the star of countless IKEA hacks? Its popularity even caused Target and Walmart to come up with their own cubicle versions to sell.
I honestly think that IKEA designers are truly innovative thinkers – dreaming up new furniture designs in a simplistic, functional, and affordable way.
Dining Room to Playroom Reveal: DIY Storage Benches
After stumbling upon Jen’s Playroom Progress: Sweet Seating Part 1 on her blog I Heart Organizing, I knew that her IKEA Kallax hack of turning a shelf into a storage bench was the perfect solution for a playroom that could be both kid and adult-friendly!
You see, our playroom would be one of the first rooms guests see upon entering our home. We live in a 3-bedroom townhome with one big open living space downstairs and a little room off the kitchen. Conventional floor plans would suggest that the dining room should be next to the living room in the large open area, while an extra play space or living space could be off the kitchen. I didn’t want to follow the conventional floor plan, so we moved the dining table to the room by the kitchen and turned our dining room into a playroom. We found that we used our dining table more often since it was right next to the kitchen – go figure! And now there’s plenty of space for play inside the house!
Here’s the BEFORE… (apologies for the picture quality)
And here’s the AFTER!
IKEA Kallax Hack with a No-Sew Bench Cushion (& without Plywood!)
Now, I’ve seen other IKEA Kallax hacks that use MDF or plywood to affix their bench cushion onto the shelf and then staple their fabric to it. However, this involves drilling holes into the Kallax shelf in order to secure the bench cushion to it.
I didn’t want to drill holes in the Kallax unit in case we wanted to use move the benches elsewhere to be used separately (or as an actual bookshelf) since we’re renting our home and need versatility.
So, I came up with a way to make a no-sew bench cushion without plywood or drilling involved!
Let me tell you how I did it. I’ll list the products I used, how much it cost, and then step-by-step pictures of how my husband and I did it.
Special thanks to my wonderful husband, without whom this project truly would have never been completed. I’m an idea person and he’s a get-it-done person. We’re a good match. 🙂
Step 1: Gather Materials
Products I Used for the IKEA Kallax hack:
- 2 Kallax Shelves in White (IKEA) – one measures 16 ½” x 57 ⅞”
- 2 Room Essentials Light Blocking Curtain Panels in Navy, size 42” x 84” (Target) – thick enough to not let spills leak through, dark enough to not let stains show, easy to wipe clean with a Clorox wipe, these curtain panels work too
- 2 Firm Upholstery Foams 3” thick, size 24” x 72” (Fabuless Fabrics, Etsy) – thick enough to be comfortable, firm enough to not sag over time, Etsy description says it should last 7-10 years
- Fabri-Tac Permanent Adhesive (Joann’s) – to glue the curtain panels together over the foam, 1 bottle was sufficient
- Industrial Strength Velcro (Joann’s) – to affix bench cushions to Kallax unit instead of plywood, this may not work if you have a family full of rowdy boys, although, after 2 years of enjoying the playroom benches with lots of playdates and cousin visitations, it’s held very well!
- Hand Saw (already had) – to cut the foam to size, or you can use a turkey carving knife
- Scissors (already had) – to cut the curtain panels to size
- Duct tape – to hold the fabric in place after gluing, we removed this after the glue dried
- Solid Wood Single Cubicle – I got one from a neighbor when they were moving, but this single cube storage from Target looks like it would work
- 2 IKEA Kallax Shelves @ $59 each = $120
(The price has recently decreased to $45/unit!)
- 2 curtain panels @ $10 each = $20
- 2 upholstery foams @ $25 each = $50 (+ shipping)
- Fabric Glue = $15
- Extra strength velcro, 1 yard = $24
TOTAL $229 (not including tax + shipping)
*If the total cost seems beyond reach for you right now, I want to encourage you by sharing that I saved up for a few months before doing this IKEA Kallax Hack.*
Step 2: Assemble IKEA Kallax Shelves
This part we already had done, so I don’t have pictures for you on this step. IKEA furniture instructions are fairly straight-forward, and it doesn’t take long to put the Kallax shelves together. There are also downloadable PDF instructions on IKEA’s website and plenty of YouTube videos to reference.
Step 3: Measure + Cut Foam for the Cushion
Once you have all the supplies and the IKEA Kallaxes are assembled, it’s time to tackle the bench cushions. Start by measuring the Kallax’s width and length and then mark these measurements onto the foam with a marker. This is where you’ll cut the foam to fit the top of the bench. My husband used a hand saw to cut the foam to size, however, you could also use a turkey carving knife.
Step 4: Cover the Foam with the Curtain Panel
Now that the foam is cut to the appropriate size, we’ll lay it on top of the curtain panel and cover it completely with the fabric. We put duct tape on it to temporarily hold it in place on top of the foam.
We pulled the fabric tight enough to smooth out any wrinkles and to not have excess. However, we didn’t pull it so tight that the edges of the foam start to curve from the pressure. Then we used the Fabri-Tac Permanent Adhesive to seal the fabric to itself, covering the foam like covering a box with gift wrap.
Just like wrapping a gift, we cut off the excess on the ends so that the sides could be folded in like a gift-wrapped box. I know I sound redundant, but gift wrapping is the best way to describe what we did. We used the permanent adhesive fabric glue to secure it. Then we put books against the sides and on top so the fabric would stay flat while drying. Personally, we used a few Bibles and medium-weight coffee table books.
Step 5: Secure the No-Sew Cushions to the Kallax Unit without Plywood
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t want plywood or drilling to be involved in securing the no-sew cushion to the IKEA Kallax bench. So, I cut a few strips of the costly industrial strength Velcro and strategically placed it on top of the Kallax unit. That way, I didn’t have to line the entire unit with pricey Velcro, but the cushion would be secured to the unit. The cushion has moved slightly on one of the benches, but overall, it has held up really well over the past 2 years!
Notice the “gift-wrapped” foam cushions on the left-hand side of the above picture. That’s what they’ll look like after you cover them with the curtain panels and the glue has dried. The one laying on top of the Kallax shelf wasn’t yet secured, that’s why it appears uneven.
Tip for Cutting Sticky Things: Wipe a baby wipe across the scissors before cutting into something sticky. It helps the scissors go through more smoothly!
As we all know, Velcro has 2 sides to it. I didn’t apply one side on the no-sew cushions and the other side on the Kallax unit. I put both sides on the Kallax and then peeled the plastic cover off the tops before laying the cushion on it. That way I didn’t have to measure to line up the Velcro on both the cushion and the Kallax.
My husband and I just carefully laid the cushion on top of the Kallax after the Velcro was secured to it. We each took a side and lined the cushion up to ensure that it was evenly placed on top.
Then, we laid the same medium-weight books on top of the places where the Velcro was to help the fabric stick to the Velcro strips on the IKEA Kallax Hack. We kept the books there overnight.
Here’s a picture of the corner support unit so you can what it looks like. We cut the foam and the curtain panel fabric and made a cushion specifically for the corner unit.
Step 6: Add the Finishing Touches
Now comes the best part. Once the benches were completed, we started decorating! Specifically, picking out bins to store the toys in. Don’t you just love all the cute and fabulous bin options that are available?!
There is a PLETHORA of various decorative bins you could buy to store toys in your benches. Target, Walmart, IKEA, the Container Store, TJ Maxx Home Goods, and Land of Nod all have stylish, sturdy bins at an affordable price!
We got these bins to put inside the Kallax bench to store toys:
- Navy & White Stipe Storage Bin with Rope Handles – The Container Store (Land of Nod has similar bins)
- Large Gray Woven Storage Bin by Pillowfort – Target
The Pillowfort bins haven’t held up very well after 2 years. I recommend picking something else within Pillowfort’s line of bins. UPDATE: These are no longer sold by Target. But they’re Y-weave bins seem sturdy enough to be a great alternative.
Besides the decorative bins, the playroom has evolved over time since we completed the benches. In the beginning, we used faux wood foam mat tiles to serve as supportive flooring for little ones:
We’re happy with how it grew and evolved with our daughter over time, to support her developmental stages and activities. After a while, we traded out the baby toys with a kids’ table and chair set and art easel. We also added wall hangings.
The table and chair set, art easel, and rug are all from IKEA. The mirror is from Target. It was brown, but I painted it navy. The anchor is from Hobby Lobby as well as the small striped pillow. The gray armrest pillow is from Walmart.
I’m a sucker for blue and white decor. Especially if it has a nautical or coastal vibe. What’s your favorite decorating style?
At one point in time, we even separated the benches of this IKEA Kallax Hack to make room for a KidKraft Play Kitchen our daughter got for her birthday.
I love how versatile these benches are!
Enjoy Your Playroom Benches!
There you have it! Our IKEA Kallax hack for a playroom in a living room. I hope this helps you in your own journey to personalize a play space or DIY a storage bench. I just love a good IKEA Kallax Hack, don’t you? If you have one, please share it in the comments below!
More Tips for Decluttering & Organizing Toys
10 Tips to Easily Declutter Kids’ Toys
15 Toy Storage Solutions for the Living Room [Affordable & Functional]
5 Fantastic Tips for Organizing Toys without a Playroom
Kids Not Playing with Their Toys? Try This.
10 Practical Ways to Organize Kids’ Stuff
More IKEA Kallax Hacks
- 20 of the Best IKEA Kallax Hacks to Organize Your Home
- 35 DIY IKEA Kallax Shelves Hacks You Could Try
- 75 Cool IKEA Kallax Shelf Hacks for Every Space
- 22 Best IKEA Hacks for Kallax Shelf
- 12 IKEA Hacks for Your Entryway
- IKEA Bench Seat with Lots of Storage
- No-Sew Bench Tutorial
- IKEA Kallax Cushion Hack
Not into DIY? You may want to buy this: Better Homes and Gardens 4-Cube Organizer Bench with Cushion
Love this! Thank you for sharing! What shelf did you use for the corner support unit?
Glad you asked! Interestingly enough, it was a solid oak single cube cabinet from the 70’s or 80’s that my neighbor gave us when they moved. Evidently, he used them to store vinyl records! Ha! But I’ve noticed this single cube unit from Target that might work if you need one. Hope this helps!
Hi! Everything seems fairly straight forward and simple enough to follow, I’m excited to give it a try! Just wondering how you removed the duct tape if the fabric is folded over top of it? Or did you just leave it on? I think in your materials list it said it was removed, but I don’t see the step or quite understand how you could remove it, and i guess it wouldn’t really be necessary? Also, is it fairly easy for the cushion to come off if you need it to, or would the velcro strips come off when you pull?
Great questions, Aileen! The duct tape that we put on the fabric above in Step 4 remained on the fabric since I put the fabric glue on top of it to fold the other side of the fabric over to affix it. That duct tape stayed on. Once I wrapped the foam like a gift with the fabric and it dried overnight, I did take the top duct tape off. But if, when you do it, the duct tape is glued to the fabric because the fabric glue oozed over and caught the duct tape, then it’s not a problem. It won’t show once the project is finished.
Short answer? Yes, you can simply keep the duct tape on.
Yes, it is fairly easy to take the Velcro off when you need to. The velcro strips MAY come off when you pull, but I found that happened for me primarily on the very ends of the cushions and I separated the Velcro so it wouldn’t come off the bench when I pulled.
Hope this helps. Best of luck to you with your own project!
Thank you for the reply! I just went ahead and did it, and did exactly what you said actually with the duct tape, worked out wonderfully! THank you so much, I may be doing another one now for my sister since it worked so well!
Wow, that’s awesome! I’m so glad to hear that!
Laura Noelle says
Wow, those look incredible! I’ve always wanted to make a bench like that and I am a complete sucker for cube storage. Putting this on my to-do list!!
Natasha Gonzalez says
Hello! Great tutorial I’m looking forward to trying it! I’m worried about some adult family members sitting on this. Do you think it would be sturdy enough?
It is most definitely sturdy enough! During my daughter’s 2nd birthday we had at least 3 adults sitting on each bench since we had a lot of people at our place for the party and it held up just fine. The only downside was that the foam was a bit stiff and not soft, but I intentionally got stiffer foam so it would hold up over time. Hope that helps!
Michelle Willis says
Thanks for this tutorial. I bought some kallax units yesterday that I intend to use as yarn storage and a pouffet and extra seating when we het guests.
Love this project and started it last night. We are ready to place the foam boards on the shelves, but don’t seem to have enough Velcro. Did 1yd really allow 4 strips on each shelf? Any help would be great!
Great question, Ellie! Now that I’m doing the math on it, 1 yard is 36 inches and the depth of the IKEA Kallax unit is 13″. Since 13 divided by 36 is 2.76 then more than 1 yard is needed to affix the velcro onto the top of the bench. In that case, we must have used 2 yards of velcro. Thanks for pointing that out. That’s exciting that you’re almost done with the final product! I’d love to know how it turns out for you. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any idea what the weight limit would be for the bench? Did you anchor them to the wall?
Hey Ashley, We did not anchor them to the wall; however, that would be a good idea since IKEA recommends that for many of their products. I do not know the weight limit. I would recommend referencing the IKEA website for the Kallax unit weight limit. We did have at least 3 adults sitting on one of them at a time and it was very sturdy. I hope this helps! Good luck!