Lately it seemed that every improvement I made to our living room was eclipsed by the plastic toy storage bins that lined the entry to the room. Sure, they kept the toys at bay, but they definitely detracted from our enjoyment of the space. You see, we have just one room in our home to relax together as a family, so just one chance at creating a pleasant space for reading, working, hosting gatherings, watching television, and, if you’re a 4-year-old, playing with toys. I figured it’s only fair to let the kids keep a lot of toys in our living room, but you know what they say about when Mama’s happy! So I set out to make our toy storage situation much easier on the eyes. Ikea provided a great starting point, and after a few tweaks, I now have a credenza that I’ll enjoy using in any room in the future! Lots of style and loads of storage. Win/win!
I started out with a row of plain white upper cabinets from the Ikea Sektion system and chose the least expensive door option. There are quite a few size options, and by combining cabinets, you can completely customize the size of your credenza. Change up the colors, knobs, and top material, and you can make this Ikea restyle easily fit in with your own style and home!
I’m so pleased with how sophisticated this cabinet looks after the restyle! Sure, it could have been a more dramatic change with different paint colors or some funkier knobs, but this is exactly what I wanted, and it fits our space (and our budget!) perfectly. Check out how I did it below.
-1/4″ plywood sheet cut into rectangles*
-2 1×8 pieces of lumber cut to the total length of your cabinet (I used clear pine.)
-cabinet knobs with screws (I used these.)
–paintable caulk (Optional if you are very picky or do not have good clamps or weights for step one. I didn’t end up using caulk.)
–120 grit sandpaper
–400 grit wet/dry sandpaper (not pictured)
–0000 grade steel wool (not pictured – for polyurethane finished pieces only)
-paint + primer for cabinet doors
-stain + sealant of choice for countertop finish (I used diluted white paint and satin polyurethane.)
-sanding block (I used one of my children’s play blocks with stick-back sandpaper)
-spring clamps (these are good) or heavy weights (cinder blocks, bricks, paint cans, weights, etc.)
*Cutting the Plywood
The amount of plywood sheets you need depends on the size of your credenza. The orientation of the grain is unimportant for the final piece (unless you’re staining your doors), so feel free to cut your rectangular pieces along the grain or against the grain as needed in order to get the most out of the sheet. Plywood sheets measure 48″ x 96″, but you should consider the 1/8″ thickness of the saw blade when figuring how many rectangles you can get out of one sheet.
You will need two rectangles for each cabinet door. The first rectangle should be exactly two inches smaller than the dimensions of your cabinet door (W-2″ x L-2″), and the second rectangle should be exactly four inches smaller (W-4″ x L-4″). I was able to use one sheet of plywood to get all of the rectangles I needed for my project.
Step One: Apply construction adhesive to the back of your plywood rectangles and place them centered perfectly onto the front of your cabinet doors. I recommend that you measure as you go, or else place one-inch scrap pieces of wood around the border, ensuring the panels are perfectly centered. Did I do this? No. I just eyeballed it, chiding myself throughout the entire project, though at the end I was very pleased to see that they all seem pretty perfectly centered!
Place pressure along the entire surface of the panels, causing the glue to spread in between the layers. Then clamp all around the edge of the panels until the glue sets up completely. I couldn’t find information about the setup time for the adhesive I used, so I left my clamps on for a few hours, then took them off to work on the next door. (I have enough clamps to do three doors at a time. Most normal people probably do not have so many clamps, so this step might be more drawn out for you as you wait for each door’s glue to set up.)
Step Two: After the glue has completely set up, use a sanding block to sand each level of the paneled door, including the factory-finished surface. I slightly rounded the corners of the plywood panels, just in general making sure that everything was smooth, chip-free, and not sharp. I recommend using a block for this for a more precise sanding job. An orbital sander is not a good choice for this step, because it is too powerful and difficult to control.
If your panels do not sit perfectly flush all around the edges, this is the point where you will want to apply caulk to fill in any cracks. Allow the caulk to cure before continuing to the next step.
I edge glued my two 1x8s that I used for a countertop, sanded it down on the top and sides, and white-washed it with a diluted white paint I already had on hand. Then I sealed it with a few coats of satin polyurethane. After the first coat of polyurethane, I sanded lightly with 0000 grade steel wool. I also lightly sanded with 0000 grade steel wool after the last coat of polyurethane.
For the painting process of the doors, I first sprayed them liberally with two coats of primer, and then wet sanded all the crevices and surfaces with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. Wet sanding is simply a process of frequently dunking your sandpaper into water and using the wet sandpaper to sand down the primed surface using the water as a lubricant. This process creates an amazingly silky smooth finish, free of any tiny bumps or roughness that naturally occur during the priming process (whether you’ve sprayed or brushed it on). Because some areas will no longer be primed after wet sanding, you’ll want to spray with another coat or two of primer, and then just lightly wet sand once more before painting with your finish paint. I used a satin finish spray paint for my two coats of paint.
During this time I also painted my door knobs because they were unfinished wood. They were primed and wet sanded just like the doors.
Step Four: I waited for the door paint to cure overnight before drilling into them to add the knobs. I marked the center of the doors on their backside and drilled the hole for the screw. I made sure to find the center on the non-paneled side in case my panels weren’t perfectly centered, so at least my knobs would be exactly centered and in line with the adjacent doors. Then I screwed the knobs into place and returned the doors to the cabinet, but not without a little squeal and hand clap, maybe.
Note: You may want to countersink your screw holes so the screw head will be flush with the cabinet door. I didn’t do this, and a couple of the containers that fit perfectly into my cabinet actually don’t let the doors close all the way because the screw head is too big! Gah! Now I have to take off the doors and the knobs and countersink the holes. Bummer, dude.
Because this credenza is currently functioning solely as a toy storage unit, I opted not to add legs to the bottom. Elevating the cabinet would just create a difficult-to-reach space where toys can easily become trapped, along with spiders and dust bunnies. But the cabinets are easily anchored together, making this a sturdy piece to attach a set of stylish legs to the bottom. I did add thick felt pads to the bottom four corners of each cabinet in order to lift them slightly, keeping the doors from scraping the floor as they open. We decided not to bolt the cabinets together because we wanted them to remain hole-free, should we decide to reconfigure this piece in our next space.
I’m already enjoying this room so much more, without a row of plastic toy bins greeting me upon entry. Bonus: My kids don’t pull out as many toys at once because there is now a door between them and all the toy bins. I guess it’s the same principle I apply with candy in the kitchen. (Don’t tell the kids about my super secret candy hiding spot out of sight in our upper cabinets!)
Credits//Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson.