An Easy Ikea Hack: Bookcase To Wood-Wrapped Changing Table

The changing table was the last functional piece of furniture we still needed for the nursery. And although we quickly agreed we didn’t want to spend a ton of money on that particular function – since diaper changing feels like such a short phase in a bedroom’s life – that was pretty much all we were sure of. I remember before Clara was born a co-worker told me that changing tables were unnecessary since you usually end up changing the kid wherever is most convenient – like on the floor or the nearest piece of furniture – rather than going through the formality of walking all the way to the nursery. This was after we had already bought & refinished Clara’s changing table/dresser so the comment stuck with me, thinking I’d fallen into some first-time parent booby trap.

Surprisingly enough, we used Clara’s changing table religiously. Maybe because our house was small or because it was all one level. If we were at home she got changed on that table. And that routine stuck with us even when we moved to our second house, which was twice as big (but still a one level ranch).

Stairs might be a diaper changing game changer, though. So in this house we plan to keep some changing supplies downstairs for convenience. Anything to make your I-have-a-newborn routine easier, right?

We offhandedly mentioned when we started the nursery that we were considering using my dad’s old dresser that’s currently in our closet, which could double as a changing table. It’s not a permanent closet solution for us (we’ll eventually add a built-in closet system), and we kinda liked the story of our son having his grandfather’s 50-year-old dresser. But after completing the built-ins we realized that the eight drawers of storage they afforded us were awesome, and it was probably overkill to add four more on the other side of the room – especially when some sort of open, easy-access toy & game storage would be more useful for us over there.

So we scratched our heads for a little bit, and then we broke down our criteria:

  • It needed a wide and flat surface to accommodate our changing pad (at least 15″ wide)
  • It needed to have open storage mixed in with the possibility of adding a few bins or baskets to hide diapering stuff for a fleeting period of time
  • It most likely needed to be wide (around 60″) to make sense on that long empty wall, while grounding the large bike prints that we planned to hang over it. Sort of like the storage cubbies in the photo below from our last sunroom

It was literally looking at that photo above (we were checking to see how closely we had hung the prints together) that we had our A-HA! Why not the Expedit? It met all of our criteria and wasn’t serving a permanent function in its current home in our office (where we someday dream of adding an L-shaped file-storage area along with a floating desk/meeting table). And yes, this all happened right right as the news of the Expedit’s demise (or reincarnation?) hit the web – so it was sort of an all-signs-point-to-Expedit moment.

We unloaded everything (contributing more to the disaster that is our office) and I dragged it upstairs to see if the nursery should be its new home. And I say “drag” literally because I didn’t feel comfortable asking Miss Preggers to lift it. It was heavier than I remembered!

We put it in place on the wall opposite the built-ins and well, it was a bit underwhelming. Granted, it was very very empty and even the changing pad would eventually get a colorful cover. But it wasn’t a compelling case for the Expedit.

We leaned the bike art up to see if that helped, which it did, but we still felt like something needed to be done to make the Expedit a little more upgraded and not as blendy with the wall, rug, and doors.

So we had an idea. A hack, if you will. To add some contrast, and sort of nod to Clara’s white-and-wood changing table, we decided to wrap the outside of the Expedit with stained wood. This would also tie it into my homemade bike art frames, as well as the wood-topped built-ins across the room. You know, kinda like this…

That’s not Photoshop above (I wish I was that good!) – it’s the real after. I thought it would help for you to see that before I dove into the How-To part of the post. So let’s rewind to that, which started with me dragging the Expedit back out to the garage.

Our measurements revealed that three 1 x 6″ boards would be wide enough to cover the Expedit, leaving about a 1/2″ of an overhang on each side. This was nice because it would give the changing pad a bit more surface to sit on (it was the exact width of the original Expedit). We bought basic whitewood because it’s the same stuff we used to make our living room console table, which has held up great for the past few years, and the price was right ($5 for a 6 foot piece). We also wanted a slightly rustic wood look, like we achieved with the console table.

Here are all of the pieces once they were cut to size at home on our miter saw.

To attach the boards into big panels, I used my Kreg Jig to create pocket holes and then I could join each set of 3 side-by-side. It’s the same technique I used for the console top, so you can read more about it here. Note: I often make two holes if they’re going to be hidden when using the Kreg, just so if my first attempt at joining doesn’t line up perfectly, I can try again without having to break out the drill again.

Here are the finished boards all joined together. It’s also after I gave them a quick sanding to soften the edges and any ridges between the boards. I only bought two pieces for the bottom since no one will ever see the missing middle piece – so that explains why those are hanging out by themselves at the bottom of this shot.

Before staining, we decided to take wood conditioner for a spin. Its job is to “prepare” the wood for staining, reduce unevenness/blotchiness, and enhance the color. This small can was $6, so it’s not much of a “risk” – and richer and more even results sounded good to us. It goes on much like stain – you brush or wipe it on, let it penetrate for a few minutes (I gave it 15), and then wipe off the excess. You just have to be sure to stain within 2 hours of the application.

We used the same Minwax Dark Walnut stain that we’ve used elsewhere in the room for consistency (like on the counters of the built-ins and the bike art frames) and only needed one coat. For demonstration purposes, I stained a piece of unconditioned scrap wood (it’s the same exact type of wood, just a leftover piece) to see if there was a difference in using the conditioner. Both Sherry and I were pretty surprised by the comparison. I definitely felt the stain soak in more on the conditioned wood during application, and the color is noticeably richer/warmer on the conditioned wood.

When the stain and my two coats of Safecoat Acrylaq were dry (that’s our favorite poly alternative because it’s non-toxic and locks in any potential fumes or offgasing) I could finally begin attaching these wooden panels to the Expedit. I decided to go with a simple wood-glue-and-nails system, so that I wouldn’t have screw heads to hide after the fact. I prepped the Expedit surface by roughing it up a bit with sandpaper and then applying a bunch of wood glue.

Then I used my nail gun to secure them in place with some 1.75″ brad nails (thank goodness for the thick frame on the Expedit).

Then I did the same with the sides for sort of a waterfall-edge effect.

I let those dry overnight before attempting to flip the piece over and attach the bottom pieces. You can see how I just put them on either end in this shot, since that middle slice will never be seen.

After letting everything dry for a couple of days, I dragged it back upstairs and started on the next step – adding legs and casters. Sherry and I thought two of these chunky $5 casters from Home Depot would be a nice touch, while some stationery legs (made from 2 x 2″ pine and Kregged to the back and middle) would keep it from rolling around mid-diaper-change.

If you’re scratching your head about where the casters were on the after picture, well, they weren’t there. Because we decided they weren’t right for this application. The height they added made the changing pad uncomfortably high (we thought we’d like that added height, but it was a good deal higher than the changing pad height that we were used to in Clara’s room) plus it would’ve meant the art above it would have to hang even higher than the doorway tops, which we thought would look off.

But we really liked the look of it, so we wanted to share the idea in case it worked better for someone else’s application…

It was just a matter of unscrewing a few things to get back to the sitting-straight-on-the-floor look (which also has the benefit of not creating a spot for dust and toys to collect). Then Sherry helped me hang the art and fill the shelves.

Update: There have been a few questions about the height of the changing station. The Expedit itself is 31″ and the wood frame added a few more inches, and the pad itself sits on top of the dresser, so the baby is around 34″ from the ground on the Expedit with the pad on it. Clara’s dresser with the pad on it was around 33″ from the ground – so that range seems to be what we prefer.

The stuff on the shelves is mostly placeholder items (another bin or basket for diapering supplies will definitely end up in the mix). In fact they’ve already been tweaked a little in the rest of the photos in this post. But you hopefully get the idea of how this’ll function for us.

It’s nice to have some concealed storage, plus some open toys and books that he can easily access. The 3 Sprouts dragon box was a gift from Sherry’s friend Cat during Clara’s dragon-loving days that Clara brought in and said was for her brother because he likes green (yes, Sherry melted into a puddle). Who knew those bins were perfectly sized for an Expedit? Apparently Clara did.

We might need to get a few more large baskets to house diapers and wipes more easily, but other than that, this changing area has shaped up quite nicely. Well, except for the fact that the changing pad cover is just leftover fabric that Sherry tucked around it – so we have to buy/make a real cover soon.

The funniest part of this entire endeavor was when Clara brought in a baby onesie from a to-be-washed pile in the guest bedroom and said Barnacle wanted to wear it while we took his picture. Apparently we have an accidental tradition of dressing up not-real-babies in the nursery before the real baby arrives, since this happened in Clara’s crib after we set it up.

Oh and for anyone wondering how the changing pad is secured in place, it’s the same one we used for Clara, and it has two over-sized snaps on the back that attach to snaps that get screwed into the furniture or wall from the back. These are pics from making Clara’s dresser (which you read more about here) but we were easily able to remove them and screw them into the back edge of the Expedit.

We’ve also used heavy duty 3M command velcro to adhere the bike art firmly to the wall beyond the screws-into-studs/anchors hanging method that we used. So the little guy shouldn’t able to knock it off the wall or even pull it off (not that he’ll ever be unsupervised up there anyway). We did joke that it could get peed on, but the slick poster board material will hopefully work in our favor. We also have a hilarious tiny tent-like item that was a gift for keeping the spray at bay, if you will.

We’re really happy with how this little upgrade turned out, and we’re hoping it has some lasting value as toy and book storage when Barnacle gets older. I’m already picturing it stuffed with bins of legos. And the cost of our update was around $45 – the wood was $39 and the wood conditioner was $6 – since we already owned the stain and returned the casters (you can add $15 to cover those if you don’t have ’em).

The nursery is feeling much more complete now that we’ve dealt with that formerly empty wall. And Sherry’s putting the finishing touches on her mobile project for over the crib (this is just a photoshopped version of what she’s going for), so she’ll be back with those details in the next few days. It’s amazing how much more homey a room feels without two big blank walls staring back at you.

Aaaaaand I just realized the fun part of diaper changing is pretty much over. It only gets uglier from here. Speaking of which, we haven’t forgotten that we need to add a place for dirty diapers (we’ve had luck with this method for Clara, so we might go that route again). How’s that for a note to leave off on?

Do you guys use changing tables, or are you bed/floor/random-other-spot folks? Have you done anything fun to an Expedit lately? It’s amazing how many hacks there are. Can you believe Ikea’s retiring them (or at least tweaking and renaming them)? Will the new name stick, or will we all still call them Expedits?

Comments

  1. Kristi says

    We use an Expedit for our son’s changing table, and it has been great (he is almost 15 months old)! My mom actually told me that we would never use the changing table, that she always changed us in the crib, but I had to explain to her that drop-side cribs are actually illegal now, so that wouldn’t work for us, ha! :) We have used ours religiously, too–I don’t really understand how people change their kids all over the house, do they keep diapers and wipes all over the house, too? I love having one spot where we can keep everything! Target makes some really great looking Threshold bins that fit the Expedit perfectly and we got four of them in gray for our nursery: http://www.target.com/p/threshold-storage-bin/-/A-14368649#prodSlot=medium_2_0&term=threshold%20storage

    • Sayward says

      Yes! Finding bins is like the hunt for a golden unicorn. I was eyeing up some of Target’s new “leather” bins yesterday and wondering if they’d fit.

    • Susan says

      My mother told me the same thing – it’s one time I am glad I didn’t listen to her. We use our changing pad on the dresser all the time (even in our 2 story house). When our 15 month old was a little baby, I would change him downstairs, but now that diaper changes are not as frequent, we change him upstairs every time.

    • Amber says

      We have a two story house, and just potty trained our son right before he turned three, and we never had a changing table. We had a basket upstairs and a basket downstairs with a waterproof felt pad, diapers, powder, and wipes. Upstairs we’d often change him on his bedroom floor or on our bed, and downstairs we generally used the floor in the playroom. It kept us from running up and down the stairs, and we were able to change him wherever we wanted.

    • Margaret says

      Everyone told me the same thing and no, I totally use our changing table. We did the dresser route in our old house but now we have a large enough landing (and enough overlapping kids in dipes) that we put the changing table in the hallway upstairs. There’s the perfect little nook for it. We got an inexpensive IKEA version (which I saw someone turn into an awesome bar cart on Apartment Therapy… ideas for the future) and I always run upstairs to change my daughter (and will with our soon-to-be second daughter. I figure it’s one more way to work on shedding baby weight and it keeps the dirty diapers in one spot.

  2. Sarah says

    Like you, we found that having a table just for changing diapers seemed like a waste of a piece of furniture. We set up our daughter’s changing pad on top of our IKEA Hemnes 3-drawer dresser. It works great.

    That said, she only gets changed in there at bedtime because we don’t want to haul her upstairs to the nursery every time we change her diaper. We have a pack & play set up in the family room with all her diapering supplies for the rest of the day.

    • says

      We used the changing table in the nursery regularly but we also used the pack-n-play in the living room as well! It was nice having two areas to change diapers.

    • Diana says

      That’s pretty much what we did too. Changing pad on top of dresser in the nursery and then used the pack n play changing table downstairs. We took down the pack n play when he was about 6 months since we were only using it for diaper changes. Now I just use the floor. Not as easy but the pack n play is out of sight!

  3. says

    I love the update to Expedit, so simple and perfect! We’re using that Expedit(plain) in our nursery too… it was perfect height for changing, compact size for the space. Except we have no closet for storage in the space and the only drawers we have are at the base of the crib ( Baby Mod!), so I have each cubby filled with a bin for clothes/ prefolds/ covers/ etc.! xo, Amber

  4. Elizabeth says

    We also use a changing table religiously! Although there have been a few instances where time has not been on our side and we swapped britches on the floor. Very rare though. We have a changing table in our bedroom, and we have my husbands from when he was a baby, upstairs. And I love that they double as dressers so they can grow with the kiddos.

    I love the hack you guys did! Looks like it will be super functional!

  5. says

    Looks great! My husband is a cyclist and would love this room for a boy.

    An off topic question- how do you like your new may tag washer now that it has been replaced? How do you expect it to work for the cloth diapers? Did you take that into consideration when purchasing? We recently purchased these and then I realized they are the same ones you guys have, but I couldn’t really find an update post on how the washer actually worked. I had to stop cloth diapering due to my he front loader not washing them well enough and now that we are moving and getting a second chance to pick out a w/d, I, hoping it’s the right one for cloth diapering ( we have same diapers you do). Thanks!! Lanie

    • says

      So far we love it and we have heard good things from many families who cloth diaper (some multiple kids at a time) and have the same washer. So our fingers are crossed that it should be great. Will keep you posted when those days are here!

      xo
      s

    • says

      We have this same washer and cloth diaper and have had NO issue. I would say we’re past the peanut butter poo and moved on to more solid bowel movements and it worked wonderfully during that nasty poo stage. I do a regular wash and push the prewash, extra rinse, and deep clean buttons and throw the detergent in the dispenser. All my diapers are perfectly clean afterward. Sometimes I leave off the prewash if it’s not too bad. Also the dryer is more of a pain. I think because it’s HE it tries to save power but sometimes that means our clothes aren’t dry enough so I’ll run them through another dry cycle. Also there is a way to specifically set the dry time so we do that occasionally too. Overall LOVE this washer/dryer for CDs!

  6. angie says

    I was definitely one of those moms that realized i shouldnt have gone to the trouble of getting a changing table all ready because i just changed my daughter wherever we were! Thankfully her changing “table” was just a pad on top of a dresser so i hadnt wasted money on a whole piece of furniture, just a changing pad:) i do like your solution though. You will use those little cubbies forever! It looks great, as always. Stairs would definitely be a game changer for me. I am anxious to hear how/if it affects you:)

  7. JenR says

    The nursery looks so good. Love the built-ins and the changing table is perfect. I’m reading your post this morning as we are traveling from Tampa to snowy upstate NY. We hit Richmond at 10 am and I thought, hey a bet there is a new post on YHL! So hi from I 95!

  8. Crystal says

    I also always changed at the changing table. Even after a c-section and having to walk up to the second floor. It is good to move around and I like the fact that it keeps it all together.

    The Expedit has so many lives I swear! We’ve used ours for so many different purposes in multiple rooms. They’re the bookshelves that just keep giving and giving! LOL

  9. Danielle says

    I love it so much! You guys always have great ideas. I think his nursery is looking great!

    We have our 18 month old’s changing pad on his dresser too and have always used it religiously. It works great for us, and we’re in a ranch so his bedroom is just right off the living room anyway.

    • says

      I imagine having the changing station in one area might instill early the idea that “we go to a place to do these sorts of things.” Maybe it’s wishful thinking to think that changing them in a certain place helps with potty training? Each kid is so different though that I doubt there would be any way to really tell.

  10. Frannie says

    I love it all, it is so cheerful and sweet! How/are you going to attach it to the wall? Only asking because I’m currently trying to figure out how to attach a smaller version to the wall in my little girl’s room. Love all the progress! (sorry if this is a duplicate comment, my computer is acting up)