Want to turn simple store-bought cabinets into custom built-ins? “Hacking” something that’s already made is so much easier than building something from scratch, and it can look really custom in the end. Built-in storage is universally helpful (especially in a smaller home – but really, anywhere), and things like the floor-to-ceiling closets in our bedroom, the desk & bookcase we added to our son’s room, and the wall-to-wall media cabinet in our family room have made such a difference. But one built-in that we’ve barely mentioned since we added and upgraded them are the Ikea Bestas flanking our fireplace:
The good news is that it took just a few fairly easy steps to make them look a lot more custom than they look on the showroom floor in Ikea. So let’s get into the details.
Why Did We Choose Ikea Bestas?
The photo you see above is the view directly across from our bed. You may recall it from inspiring photos like the one below, taken right after we moved in and were still in the thick of unpacking. Like, quite literally THE THICK.
Once we were fully unpacked, it became clear that this area was begging for some matching storage on either side of the fireplace. We knew some sort of cabinetry would nicely flank the fireplace, sit right under those matching windows, and wouldn’t take up much floor space while adding a lot more concealed storage. Because let’s face it, what we had on hand wasn’t going to cut it for the long haul:
Lucky for us, Ikea’s Besta system sold a 47″ wide cabinet that just about perfectly fit in that 50″ space on the left side (we added some filler pieces for a wall-to-wall look – but more on that in a second). Paired with some basic legs, the height of a Besta also fit perfectly under each window. So it was basically a no-brainer to start with those and then add custom details to them for a built-in look. We actually bought them way back in fall 2020, which is why you might’ve noticed them in the background of our holiday decor post that year. This is a photo from back then, minus the actual holiday decor:
At this point, they weren’t really “built-in” – they were just sitting there. But we were so grateful to have earned more concealed storage that we didn’t rush into the rest of the makeover. But I’m glad we have these photos because it shows how much more upgraded the same basic cabinets can look with a little extra work.
Over the next year, we got them looking a lot more custom. And now we can’t really even picture them looking like the two photos above.
It’s worth noting that the reason the right one doesn’t terminate into a wall is that we haven’t added a wall there yet – but someday down the line we plan to make a bathroom right at the end of that built-in, so it’ll terminate into a wall and look completely balanced from the bedroom.
How We Customized Our Bestas
There are lots of ways you can “hack” Ikea pieces to make them your own – paint, add trim, install hardware, wallpaper them, etc. But for these, we really just did three simple things to make them look more built-in:
- Added baseboard
- Added filler trim on the sides
- Added a butcher block counter
Adding Filler Trim & Baseboards
We’ve covered how to add filler trim and baseboard to Ikea pieces a few times for other built-in projects. So check out our son’s nursery built-ins or our walk-in Ikea closet for a more specific step-by-step on that process (I fully walk you through the entire process – I promise you can do it).
The main thing to remember – which I labeled below when doing our last closet – is that you may need to account for TWO LAYERS of filler trim. A bottom layer will be secured into the side of the cabinet box, while the top layer will sit on top of it, looking flush with your door.
That way when the doors are closed, it should look something like this – with the filler piece flush with the front of our door.
To add the baseboard, we just used the same baseboard and quarter-round trim that we have around the rest of room and literally nailed it into the basic square legs that came with the Bestas. It was that easy!
After the filler pieces and baseboard were attached, we caulked all of the seams and nail holes, then painted everything to match. We’ve had decent luck color matching “Ikea white” paint (although not even Ikea uses the same white on every piece). For these we realized that our wall color (SW Pure White) was a close enough match, so we just used that.
Adding Butcher Block Counters
You’ve now seen us use this butcher block countertop material for 2 other projects – our utility closet makeover and our DIY wood nightstands – but these Bestas were actually the place we first used it! We love how chunky it is and how the color works so nicely with our floors, so we thought it’d be a great way to make these cabinets look more custom.
We used our circular saw to cut it to size and then sealed it with a coat of cutting board oil, both to protect it and to bring out the color a bit. It dries much lighter than it looks below, so don’t panic.
To attach it we simply screwed up through the top of the Besta right into the wood (just make sure to use screws that aren’t long enough to poke through the top!). Sherry sits on it and I screw up from below (yes, I am aware of how that sentence sounds and I’m waiting for Michael Scott himself to say his well known Office catchphrase). It’s pretty heavy so it stayed in place well on its own, but the screws make sure it won’t drift over time.
The other thing we did was drill holes for various cords so things like our tabletop lamps could go through the top and be plugged in below. Both Bestas have a wall outlet behind them (we’ll show you how we maneuvered them to be exposed behind the cabinet in a second), but adding these access points for plugs in the countertop was a really great upgrade. We had to buy a special 2″ drill bit to make the hole (it took some patience to get all of the way through the butcher block AND the top of the Besta). Once it was done, we capped it off with these brass desk grommets to make it look tidy and professional. They go in with the light tap of a rubber mallet.
The cords just snake into the Besta and sit unceremoniously on one of the shelves. You can also see how we cut out a hole in the back of the Besta to access the outlet. It’s not very pretty, but who cares? It’s hidden inside the cabinet and you have to crouch down about 10″ from the floor to see it even when the door’s open.
Speaking of the inside of our cabinets…
What We Store In Our Customized Bestas
Adding these cabinets was a game changer for our storage in this room. It turned the dead space on either side of our fireplace into super functional spot to conceal a ton of stuff that woud otherwise look a lot more cluttered. Sherry actually filmed a quick video to give you a closer look at how they look all upgraded in our space & to show you what’s inside (including more about how we wired up the lamps):
Note: You can also watch this video on YouTube.
For those who can’t watch the video, here’s a quick photo tour. The cabinet on the right side stores a bunch of miscellaneous stuff like spare paint (as you can see above in the outlet photo), camera & podcast equipment, and some random journals and stuff. There’s even a fair amount of extra space that we can expand into when and if we need it (watch the video to see what we mean about that).
The cabinet on the left side is a bit more hardworking. It contains a bunch of overflow books, gift bags & tissue paper, plus some overflow candles, vases, and other knick-knacks that Sherry likes to rotate in and out. We’ve definitely cut down on our excess “decor stuff” since moving, but it’s nice to have a spot for this smaller grouping of items that we kept and still use on occasion.
And I know from the photos it looks like it’s really tough to access this cabinet, what with the table and the chairs in front of them. But don’t worry, it’s definitely fully accessible in real life. That table is heavy, so I certainly wouldn’t want to have to move it every time we needed to wrap a gift! You can see Sherry easily walk in there and open the cabinets to show you what’s inside on the video in this post.
And here’s a photo of Sherry grabbing a candle from in there (but definitely watch the video for a more real-life-usage POV).
Overall, we’re so happy with how they turned out, especially considering how simple our “hacks” were to make them feel like custom built-ins.
Other Ikea Hack Projects
Wanna see some other Ikea hacks? Here are some of our other favorite Ikea furniture customizations:
- A wood-wrapped Expedit bookcase
- Painting Ikea kitchen cabinets a custom color
- Adding brass & marble to a Vittsjo shelf
- Building a Malm dresser into a nook
- Creating a sleeping nook with Pax wardrobes
- Turning Fjell dressers into floor-to-ceiling bookcases
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