IKEA Bookcases – So Many Ways to Use Them!

The Expedit Bookcase is one of IKEA’s best-selling products, and it’s no wonder.  They’re inexpensive and incredibly versatile, making them the best value I’ve found in a bookcase.  They’re backless, so the color from the wall behind can show through.



You can add a wallpapered back of cheap plywood to inject some personality of your own.



Adding baskets and cubes makes IKEA’s Expedit bookcases great units for storage in an office or playroom.



IKEA offers a desk attachment, but you can use any desk to create a mini-office.  Just place it at a right angle to the Expedit – I’ve done this in several of my clients’ homes.



In too-open open floor plans, the IKEA Expedit is a great solution when you need a little separation.


You can even paint the interior cubes different colors to highlight the contents or add interest in a child’s room or playroom.



You can obviously use them in multiples to create a whole wall of shelves, but you can also stack them where ceilings are soaring.  As a Nashville based interior decorator, it’s my job to find ways for my clients to use great bargains like these and still have a designer look:


Do you have any other ideas for the Expedit bookcases?    Click here for my post on the many ways to use IKEA’s Lack side tables, and make sure to subscribe to The Decorologist for more ideas on decorating on a budget.

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62 thoughts on “IKEA Bookcases – So Many Ways to Use Them!

  1. Kelly, Restyling Home by Kelly says:

    Great post Kristie!

    I especially love the room dividers. I have heard nothing but good things about these Ikea shelves. Great pictures too!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      kelly, i have a pair of white ones that my husband made backs for – they are in my finished basement and serve as a “wall” to separate the area where I house all my home staging props from the rec room area where the kids play. it was much cheaper than adding a wall, plus it gives me tons of book storage – which i need!

  2. Karina says:

    Krisie, I just spent 7 hours at the Ikea in Orlando this christmas. My hubby and I (yes, a very patient man) walked between the Expedite and another wall unit. I just simply could not make my mind up. We will be going back soon to the Ikea in Atlanta to pick up our book cases. As you can see, I have a hard time making a decision! LOL I absolutely love the pics you have posted. Where did you get them from?

  3. Karina says:

    Oh, I also had a hard time with the color (white or birch). Just simply could not picture in my mind what they will look like at home. I have always had such a hard time with big purchases like this. I am so worried that I will bring them home and absolutely hate the way it looks.

  4. Brooke says:

    How did you create the look on the fifth picture from the top? Did you buy individual Expedit bookcases or shelving units and piece them together?

    I am in need of the largest Expedit bookcase (5×5 cube). The closest IKEA is about 5 hours away and they have been completely sold out of the one I need for over a month now. I have rescheduled my trip to IKEA 3 times already because of this. When I called the store, they informed me the distributor doesn’t even have this size in stock and don’t know when they will.

    So, can the shelving units be pieced together to create the 5×5 bookcase? Suggestions?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      wow, that’s crazy – i know it’s one of their top-selling pieces, so i can’t imagine they wouldn’t be doing everything possible to get that thing in stock. what city are you in? you can attach smaller versions of the 5×5 and screw them together at two ends so that they look like one piece.

      • mistybrooke05 says:

        I know it’s crazy. I’ve been calling and checking online availability for awhile. Hopefully they’ll get some soon or I may be buying the smaller ones. Thanks for your help .

        P.S. I am in Central Louisiana…and that’s why I have to drive so far for an IKEA.

        • Kristie Barnett says:

          yikes. i’m in nashville and am also 5 hrs away from the nearest IKEA. however, there is a local company that does IKEA runs for the locals and even stocks the most popular pieces in a storefront here – that’s where i got my last expedit 5×5. let me know how it turns out!

  5. Isabella Florence says:

    Oh wow, I love these ideas! I was so inspired that I went out and bought one of these bookshelves yesterday.
    But I have a question, Kristie, do you have any idea where I could find the baskets and chair from the first photo? It would be great if you could reply. I enjoy your posts so much. 🙂

  6. Misty says:

    I almost ordered 2 of the Expedit bookcases until I found out that the shipping would cost more than the bookcases! I also live in Nashville. Does the local company that you mentioned sell IKEA goods to anyone? Would you mind sharing the name of the company? I want to turn the bookcases on their sides and butt them up against each other to make a cutting table (with storage) for my sewing room. They would be perfect! With four small children, I don’t think I’ll be driving to Atlanta for sewing room furniture anytime soon!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      misty – check out http://modernash.com
      they have a storefront now on trousdale (off harding pike) and they keep popular ikea items in stock. they also make frequent runs to atlanta to pick up ordered items – their shipping is less than ikea, and you might luck up and find some in stock so you don’t have to order (although they do mark up items, but it’s still better than the cost of driving to atlanta!)

  7. Jil says:

    Hi Kristie, great article, very informative. Do you know which IKEA bookcases don’t have the little holes in the interior sides to reposition the shelves? I can’t stand the look of those little holes in a row about 1″ in from the front. I know they have value to reposition the shelves, but sometimes they give an unfinished look. I can’t tell from Ikea’s website which have the little holes and which do not.

  8. Crystal says:

    I adore the idea of using the bookcase as a room divider! Your creativity is really inspiring Kristie, thanks for your posts!!

  9. Marie Mitchell says:

    Hi Kristie

    Love all your ideas. I have one question though. Do the expedit units have to be screwed to the wall? The directions on the IKEA website say must be fixed to a wall. Is this a safety precaution for small children? The base of the unit appears to be wide enough just to sit there. I notice some of the ideas show chrome legs attached. The ones used as room dividers don’t appear to be fixed to a wall. Would love not to put screw holes in my walls. Thanks so much for you great ideas. Marie

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      marie, it’s one of those child safety recommendations that they have to say – otherwise, if one of their bookcases toppled over on a child they might be sued. kinda like the “hot coffee” warning at mcdonalds. the ones with a flat bottom do not need to be fixed to the wall, unless you are concerned a child might climb them (which i suppose some kids might want to!). i have 2 side-by-side that act as a huge room divider in my rec room, and they are quite sturdy – of course, i have lots of books in them which makes them heavier and sturdier. never been a problem with my kids.

      • Marie Mitchell says:

        Fantastic thanks so much for that – this is what I figured. Won’t be a problem for me I have only one child and he’s 16 so hopefully he won’t be climbing up the bookcase although conversely he sometimes sends me climbing up the wall……..ha ha. Love your whole website and spent quite a few happy hours browsing yesterday. Will keep reading and thanks again for the inspiration.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      thanks heidi! i just checked out your blog (i couldn’t resist because i always wanted to be wonder woman, too) and i love your graphics and the whole “wonder woman” thing!

  10. Jayelle says:

    I love ikea furnitures!! It’s not as accessible where I am (Malaysia) and it’s considered pricey for fresh grads who are just starting out. Like, I make about Rm3500 and an expedit can set me back by about rm200-250.

    I have a small sticker business since my university days and have been meaning to look for a pretty way to display my products yet keep them organized!! After looking at the examples and ideas here, I am so inspired.

    I really love your website 🙂

  11. Coley says:

    I have one of these in my living room with tons of baskets in it. The back is painted a bright teal so it pops through so nicely. My dream would be to have one of these in my own ‘closet room’ and fill it with accessories and shoes!!

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  13. Kathy says:

    Hi Krisitie – thanks for the inspiring ideas. Yu are so talented. I love the pic that is the fifth one down. Are the shelves sitting on top of something? Looks like drawers. I would love to know what. Thanks.


  14. Karen Franck says:

    Hello! I am considering the Expedit bookcase and am exploring storage bin options (we dont live near an Ikea). The first photo you posted with the orange wall…the bookcase has wicker bins with a triangular handle….do you know where I can find those?

  15. Kathy Tobacco says:

    In the “too open room” where the shelves with red drapes act as a room divider it appears that the decorator had the shelves customized by resting them on a 10 to 12 inch base. It really make them look more polished. The additional height brings the shelves right up to the top of the moulding where she probably attached them to the wall eliminating the toppling hazards. You can’t see but I am betting she attached the red drapes to the ceiling which would unify the room with the red drapes. I wish we could see the other side. The base is a great idea because by playing with the height of the base one could make this work in another room. A lot of us have living room/dining rooms with this sort of set up.

  16. nicola says:


    Have you ever seen these with legs attached to the bottom? I would like to buy one to go against a wall in my kitchen but as there is a skirting board at the bottom of the wall, would need to put legs on the cabinet so that the back of the cabinet could rest against the wall (if that makes sense)

    Have you seen this before/would you recommend doing so?

    Thanks so much

  17. Dave says:

    Hi Kristie,
    I might be inheriting this bookshelf from a departing roommate, and was curious if you think it is possible to cut pieces from it? Meaning, I’d like to make two squares into a rectangle, so I can store one some of my bigger items? In my dream, I would have it laying on the floor horizontally(as it is now), and make cuts so I end up with two rectangles and four squares, with perhaps the rectangles being diagonal from each other. I hope this makes sense. I don’t want to totally weaken the bookcase, but like I said, I would like to have some bigger storage space within it.


    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Hi Dave –
      I’m not sure that’ll work, but I’m no carpenter. I assembled a set of these a few weeks ago for a client – they come in a flat box and are assembled with wooden pegs and screws.

    • Shannon M. says:

      DH and I just put together the 2×2 version of these shelves, and they are incredibly solid and sturdy, while being exceptionally light – I could pick up the unit by myself! Our next project is the 4×4 unit for our home office. It depends, obviously, on the weight of the TV, but I would think that the 4×4 unit would be even sturdier. I would consider bracketing the shelves to the wall, if you want to use it with the TV on top. Did you also see that IKEA has an Expedit TV Storage Unit as well? It’s 5 cubes wide by 4 cubes high:

  18. Mary says:


    Can you tell me how wide each individual inside block of the Expedit 4 or 5 row shelf? I need to fit a Sterilite drawers that are 15.0 ” H x 14.8 ” W x 32.3 ” D.
    Thank you! This is a great idea for craft storage.


    • Shannon M. says:

      Your Sterilite drawers won’t fit. I just measured inside one of the cubes of our 2×2 unit (the cubes are all the same size from unit to unit), and the dimensions are:
      13 1/16″ wide x 13 3/16″ high x 15 1/4″ deep.
      Hope that helps.

  19. Maria says:

    Just discovered your lovely blog and great post about the Ikea Expedit. I’m about to go this week-end to buy the bigger one (58×58) and plan to cover a mirrored wall with it. I can’t get rid of the mirrors right now and thought this would be a clever way of “hiding” it. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

  20. caroline says:

    Hi, how do uou secure the stacked up shelving units on the wall, isn’t it too heavy for the one on the floor? i would like to stack up two 4×4 units, or four 2×4 units on my living room wall and I am looking for the right technique to achieve this safely. Thanks for your help

  21. Cathy says:

    Have you tried attaching a backing such as a thin plywood to the these shelves? We are using a wall of them to divide a very large bedroom in half for our daughter. The shelves will hold toys that will show on the playroom half of the room but the “back” will run along her bed. We were thinking of using a thin bead-board panel attached to the back but not sure how the shelves will handle nails or glue. Have you had any experience with this?

  22. Sarada says:

    My large living room has linen white walls and a natural wood color floor w ith high ceilings. I’d like to use the expedit bookshelves to divide the space and use the actual shelved to hold brass decorative pieces. Would you suggest the white or birch for this?


  23. Erica says:

    Hi Kristie,
    I loved your post. My husband and I just came back from purchasing the dark brown 4×4 expedit and now have second thoughts. The room we’re using it in is about 10×16 (i think) and is used as a dining room/playroom for our two kids. Our wall colors are brown with a rich-dark orange accent wall (the largest wall) I call it my Harvest room 🙂 Now were not sure if we should arrange it against a wall or as a divider, if we should stay with the 4×4 or get the 5×5 (i love the height but im worried it’ll be too wide) and if we should stick with the dark, or go with the white. BTW our dining room set is cherry (alot of dark going on) but our kids table (small 4-person dinner table with the legs cut) is white and we have some white shelving. Any suggestions please?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      You could probably go either way (brown or white) based on what you’ve told me. If you have white trim in your room, the bookcase would read more architectural if it were white. It does sound a bit dark in there, but as long as you are using some real color in there (orange), that’s not necessarily bad. I can’t imagine that you would regret getting the larger 5×5 – that size is better for a divider. I wouldn’t worry about it being too wide, as you will still see through it to the other side of the room. Good luck and send me a photo when you get it figured out!

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  25. Uma says:

    I love, love, love the chair in the last photo with the colored Ikat fabric on it. Any idea where it is from? It would be perfect in my home and I feel like ordering it…now!

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