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Vittsjo Refined

The purpose for our nook: Sit. Relax. Enjoy music. We knew this would be our funny little room to play our records (man, we‘ve really been missing our records!), read a good book and hang with the pets. A few readers mentioned here that they could totally see our girls sneaking into this room, baking in the sun and leaving only in the evenings to fill up on tuna. These comments were so endearing to me, that my only hopes for this room is to make that true.

To make this happen, we’ll still need to find the perfect body-hugging chair, and we’re working on piecing together our former living room’s Flor tiles (although we’re thinking those will be for the interim). We also needed a place to stash our vinyl collection, and as we mentioned after painting the room green, we finally assembled an Ikea Vittsjo unit that was originally intended for the kitchen – which, by the way, will mean we’ll need to get another one for the kitchen. They’re inexpensive, well made (for Ikea), and the perfect alternative to, say, the much-loved Expedit or Billy bookcases. But because records are heavy, we needed to reinforce the glass shelves they come with for something that can bear the weight:

Like most Ikea pieces, there are many, many ways to hack an item – so many! Kate at Centsational Girl has a great write-up on nothing but Vittsjo ideas, and while we toyed with the idea of a different color altogether, we actually really liked the matte black finish for this room (the kitchen, however, may get a whole different treatment!). Our plan? We wanted to add wood shelving not only for the warm look it would provide, but again, to give us enough support for all of our records.

The original glass shelves actually sit on small tabs inside the steel frame, and we would need to fit shelves to sit on top of the steel frame. (Support, support, support!) The measurement needed for each shelf was 14 1/4″d X 39 3/8″w, which meant that our (more affordable) options were mostly limited to 4×8 sheets, as common board planks only have a depth of 11 1/2.” This, of course, turned into quite the debate at the store, as we couldn’t bring ourselves to purchase the smaller laminated pine sheets that would allow for only one shelf per board. That would’ve added a cost of $80 to a $70 shelf, which felt silly.

After walking up and down the aisles for a ridiculous amount of time (and considering buying MDF and just painting the shelves), we finally decided to buy a 4’x8′ sheet of birch plywood for $40. We chose a sheet with a nice grain, and we had the sheet cut down in the store for all of our shelves! After ripping the whole board down to 39 3/8″, a friendly sales associate continued to cut that down to 14 1/4″ planks, which gave us enough for 6 shelves – leaving us with 1 extra (always good to have in case of a mistake!).

Now that we had our shelves, we would need to notch out the room needed for the vertical supports, so I made a paper template. For anyone wanting to do the same, these were the measurements needed on our 14 1/4″d X 39 3/8″w stencil:

We laid our template on each shelf, I traced the notches with pencil, and Scott used a jigsaw to cut out the little squares needed for the vertical supports.

Each shelf got a good sanding, then I spent the next couple of days staining and applying Polycrylic to each one. For the color, I used two coats of Minwax Special Walnut, which is a shade we’ve come to love for a true medium brown (no reddish tint!). I followed the stain with two coats of Polycrylic, giving it a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper between coats one and two. We allowed the shelves to dry for a week before putting our heavy records on them – although to be honest, it was simply because life got busy (and an extended dry time never hurt, right?)

With our shelves ready to go, we would need to add horizontal supports on the sides of the bookcase if we wanted our records to have a place to lean. The negative space between the front and back vertical supports is almost 13,” and with a record being 12,” well, we would need to remedy that. Scott suggested we use these 3/4″w aluminum flat bars (so smart!), cut them down to size and screw them directly into the bookcase…

Like this! We sprayed them with matte black paint (using a spray primer first), and touched up the screw heads with a cotton swab. One of our favorite tricks for spray paint touch up? Spray the paint directly in the lid, then use the little pool of paint with a small brush or cotton swab to cover up what you need:

After I loaded our records on the bottom two shelves, I very excitedly went through each of our still packed (!) boxes labeled decor. Oh, I was so happy to see our old vases, cameras and mini Polaroids. I scattered a few favorite pieces around the house (including my hot pink Sexy Rexy, which I couldn’t run up to the studio fast enough!), but finally settled on this still in-progress shelving set up.

Our main hesitation in choosing plywood for the shelves was knowing that we’d be able to see the edges (which is not plywood’s finest point), and you know what? We kind of love them. The birch plywood we chose has a beautiful grain on the surface, and seeing those laminated edges really – like, really, really – doesn’t bother us like we thought they might.

As much as I love a good photo of Jack (I mean, you know we’re obsessed with him), he would not move out of this shot. He does this funny side smile and won’t make eye contact when he’s being stubborn, which is exactly what he’s doing here. In any case, I’m taking the photo below while being tucked way back in the corner – eventually, this will be where the turntable will sit on a little bureau of some sort – to give you an idea of just how adorably small this nook is. Our giclée print mimics the colors in our records on the opposite side of the room, which makes us happy.

Our chair, ottoman and Flor-tiles-to-be are still in flux (especially the chair), not because we don’t like the way it looks, but because we definitely imagine something cozier. Warmer. The girls – and me, too! – need a good napping chair.

We’re almost positive we’ll be putting another Vittsjo in the kitchen for open storage, and we’ve been tossing around ideas for how we’ll handle that one. A bright color? Blue? Pink? White? Wood shelves again? We love a good Ikea makeover, and we’re sure you’ve got some up your sleeves, too! Can we see?


PS… Better Homes & Garden has nominated these two kids as the top 5 in the Decorating category of their Blogger Awards! We’re still speechless that we’ve made it to this point (we’re in pretty fantastic company; we urge you to check out all the finalists), and we’d love a vote from you! Voting can be done once an hour and runs through March 5th. Winners in each category will be mentioned in an upcoming issue of BHG – crazy! Click here to vote. Thank you; we love you. XO.


  • angela - February 24, 2014 - 7:26 AM

    Love the shelves! I have seen them at IKEA and have been thinking about where I can use them in my own home. The shelves look great with wood, too!

    Angela @ Number Fifty-ThreeReplyCancel

  • Amanda - February 24, 2014 - 8:45 AM

    I love these shelves! I wish I had an Ikea around here. Maybe I’ll have to do some online shopping …ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - February 24, 2014 - 9:07 AM

    Love this hack! And I too like the plywood edges. It adds to the rustic-ness (?) and retro vibe of the records and room.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 24, 2014 - 9:18 AM

      Angela, go for it! This unit is one of the better made ikea items and full of custom possibilities!

      Laura, oh, yes, more rustic for sure.ReplyCancel

  • andee - February 24, 2014 - 9:43 AM

    I love your idea about spraying paint into the cap and using a q-tip. One of those, why didn’t I think of that it’s so simple…DOH moments for me.ReplyCancel

  • Cait - February 24, 2014 - 9:46 AM

    Those look great! I totally need to do that in our Art Room for books and supplies! I was going to do a similar Ikea Hyllis hack in our Library, but we just lucked into some hutches at ReStore this weekend and we’re going to make into build-ins. (fingers crossed that goes well)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 24, 2014 - 10:04 AM

    Ooh, good luck, Cait! How fun.ReplyCancel

  • Marie - February 24, 2014 - 10:16 AM

    Once again, you made the most of it and this shelving unit is absolutely awesome. I love the edges too, and thank you for the trick about spray paint. I bet Jack was dreaming about a future sunny day in the nook, I can see that on your picture. I read your “sage” post and I’m glad it worked very well. Never forget to always look on the bright side of life – Jack does !ReplyCancel

  • Hannah K. - February 24, 2014 - 10:27 AM

    I love everything about this room — I want one in my own home!ReplyCancel

  • Cait - February 24, 2014 - 10:27 AM

    Thanks Kim! If it turns out half as nice as your amazing media wall in the condo I’ll be over the moon!ReplyCancel

  • Meg - February 24, 2014 - 10:30 AM

    Damn, you guys are good.ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - February 24, 2014 - 10:49 AM

    So, Sorry – not sure if I’m not reading your post right …. did you leave the glass shelves in and just put the wood on top or have you removed them? If you’ve removed them – what are you going to do with the glass?

    Beautiful little nook is coming along nicely. I actually just picked up a sample of that paint because I think it would be nice in my bathroom! Thanks as always for your inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 25, 2014 - 2:29 PM

      Hi Katherine, sorry your comment got stuck in spam! We did leave the glass in, but it’s not actually supporting anything. The glass sits INSIDE the steel shelving unit, and the wooden shelves sit on TOP of the steel. And thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Staci - February 24, 2014 - 12:27 PM

    This is awesome. Was it hard to get the plywood into place after you had made all the appropriate cuts and whatnot? Do you think the aluminum supports will support the weight of the records over the long haul?
    I love the way the edges of the stained plywood look, too.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 24, 2014 - 12:52 PM

    Staci, nope, once we had our boards cut down (ever-so-slightly on the large side), they went in smoothly. When I traced my lines with the template, Scott cut on the OUTSIDE of my lines, so it’s a snug fit, but definitely not loose at all.

    You know, this bookcase feels really sturdy overall, but that’s a valid question. The plywood adds SO much support, so we don’t think we’ll have any problems (there’s no bowing of any kind happening, and there’s a lot of weight on them!), so we don’t think so. Of course time will tell, so if we ever need to upgrade for poor support reasons, we’ll surely blog about it!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Adventures of a Dog Mom - February 24, 2014 - 1:18 PM

    I love it, in fact I love what you’ve done with this room!ReplyCancel

  • tia - February 24, 2014 - 2:01 PM

    omg u have midnight marauders on vinyl!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 24, 2014 - 2:10 PM

    Wow, good eye, Tia! That gets played a LOT in our home.ReplyCancel

  • caroline [the diy nurse] - February 24, 2014 - 3:16 PM

    I’m loving it! I think the wooden shelves make it look 100 times more substantial. With the glass it just looks so wimpy. And I like the wood edges too- its like a subtle pattern :)ReplyCancel

  • Cyd - February 24, 2014 - 7:28 PM

    Love this! I’ve been wanting a set or nine of the Vittsjo shelves, too, and I love this look. Also I’ve been voting for you guys like crazy since Friday! ;-)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 24, 2014 - 7:49 PM

      Thanks, Cyd! How awesome would a WHOLE bunch of these along a long wall? And I’ve been voting for you like crazy too!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica@CapeofDreams - February 25, 2014 - 4:04 PM

    If you ever want to change the look of the plywood sides, it would be really easy to put birch tape around the sides. You just iron it on and then trim with a chisel and sand. It looks good the way it is, but it would look a little more finished that way.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 26, 2014 - 7:26 AM

    Jessica, we did toy with that idea… we’re not ruling it out, but I was so sure I would hate the look, and surprisingly, we really ended up liking it! Thanks for the tip.ReplyCancel

  • Krista - February 27, 2014 - 5:02 AM

    Wow! I wish I’d seen this before we blew the bank on some Besta that we’re not really loving in our space.
    I think birch ply edges can be really beautiful when finished in more of a clear coat manner vs staining.
    Great job!ReplyCancel

  • […] was posted in Design on March 2, 2014 by Drew Lambert. My husband, Scott, and I have this funny little room just off our main living space. Over the past several months, it has unofficially become our […]ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - March 12, 2014 - 1:32 PM

    Hi! As a fellow vinyl collecting couple we were scouring the internet looking for record storage solutions as we just weren’t happy with our current situation. Love this, AND we have a pair of unused Vittsjo sitting in storage!! I read a bunch of other entries but was super curious to see if you could give some more info on how (if?) you plan on connecting your record player up to your stereo system? Very, Very curious! And, LOVE the house! It’s looks very similar to the direction we are taking in our new home! I’ll definitely be following to see what you do next!ReplyCancel

  • Katrina - March 13, 2014 - 1:55 AM

    Love, love, love! Just bought a pair of the Vittsjo series shelves and I’ve been searching all over the place for clear instructions on how to add the DIY wood shelving. FINALLY! My search is over, hehe. You guys did such an amazing job, can’t wait to get started! Keep it up, will definitely be following :) Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - March 13, 2014 - 8:37 AM

    Hi Melissa, thank you! Do you mean how are we connecting the record player to our stereo system, while the stereo system is in another room? I’ll let Scott chime in on that one, since he’s the master of all the cabling (he should be chiming in soon!)

    Katrina, so happy to hear!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - March 14, 2014 - 10:49 AM

    Hi Katrina! YES! We actually have the same old sound system as yours in our old home but kept everything in the same cabinet. However in our new home we wanted to upgrade (looooove your selection btw! Definitely on our short list!) and have a separate record area, VERY similar to what you guys did. Was just curious how you guys plan to connect everything! I get that it’s not something that would interest most people, so thank you for your quick response! REALLY appreciated! You guys are the only reference to sound systems and record players AND video game consoles I’ve been able to find!
    P.s. We sold our home before we bought a new one so we’ve been crashing at my inlaws while we wait for settlement and I SO get the “we really miss our records” sentiment. DYING!ReplyCancel

  • Scott - March 14, 2014 - 5:27 PM

    Hey Melissa! We are lucky enough that that wall behind the main media center (where the TV is mounted) buts up to the room where the turntable now lives. We used the hole that the TV cables run through on the TV side, and the flexible pass-through wall plate linked below on the “nook room” side. The RCA connection cables (as well as our tiny turntable pre-amp) will run behind the Vittsjo unit and stay out of sight. The installation was simple with the included template and only took about a half hour. Hope this helps and good luck!

  • Maggie - June 8, 2014 - 10:49 AM

    I love this! It looks beautiful. Question, did you take any additional measures to secure the top board? Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 11, 2014 - 9:54 AM

      Hi Maggie! The top board isn’t secured in any way, but it’s heavy enough that it’s not going anywhere!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - September 16, 2014 - 6:41 PM

    This is wonderful! Did you have to attach this to the wall ? I’m a renter and I’ve been looking high and low for a shelf for my recordsReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 18, 2014 - 12:34 AM

      Hi Nicole, our records are SUPER heavy, so there is almost no chance of tipping (we also bottom weighted the whole unit to help with this). However, we did purchase a few L-brackets to secure it to the wall – JUST IN CASE.ReplyCancel

  • pin now and read later… - October 20, 2014 - 11:03 AM

    […] is until I ran into yellow brick home’s hack for creating functional wood shelves for Ikea’s VITTSJO shelving unit. Like many others […]ReplyCancel

  • Edna - March 7, 2015 - 8:18 PM

    I’m planning on doing this project. Thank you for the photos and tips.

    I don’t know if Plywood comes in only one thickness when it’s 4’x8′ but could you give the thickness you used for the shelves?

    Thank You!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 9, 2015 - 9:45 AM

      Hi Edna, the thickness of plywood can vary (which is reflected in its price), but we chose something closer to 1/2″ since we would be storing really heavy records on them. If you’re planning on books or records, I would recommend something similar, but for lighter items, you could likely get away with something more thin. Good luck on your project!ReplyCancel

  • Henry - August 19, 2015 - 3:26 PM


    The shelves look incredible, I love the stained layered plywood effect,it goes really well with the frame.

    Where you screwed the support bars for the vinyl at the ends of the shelves, were the holes already pre-drilled there for you to screw into or did you have to drill them yourselves; also what size screws did you use?

    Thanks very muchReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 20, 2015 - 8:07 AM

      Thanks, Henry! We drilled pilot holes ourselves, so you can use any size screw you’d like!ReplyCancel

      • Henry - August 20, 2015 - 2:33 PM

        That’s great, thanks for getting back to me, I will be following your instructions to make my own!ReplyCancel

      • Henry - August 20, 2015 - 2:35 PM

        Oh one more question – do you think the shelving, in terms of the frame strength, would be strong enough to take the two shelves above being filled with records too?ReplyCancel

        • Kim - August 20, 2015 - 2:43 PM

          Hmm, I’m not sure if I’d fill all of them with records. Maybe alternate the different ‘cubes’ on the top couple of shelves – some with records, some with frames or books. I would definitely make sure to anchor the shelf to the wall at the top as well! There are holes on the underside of the top where you can anchor it, or you can get tipping brackets. I would do that just as an extra precaution!ReplyCancel

          • Kim - August 20, 2015 - 2:45 PM

            And one more thing! Make sure you get sheet metal screws for the aluminum strips. Something we wish we would have added (and still will at some point) are record stops on the back as well. You could do this with another aluminum bar, or you could cut an extra piece of plywood and glue/screw it to the bottom/back of each plywood shelf. This will give the records a place to stop so they’re always flush and straight in the front. :)ReplyCancel

            • Henry - August 20, 2015 - 2:50 PM

              Excellent, thanks so much for all the information, I really appreciate your help.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - September 26, 2015 - 8:08 AM

    My fiancé and I are considering doing this when we move into our house. I was wondering if you’d be willing to share how much it cost you guys total. We just want to get a good idea how much to budget for! Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - September 26, 2015 - 11:19 PM

      Hi Kathryn, the plywood we got was about $40/sheet, but you that price could vary depending on the quality of wood. I’d just add that to the current price of a Vittsjo plus $20 or less for the aluminum bars and spray paint!ReplyCancel

      • Kathryn - September 28, 2015 - 5:48 AM

        Thanks so much! So if we were going to do the boards (my fiancé’s dad has all the equipment on their farm!) we would add 40 for each board and 20 right ? Thanks again so much for your help !!ReplyCancel

        • Kim - September 28, 2015 - 9:12 AM

          Oh, no, one sheet of plywood at $40 is all you need for ALL the boards! Then you’d just need the aluminum (if necessary; it was for us since we’re storing records), flat black spray paint and wood stain. Good luck! :)ReplyCancel

          • Kathryn - October 24, 2015 - 8:36 AM

            Thanks! My fiancé and I are getting ready to do this today! After we put it together I realized I have one more question! How did you do the top and bottom shelves? The ones you had to screw on ? Thanks again!!ReplyCancel

            • Kim - October 24, 2015 - 10:59 AM

              I’m not sure what you mean… The VERY top is still the IKEA shelf, but we added the piece of plywood on top to mimic the look of the rest, and the bottom shelf is the same as the middles. I hope that makes sense! Here’s the thing: You can really make it any way you like, with the main thing being to get those dimensions right when you make the cuts on plywood! There are so many ways to personalize it along the way. As you start putting it all together, you might make decisions that make more sense for you, so have fun with it! Our whole goal was to allow it to support heavier items such as books and records, while bringing in the warmth of wood. :)ReplyCancel

              • Kathryn - October 24, 2015 - 7:34 PM

                I completely understand! We did it today haven’t stained it but unfortunately the notches didn’t turn out how we thought. Even after the cutting there some spacing visible. Some of the notches are too big :(ReplyCancel

                • Kim - October 25, 2015 - 12:29 AM

                  I bet they’ll be less visible once you load the shelves with your stuff… Just keep going, a little love goes a long way!ReplyCancel

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