IKEA Hack: Transforming Expedit Shelves with paint sticks!

top shot


This piece is actually two EXPEDIT Shelves screwed together.  We purchased them individually five years ago, but you can purchase the larger size now. We have used this piece as our media stand, console table and now it serves as our entry way table.

I LOVE IKEA furniture, especially what it costs!   However, after five years I thought it was time to give this piece a little face lift.

During one of my routine visits to the local hardware store, I had a vision when I saw the paint sticks sitting on the counter in the paint section.  “Those suckers are free and they are 100% wood!  Hmmm….I could stain them all different colors and slap them on top for a cool effect!” So, without further ado, here is my little tutorial for embellishing your IKEA furniture…..

Here are the supplies you will need:


  • Miter box
  • Paint sticks (for my project I picked up apx 80- I made 5-6 different trips to the hardware store…or you could just ask an employee if you could have this many at one time)
  • 4 small cans of your favorite stain (I used special walnut, ebony, golden oak & dark walnut)
  • Liquid nails
  • Small old paint brush (I swiped one from my kids’ stash)
  • Fine sandpaper (I used 320 grit)
  • Old rubber gloves
  • Poly (I prefer a satin finish- not too glossy, not too dull)
  1. First you want to wipe down the top of the piece with soap and water. Let it dry (apx. 30 mins)
  2. Next you want to start sawing off  the “handles”IMG_4192[1]IMG_4196[1]

3. You should have a pile of these after you’re done…


4.  Since I used 4 different stains, I made 4 piles and started to stain (be sure to wear those rubber gloves!)
They will dry pretty quick (I was impatient and started gluing them on within an hour after staining)
Just follow the drying time on the back of the can (if you’re the patient-type)


5.  Time to add the glue…grab one of the millions of paint brushes on hand in your kids’ play room and brush on a line of Liquid Nails on the back of each stick.


6.  Start in a corner of the shelf and place one stick at a time down the “front” edge.  This will give you a straight edge to work from.  Be sure to alternate your colors for a “random” look. When you’re done with one row, move to the next row and be sure to stagger your paint sticks (or however looks best to you).  My kids only “let” me do two rows at a time so this project has been ongoing for quite some time.  That doesn’t bother me though.  It’s how I roll!


7. Once you’re satisfied with the look and all the paint sticks are straight and butting up next to each other, time to place some heavy objects on them while they dry (at least overnight).  I used a bunch of cook books.  You don’t need too much pressure on these sticks, as you don’t want to break them, just enough weight to be sure they stick to your piece.

8. You will have some gaps on the ends where your paint sticks didn’t quite make the full length of your shelf.  That is why I picked up some extra paint sticks so I could use for the open gaps.  Just measure the length of the open space on your piece, cut your paint stick to length and repeat steps 4-7.

9.  Once the glue has set now it’s time to seal it with a nice poly.  I like using a clear satin finish, water-base poly.  The sheen is noticeable, but it’s not too glossy.  Be sure to follow the directions on the back of the can, but I skipped the sanding in between coats (I applied two coats of poly) because I did not want to ruin all that hard work!  I suppose if you wanted a more rustic, shabby look you could sand your sticks a bit.


10. Let your artwork dry for the suggested time and enjoy your customized IKEA Expedit shelves!

top shot

sitting pretty


TRUST ME….you are going to get a TON of people stopping dead in their tracks to admire this piece!!!

signature_hugs_amy<<you might also like>>

40 Responses to IKEA Hack: Transforming Expedit Shelves with paint sticks!

  1. Julia@Cuckoo4Design says:

    Congrats to your BEST of DIY feature ;)

  2. Christine says:

    This is stunning! I was expecting to see the sides done too but it looks great with just the top. Are the legs Ikea or did you get them somewhere else? I’ve never seen Expedit with legs, it looks more polished.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Amy says:

      Christine, thanks so much!! Yes, the legs are also from IKEA. We purchased them pre-kiddos which is going back at least 7 years ago. The closest match to the legs we used would have to be the SULTAN series. This diy’ed console is actually two expedits secured together. Again, thank you for your sweet comment…it made my day! Hugs, Amy

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi ! I know you said these were older shelves, about 5 years old. Ikea now has made the shelves within the shelf thinner… doesn’t look as nice as the thicker shelves ! I was wondering where you got the legs?

  4. Sarah says:

    Nevermind, I just read the comment above mine : )

  5. Nicole says:

    I am actually doing this DIY. My first one! I have a feeling getting these paint sticks is going to be the hardest part. I made two trips and only have 11!

    • Amy says:

      LOL!! I agree! That was the most challenging part for me too. My conscience always got the best of me and I always felt guilty for grabbing a fist-full of paint sticks. It gave me an excuse to head to HD! Good Luck!! Send me a pic when you get it done; I’d love to see it. Hugs, Amy

  6. Kimmad says:

    What an awesome idea. Pinning this to consider doing soon. Just have to find a place to put it. :)

  7. Hi there, I’m so glad to have found your DIY article. I was looking for some IKEA decoration ideas and came across yours on Pinterest. One question – can I use water based wood stain as well? Or just oil based wood stain? Any advise will be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

    • Amy says:

      Hi! Thanks so much for your kind words. You can totally use a water based stain on these and I highly recommend it for a few reasons. I simply used oil based because it’s something I’m used to using and comfortable with. [1] Water-based stains tend to hold their true color longer than oil based. [2] The fumes from water-based stains are very minimal and therefore less toxic if you have small kiddos or pets who love to shove everything in their mouths [3] clean up is a breeze with water-based stains. Thanks so much for stopping by and sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Have a great day! Hugs, Amy

  8. barefootchic says:

    Hi Amy, thanks so much for kindly responding to my comment. I apologize for asking another question, but here goes. I’m thinking about painting my coffee table gray and my side tables are white. And I would like to decorate my living room in blue, gray & white theme – so I was wondering, can I use regular paint to color the sticks? My nearby Home Depot doesn’t carry water based stains – and I want to color different colors like yours but in different grays and maybe white… I’m sorry to bother you with this silly question! Thanks again for your time – and Have a lovely night! xo

    • Amy says:

      Ooooh, I think that would look absolutely gorgeous! [And I think that's crazy that your local HD doesn't carry water based stains! Argghh!] These paint sticks are real wood so they will take paint just as good as stain. PS, if you want to save some money, look for light colored oops paint in the paint section of your HD. They usually sell for $2 and they can tint them for free! Go for it! :-) Hugs, Amy

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  11. Louise Todd says:

    I love this. I don’t know if we have “paint sticks” here in the UK, I’ve never seen them. Will have to do some investigating! Thanks for sharing this project.

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  15. Kathryn says:

    Where did you get the “feet” holding it up?

  16. Karen says:

    Help! How can I find the recipe for the zucchini chips? Love your recipes.

  17. Sunny says:

    Hi Amy! Thanks for this wonderful tutorial. I am using my holiday break to use this idea on my ikea Utby kitchen bar. Instead of paint sticks I am using an $8 bundle of the 8ft lattice pieces of wood that HD sells. I looked for the straightest pieces and sanded them down a great deal. I just finished the staining step and can’t wait to see the rest of the project completed! I would have never had the confidence to try this without your clever guide! Many thanks!

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  19. Nancy says:

    where did you find the feet you used for the Expedit shelf project?

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  21. Raj says:

    hi Amy, where can I buy those metal pieces you used as legs for the Expedit? thanks!

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  23. paige says:

    Where is that amazing peace sign from?!

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  25. Alexa says:

    Hey! I am definitely going to try this! Just wondering how you got those legs attached to the shelf? Did you need to attach a frame?

  26. Emilie says:

    Hi Amy!

    I am so excited to construct this unit in a few weeks (I found the shelves on Craig’s List for cheap! Woot!). I was wondering how you screwed the shelves together, the length of screw you used, and where you placed them within the shelves? Also, do you think the capita ikea bracket legs will work?

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  28. Kim Luangphone says:

    This is so awesome!!!! I’m planning a 5.5 x 5.5 area to do this with. I’m going to do above my fireplace mantle all the way up to the molding as an accent wall. I absolutely cannot wait to send you a picture. I’m going to have a piece of wood cut to glue the sticks to. I may not want it forever on my wall, I tend to repaint and change up colors and themes a lot.

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  30. Dahlia says:

    I know this is an older post but I just found it and want to do it and have couple questions, please.
    What’s the legs hight? How you measure where to attach them meaning the distance from the edges to be able to hold the weight? ( new to DIY obviously!) and how you cut the wood sticks meaning do you need special saw or something? Thank you for such a great project.

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