5 Great Ways To Customise Your Ikea Expedit Shelves and Kallax Shelving

Ikea Expedit with Shelf Insert Customisation

The Expedit shelving range by Ikea has become one of the most widely used furniture articles in recent years and is synonymous with adaptable, modular shelving. And for good reason too as these shelves are both highly affordable as well as having a clean, modern appearance. One of the main appeals about Expedit units is this plain appearance which allows the items you choose to put in the blocks to create the atmosphere within a room.

However due to the popularity and basic nature of Expedit, the range in my opinion has begun to acquire a somewhat generic persona. Sure Ikea offer door and drawer units to compliment your Expedit and whilst these provide some additional functionality, they’re decidedly lacklustre and also quite pricey compared to the cost of the shelves themselves. In this article, we’ll be you 5 ways you can customise your Ikea Expedit shelves – some basic and some more complex – as well as offering some alternative solutions. A lot of these customisations should also work with the new Ikea Kallax shelving which Ikea are replacing Expedit with.

1 – Mix and Match Expedit Colours

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: Nothing (if already buying more than one identical Expedit)

Ikea Expedit Colour Mix Customisation

Expedit shelves come in several different colours and if you just can’t decide between two or just want to mix things up a bit, why not get both. The obvious choice to me would be to mix black and white although you might prefer light and dark wood or so etching different altogether. The great thing about this is that it’s also easy to take your shelves apart and revert them to normal matching colours if you get bored of this style or want a plainer look. This can of course be done with virtually any Ikea furniture and I have personally done it with Malm drawers and Micke desks.


2 – Remove Vertical Boards to Create Larger Recesses

Difficulty: Easy / Intermediate
Cost: Nothing

Expedit with vertical sections removedBreak away from the ultra-regular grid structure by removing a few of the vertical panels from your Expedit shelves. When assembling your Expedit, you can choose to leave out certain vertical panels to create longer, rectangular spaces in certain areas. This is great if you’d like to store larger items such as printers, guitar amps or record players on your Expedit. Keep in mind that you’ll have to cut some of the provided dowels in half so that they don’t jut out and you might want to apply some paint that matches your Expedit colour to cover up any holes.

Note: There are obvious risks with this customisation and we can’t accept any responsibility for damages or injury. Be sure to only remove one panel per level and do not have two removed panels directly above each other. Also try to avoid placing heavy items such as books or vinyls above a removed panel and if you notice any sagging, dismantle your Expedit and revert it to its normal state. However, I can confirm that I have a 5×5 Expedit with 3 panels removed on the bottom, third and fourth levels and have noticed no sagging or other issues from this customisation.


3 – Attach Ikea Hooks to the Ends of Your Expedit

Difficulty: Intermediate
Cost: £2.50 / €1.99 / $3.99

Expedit with Gruntal end hookIn my opinion the end sides of an Expedit unit are wasted space but can be easily turned into a hanging area by incorporating one or two ‘Grundtal’ stainless steel hooks. These hooks have an ultra-modern brushed steel appearance and fit seamlessly into the unit with no exposed screws or other nasties. Astonishingly, a set of two of these hooks costs just £2.50 from Ikea in the UK which includes the plastic inner workings used to fix them to surfaces.

As far as I’m aware these hangers aren’t made specifically to go with Expedit units but they look great attached to the middle of the top section of a shelf and are ideal for hanging jackets, bags and even guitars if you have an appropriate fixing. However be careful when installing these hooks that you don’t over tighten the screws. Expedit sections are made from a reconstituted wood fibre material and over tightening the screws can tear up this substance giving the screws little to fix to.


4 – Use Mykea Decals to Give Your Expedit a Unique Personal Style


Difficulty: Easy
Cost: Somewhat expensive (varies between €22.50 and €79)
Mykea Expedit Stickers - Bad Memories by AstronaughtDue to the blank-canvas style of a lot of Ikea furniture such as the Expedit system, a number of companies have popped up who are completely independent of the furniture giant who provide decoration such as decals and stickers to personalise your Expedit shelves. Two examples of such shops are Mykea and Panyl although I’m focusing on the former here as from what I can see they offer more creative designs although Panyl is definitely the way to go if you want a wood effect.

Mykea also have a unique offering in that graphic designers can submit their own images to the shop to be sold to customers who will receive a cut of any proceeds. An example of this is the Bad Memories design by Astronaut as pictured to the right on the side of a 2×4 Expedit. Mykea also sell stickers for other popular furniture designs from Ikea such as the Billig bookcase and Malm drawers. Prices for their stickers vary widely according to their size although in my opinion, its quite expensive when compared to the price of the furniture its for. These decals should fit the new Ikea Kallax shelves as well as only the thickness of the outer boards is changing.


5 – Fit Integrated LED Downlighting

Difficulty: Hard
Cost: Reasonably cheap

Ikea Expedit Customisation with TV Stand Downlighting

You can find many DIY guides online about how to incorporate lighting into shelves such as the Expedit but the way I suggest can give a much sleeker and higher end look in my opinion. This isn’t exactly an easy customisation to make and I’d only recommend trying it if you’re reasonably handy when it comes to DIY as it does involve drilling into the surface veneer of the furniture. You’ll need a drill with hole saw bit and a set of round LED lights, preferably with a push button interface such as these. Battery powered ones are ideal although if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could attempt to run wiring through the thicker Expedit boards and fit a switch as these are actually hollow.

EXTRA: If you’d like to customise your Ikea Expedit shelves by going down the route of painting them, you might be interested in another guide we’ve just posted which gives important tips on how to paint your Ikea Expedit furniture.

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  1. Susan Wright

    Can anyone help with some suggestions to help with the following:

    We wish to conceal the 12 inch vinyl records stored in our expedit units and have a lock on the door so we can rent out our flat at weekends and be sure that nobody is looking through or taking our precious music collection

  2. A

    Hi, yes you can. Customer service at Ikea will replace side panels free of charge. I purchased a 4×4 Kallax shelf unit secondhand and whilst assembling it broke two panels. I went to my nearest Ikea store to enquire about new panels, and was given them at no extra cost.
    Hope this helps.

  3. Andi

    Can anyone tell me the name of the design on the right of the mykea panels picture? The black background with golden body. I can’t find it on their page.

    Many thanks

  4. Martine Kane

    Can you rotate the door inserts for the Kallax shelving unit so that the door opens the opposite way i.e the door handles are at the left instead of the right?

  5. Korin Lebov


    Does anyone know if you could put the Besta glass shelves (or others) into the Kallax cubes? We want to use some of the cubes for books but the cubes themselves aren’t great for this.

    Thanks :-)

  6. cathy

    Is there any glass doors for this unit? Either single or vertically double cube size .

  7. Chris

    I have looked everywhere and can’t find this info- I have an old 4×2 Expedit. Will the newer Kallax workstation affix correctly to it? I don’t know if the height will match up. Thank you if you see this and can reply!

  8. kathy

    i have expedit and just bought kallax. for the expedit i have deep, one knob drawers. they don’t seem to make them any more. is there a hack to turn a pair of smaller drawers into one deep one?

  9. Charline ' Fantastic Flat Pack Assembly

    #4 is my favorite flat pack hack here! Having in mind that Kallax and Expedit are pretty much the same, these furnishing tips will apply for the new unit as well! You could do a whole new article on flat pack shelving tricks :) As far as I know, the difference between the old and new is the thickness of it’s frame, right?

  10. Darrell

    Would anyone know if you can purchase spare side panels for the Kallax / Expedit shelving units. I need a 147cm bright green side panel.
    Thank You

  11. Jemma

    Hi I would be really grateful for someone to comment/message me back :-).
    I have a small room and want to make a unit which requires a 2×4 kallax (already have) and a 1×2 which you can’t seem to buy anywhere(been searching for months!) if I was to buy a 1×4 or 1×5 could the sides be easily cut to turn it into a 1×2 or is the inside of the panel like a hollow core door? Really want this unit done but don’t want to spend the money to ruin thanks in advance

    1. Avatar photo Author

      Hi Jemma, as far as I’m aware the thicker outer panels are hollow. I haven’t opened one up to find out but they definitely feel hollow and are very lightweight.

    2. Ewan

      It would be more expensive, but you could combine the ends of a 1×4 and the sides of a 2×4 to create a 1×2 fairly easily.

      1. Avatar photo Author

        I dont think so: side panels have the fixing holes on the ends, while top and base panels have fixing holes on their bottom and top surfaces respectively. Therefor I think you’d end up trying to attach 4 upper and bottom panels together which wouldn’t work out.

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