We recently hacked two BESTÅ cabinets to make a beautiful built-in media cabinet.
We decided to hack the BESTÅ because it has good “bulk” to it and makes for a nice built-in look. The BILLY was also considered but we thought they were not deep enough and felt it would have required more trim to make it look hearty.
Let’s start with the end — this is our BESTÅ built-in media cabinet after the hack.
Two x Lowe’s 30 inch x 6 ft Farmhouse Panels (1.5 inch thick spruce) 120 inches of 5 inch tall non ornate baseboard (primed mdf) 16 feet of 1.5 inch molding for the top (to close the gap between the countertop and the wall) 12 feet of quarter-round toe molding (primed mdf) One 5 ft x 5 ft sheet of plain wainscotting 6 feet of 1″x 2″ boards Primer: Zinsser 1-2-3 (2 coats of primer is important for painting IKEA materials) One-gallon of Sherwin-Wiliams “Repose Gray” in semi-gloss Miter kit Brad nailer Jig saw (that we had already), with a fine blade 2 Purdy trim brushes – one for Zinsser and one for paint (you really cannot used the same brush for both) Pack of small cabinet/smooth paint roller sponges and a small roller (a standard roller won’t fit in the small spaces). Fine sanding sponge White paintable caulk Set of BESTÅ overlays from MyOverlays (come in packs of 2) Two x 2 inch gold ring pulls from Amazon
How to hack a BESTÅ built-in media cabinet:
First, we began by simply putting the BESTÅ units together. As you can see in the photos, we used the feet included with the cabinet, because it allowed our media cabinet to have some height and we did not have to build a platform. We used the brackets and feet provided with the BESTÅ storage units to connect the two cabinets together.
We also cut a sizable hole in one of the cabinets to run plugs to the outlet in the wall behind the cabinet. The hole is in a cabinet we knew would have a door on it, so it does not show. And, as you can see in the photos, we added plug-in wall sconces so we knew we’d need to run the wires to a plug and power strip we store inside the bottom of the BESTÅ unit.
We decided to prime the cabinets after they were assembled. It took two coats, and we did a light sand between the coats of primer, but we did not sand before putting the paint on.
In hindsight, we probably should have primed everything before it was assembled, but we had limited space to lay all of the pieces out to dry.
Zinsser Primer is not great when it gets on floors or other furniture, so we had to work hard to be tidy. It’s also really smelly, so do this outside or in a well ventilated room. We opened a lot of windows and it was 20 degrees outside. Yikes! Ultimately, it all turned out okay.
3. Installation of the countertop
After primer, we purchased the two spruce slabs for the countertop at Lowe’s and had it cut at Lowe’s (free of charge) to the dimensions we needed: 56.5 inches x 20 inches. We scoured the internet for countertops and prefab options and everything just came up short for what we need in this space.
But, ultimately, you could buy a prefab countertop at a big box store or IKEA and cut it to your needs or even have a top made (if it’s in your budget).
We screwed the two countertops into the BESTÅ, from the underside up. There was a slight seam where the two tops meet. This required caulking, sanding and repainting to blend the seam.
There is a 1.5 inch overhang on the wood top in the front, and about 5 inch overhang in the back. So, while the countertop is one inch from the wall, the cabinet below is about 6 inches from the wall. We did this so the cabinet would not be so deep into the nook, but if you’re doing this on a regular wall… you could make the adjustments. Also, we needed to make sure we could get a hand to electrical parts and cables behind the shelves, if we ever needed to.
4. Securing to wall
Once the countertops were in place, sanded, and primed. We used the IKEA wall mounting brackets to mount the entire piece to the wall. We connected the brackets underneath the back of the countertop. Even though the piece would ultimately be mounted when all of the finishing work was complete, we wanted to make sure there were no shifts after we measured open spaces we needed to fill in.
5. Filling the gaps
Next, we cut the wainscotting to fit the spaces on the sides of the storage unit. We just used a jigsaw with a fine blade! Really… We knew the edges would be covered, so we weren’t super worried about smooth clean cuts.
This is key.
To mount the wainscotting, we built a frame inside the open space. We placed/mounted the 1×2 boards in the edges of the open space. So, we mounted a 6 inch board underneath the countertop, a 12 inch board on the wall, and 12 inch board on the cabinet. We recessed the framing boards about 1/4 inch in, so the wainscotting would look flush. We used the brad nailer around the edges of the wainscotting to connect them to the framed area. It’s okay if there are tiny gaps between the wainscotting and the wall or the BESTÅ unit. Our mantra through this whole project was “that’s what caulk is for!”
6. Adding baseboard
After the wainscotting was on, we installed the 5 inch baseboard. The base boards go just below the doors (so they can still close) and over the front of the bottom of the wainscotting.
We have other ornate baseboards already in the house that are too tall for this project, so we chose the very plain 5 inch flat baseboards from Lowe’s for this cabinet, so they would not stand out. After we brad nailed the baseboard to the legs of the BESTÅ, we trimmed out the entire piece.
We used the 1.5 inch flat trim around the tops, and edges of the countertop. However, we left “openings in the top, because we needed to run the wiring for the speaker to the plug below. We used quarter-round trim where the wainscotting and the wall meet and to close the small gap between the baseboard and the floor.
A simple miter kit did the trick (less than $20 on Amazon or at a home improvement store), so we didn’t use fancy or expensive saws to do the trim. The miter box was great at helping to cut the angles, and the brad nailer was enough for this project, but it would have been easier if we had a nail gun so we could have used longer finishing nails.
Once the trim was complete, we used a paintable caulk in white to seal all of the gaps. Make sure to smooth the caulk, because if you can see it when it dries, you will see it under the paint. We had to do a lot of sanding in areas where caulk became clumpy. We also caulked the small gap between the BESTÅ and flush wainscotting.
Once the caulk has about a day to dry, you should apply the BESTÅ overlays from myoverlays.com. We simply used wood glue to attach them to the doors. But, take the doors off to do the overlays. It’s too tricky otherwise.
Finally, we put the doors back on and painted. As you can see, we only kept the BESTÅ doors on in the middle of the cabinet for closed storage, and left the doors off on the sides to have open bookshelves.
We simply used a little caulk and paint to cover the bookshelf leveling holes on the open shelving area. (Now, I should state here that we did not follow such a smart painting plan (as indicated in the photos).
8. More painting
We had to wait longer than expected for the overlays (I should have paid attention to production times), and I am impatient. So, we painted a lot before the overlays arrived.) It took 4 coats of semi-gloss Sherwin-Williams “Repose Gray” to cover this project. So, that was half the gallon. We did not sand before or between coats, unless there was an area where it was uneven and seemed to need it.
We have not added a top coat yet, and we will. The paint may chip a little if you place anything sharp or heavy on the BESTÅ shelves. So, that’s our next plan… clear topcoat.
How long and how much did it cost?
It took us about one month to finish this. To be fair, we did not work on it everyday – just on the weekends. And, painting is really what takes the longest. The entire process from start to finish (including about 10 trips to the hardware store), it took us about 25 working hours.
The project cost us just less than $950. The BESTÅ and the two spruce slabs for the countertop were the most expensive purchases, of course. The slabs were $125/piece ($250 total). We also had to purchase an $80 brad nailer (which I’m including in this cost).
What do you like most about the hack?
I truly cannot believe how high end it looks. It’s beautiful. We had received quotes to do this project from contractors with all wood, and it was about $3000 – $4,0000 in materials and labor. So, we saved a decent amount of money.
What was the hardest part about this hack?
Measurements!!! And, second guessing ourselves. We just weren’t that confident going into it, but we did it!
What to pay special attention to?
Make sure the entire unit is primered with Zinsser. If you miss a spot on the BESTÅ, the paint won’t stick. And seriously… measure twice. Measure three times!
Also, I hate to admit this, but I bought and used the wrong caulk (non-paintable) the first time around and had to pull all of it off after it dried, and then recaulk. It was a costly mistake, because primer really will NOT adhere to non-paintable caulk.