IKEA hack! We created a DIY entertainment system using the IKEA’s BESTA Planner for a custom look that can be completed in a weekend!
When we first moved into our new house, filling up the living room felt like a daunting (yet super exciting!) task because it was a big, white, open space:
our living room on the day we moved in
We brought in our furniture, which helped a bit, but we knew we needed something significant on the TV wall, both for storage purposes and to add some visual interest. That little side table just wasn’t going to cut it!
We knew we needed something fairly substantial to take up space on that wall, but of course we wanted it to look beautiful as well. While I was visiting our local IKEA, I happened to find the perfect solution.
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How to Create an Entertainment Unit with the IKEA BESTA System Step-by-Step
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
We ultimately decided to go with the IKEA BESTA system and make some modifications to give it a more custom built-in look. (Because really, who doesn’t love a good IKEA hack?!)
1. Use the IKEA BESTA planner.
Our first step was to use IKEA’s BESTA Storage Planner to recreate the dimensions of our living room and design a 3D mockup of our custom built-ins. We went through several versions, trying to find an arrangement that fit our vision of what the space would look like AND creating some storage space, which was seriously lacking in our previous living room setup.
Here are some of the versions we didn’t choose:
After playing around with the different options and designs for way longer than we probably should have, we finally settled on this setup:
This version gave us the storage we wanted, worked well in our space, and definitely provided visual interest for that big, blank wall!
2. Choose the BESTA pieces for your DIY entertainment unit.
- 2- 23 5/8″ x 25 1/4″ Doors
- 3- 23 5/8″ x 15″ Door/Drawer Fronts
- 2- 23 5/8″ x 10 1/4″ Drawer Fronts
We loved the unit as-is, but we knew we wanted to give it a more custom, built-in look. Our plan to achieve this included:
- Adding crown moulding to all three top sections
- Raising the unit off the ground so we could have baseboards running from the wall around the sides and front of the shelves
- Adding wooden trim pieces to fill any visible gaps
- Adding drawer pulls and hardware
Because we started this project in the midst of the Christmas season, we worked on it a little bit at time over the period of a few weeks. From start to finish, though, this could all be done in a single weekend, including the extra trim work.
Since Donnie was the mastermind behind actually assembling and building everything, I’m going to let him take it from here…
3. Assemble the BESTA built-ins.
I started by assembling the BESTA flat-packed cabinet frames. This felt like a small job after assembling all of the IKEA cabinets during our townhouse kitchen reno!
Building a Base for the Lower Cabinets
Once I had put the cabinets together, I added some plywood to the bottom of the base cabinets to raise everything up above the baseboard level in our living room. This was so we could eventually tie in our existing baseboards to the baseboards that would go around the bottom of the entertainment unit.
All of the plywood pieces I added sit flush with the cabinet from except in the back. I had to leave room so the shelves would sit against the wall and not bump into the baseboard.
My table saw was packed away, so I had the guy at the home improvement store rip down a sheet of 3/4″ plywood into the little “strips” of plywood I would need to assemble the cabinet bases.
Once I had all of my plywood pieces, I used my little Kreg Jig to create some pocket hole joints. To make the joints as strong as possible, I was sure to drill my pocket holes so that I wasn’t screwing into the end grain of the wood. I always glue the joints as well.
After I added the bases for all three floor shelf units, I also measured the locations of our outlets, cable hookups, and all of the HDMI and network cables coming down from the TV, and used an oscillating multi tool to create cutouts in the back of the unit to accommodate the cords.
We were then ready to slide the units into place. The recessed base frame sat nicely over the existing baseboards.
For a week or so, the base cabinets sat alone under the TV. Though I knew we still had a lot of work to do, it already seemed like a big improvement!
Attaching the Side Cabinet Pieces
The next step was to add the cabinets on either side of the TV. The BESTA system is modular, so with each shelf, IKEA includes little brackets to join shelves together.
It was easy to set the shelves on top of each other and click the little metal brackets into place. The brackets helped to ensure that everything was lined up properly.
After clicking the shelves into place, we could rock the top shelf backward and insert little double sided sticky foam pads to keep the top shelf from sliding around.
4. Anchor the IKEA BESTA shelving to the wall.
Next, it was time to anchor the shelves into the wall. Similar to when we were installing our townhouse’s kitchen cabinets, IKEA provides a rail system on which to anchor the shelves. I love this because I’ve always found that without a rail system, it’s hard to get shelves perfectly level and exactly where you want them. It’s just too hard to maneuver something that big and heavy up on a wall.
The rail system makes it easy to make sure I installed the rail perfectly level and exactly where I wanted it to be. I used one rail on each of the side top shelves, and I made sure to tie each rail into at least one stud so that it was nice and sturdy.
After the rail was installed and leveled, I was able to hang my shelf directly on the rail, line up the anchor points with the holes in the front of the cabinet, and attach it with the provided screws.
The deeper cabinets above the TV were up next. I connected three rails together for the top three cabinets and attached everything just as I had for the side units.
Once everything was hung and in place, I used cabinet screws to anchor all of the cabinets to the cabinet immediately adjacent. It secured everything together and made one big, solid unit. I used about a dozen cabinet screws in all.
5. Install cabinet fronts and drawers.
At this point, we could begin adding cabinet fronts and drawers. The IKEA instructions made it easy to install all the hinges and cabinet doors as well as drawer fronts and slides, and everything fit together perfectly.
6. Add crown moulding.
Like I did a few years ago with Abby’s office office bookshelves, I decided to add crown moulding to the top of the entertainment unit to give it a more built-in look. We decided to use Windsor One Classical Craftsman Crown Molding, which is the same moulding we’re planning to add along the ceiling line in this entire space.
For the crown molding, I wheeled out the miter saw and bought a Kreg Crown Jig to help with all my crown moulding cuts.
In the future I’m going to cut crown without any type of jig. Once you realize that the saw bed is the ceiling and left is right and right is left, it becomes easy to visualize everything. The key to cutting crown without a jig is to firmly set your piece against the saw base and fence at the right spring angle, and then clamp a support board to your saw so that all all other pieces are seated perfectly before making any cuts.
Once the crown was cut, I used a multi mark tool to set a consistent depth for the base of the crown to sit all the way around the shelves.
I then used my 18 gauge brad nailer to attach the crown to the shelves.
Once the first piece of crown was attached, I added wood glue to the corner before I nailed in the adjacent piece of crown so that the corners don’t separate over time.
I continued this process until I had added crown moulding around the entire top section of the entertainment unit.
7. Install baseboards on the IKEA BESTA entertainment unit.
After I finished the crown moulding, it was time to tackle the baseboards. We wanted it to appear as if the baseboards ran from the wall and then out and around the bottom of the built-in shelves.
A few things made this a little difficult…
First, when I elevated the shelves on the plywood base, I made everything flush with the front of the cabinet frame. I didn’t take into account that the doors would stick out away from the cabinet frame. If I attached baseboards directly to the base that I built, they would look almost recessed when I installed the doors. To compensate for this, I used some ripped down 1x5s to build out the front of the base to be flush with the cabinet doors.
Second, it was difficult to match our existing baseboards. I took measurements and sketched out the profile of our baseboards, but when I went to the home improvement store, I couldn’t find anything that matched the profile perfectly. I was able to find something close, though, and I doubt anyone but me will end up noticing the slight differences!
Using a coping method, I was able to run the new cabinet baseboards right into the existing wall baseboards. Because the baseboard profiles didn’t match exactly, it wasn’t a perfect fit, but I used spackling to fill in any necessary gaps.
The rest of the baseboard installation was pretty simple with my miter saw, brad nailer, and lots of wood glue for outside corners.
After I installed the baseboards, the only thing left for me to do was fill the nail holes with spackling, sand, caulk all gaps, and paint the trim. I also added some knobs and cup pulls, and then it was on to Abby’s favorite part– the pretty stuff!
Working around a fireplace rather than a TV? This tutorial for IKEA built ins around fireplace uses cabinets for a beautiful transformation!
8. Decorate the open shelving.
I loved the built-ins even plain, but I think adding the decor pieces really gave it a finished look! We used a color scheme of aqua, white, gray, and metallics to keep everything looking cohesive. Then I added some faux greenery throughout.
I really love how the built-ins make the room look more “finished” and way less stark!
Let’s take one more look at the before and after:
IKEA BESTA Built-Ins: Final Thoughts
This project definitely took some planning, time, and effort, but the final result was well worth it!
We ended up spending less than if we would have purchased a large entertainment unit, and we were able to create the exact size and shape we wanted. Using the BESTA system for this project was also way less work than if we would have tried to build the entire thing from scratch.
Update: It has now been more than 5 years since we built our custom IKEA entertainment system, and it is still holding up beautifully! It’s the perfect centerpiece to our living room, has tons of storage, and I love to decorate the open shelving for each season. We’d do another IKEA BESTA project in a heartbeat!
Have you completed any fun DIY projects recently? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Custom IKEA Entertainment System: Frequently Asked Questions
Thanks so much for following along! Hope you’re having a wonderful week!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.