How To Hack an Elfa Closet to Create Decorative Wooden Shelves

On Monday I shared the Elfa closet hack that converted my standard Elfa closet system into a decorative bookshelf and clothes closet combination for the baby’s nursery. If you’re looking to blend decorative shelving with utilitarian clothes storage, this is a great compromise!

Nursery Closet After Elfa Shelf Hack

The main tip is to buy and stain solid pine boards to create the wooden shelves, because it is both cheaper and better than using the solid Elfa shelves sold at the Container Store. Their shelves are expensive MDF/Laminate, with an artificial wood grain, and don’t come in larger lengths than 30″.

Nursery Closet Wood Shelf Detail

Supplies Used:

  • Container Store Elfa Easy Hang Shelf Hardware: Top Track, Hanging Standards, and 10” Solid Shelf Brackets
  • 10” wide select pine boards from Home Depot*
  • Long screws
  • ORB Closet Rod and Closet Rod Supports from
  • Minwax Pre-Stain Conditioner, MinWax Wood Stain in Walnut, and Polyurethane Sealant

*Edit: my friend Becky commented with important info on the boards.  “The actual dressed size of a 1×10 is 3/4 x 9-1/4. In practice the width seems to vary between 9-1/8 and 9-1/2, but it’s *supposed* to be 9-1/4″.

The Process:

  1. Because my original closet design used Elfa Ventilated Shelves, I had to remove the shelves and the shelf brackets. This was a little wasteful, but I was installing Elfa in another closet so I knew I could use some of them there.
  2. I bought the 10” Solid Shelf Brackets from the Container Store, because they were the only ones that could have solid shelves or boards mounted on them. (I tried to use my existing Ventilated Shelf Brackets, but they didn’t work.) If you want more narrow shelves, they make shorter brackets as well.
  3. I bought 10” (really 9 ¾”) Select Pine lumber boards, cut them to length, and then sanded and stained them using this process.
  4. I placed the shelf brackets in the hanging standards, and then set the boards on them. The Solid Shelf Brackets have two small holes running through them. To secure the boards, I drilled screws up through the brackets and into the boards.Nursery Closet Attach Wood Shelf to Elfa Bracket

One challenge remained: The shelf with the clothes rod hanging down from it.

The closet rod was suspended from hooks that attached to the Ventilated Shelf Brackets. The Solid Shelf Brackets did not have the option to hang a rod. I set the board on top of the ventilated shelf, but after making the rest of the shelves look good, I didn’t like the mismatched style of the chrome rod, white hardware, and wood shelf.

Nursery Closet Elfa Wood Shelf Hack

It was hard to find closet rod hooks that would suspend from the board itself, but finally I found the closet rod and center support at OrganizeIt. I chose them in oil rubbed bronze to help them blend with the dark wood shelves. Nursery Closet Rod Detail

I installed 4 hanging closet rod center supports in the bottom of the shelf, hoping that that would provide enough support and it seems to.

Nursery Closet Vertical Shelf Detail

Disclaimer: I suspect this method of suspending a closet rod may not support a heavy rack of adult clothes.

I could have taken this project one step further by spray painting the shelf brackets to match the shelves, and painting the hanging standards to blend with the wall, but I wanted to keep the closet system white to work with any other configurations down the road.

Nursery Closet After Wood Shelves Elfa

This wooden shelf hack worked so well that I’m considering using it in other parts of the house where we’d like to install wall shelves but don’t want to drill a ton of holes and commit to one configuration.

The Nursery: Creating Decorative, Useful Closet Bookshelves

Even before her birth, Maple had amassed a huge library of books; some were gifts and some were saved from my childhood.   I planned to install bookshelves on one wall of the nursery but was reluctant to put too many large holes in the walls because we rent.

Nursery Closet After Wood Shelves Elfa

Before I came up with a solution, I cleared my clothes out of the nursery closet. Because the space was previously my office and dressing room, I had already installed the Elfa closet system (from the Container Store) to maximize the large closet space.
Jane Office ClosetI wondered how I would possibly fill the closet with Maple’s clothes. Baby clothes just don’t take up that much hanging space. Then I was hit with the idea of using Maple’s wide closet as a decorative bookshelf as well as clothes storage.

This was the perfect solution – I would gain bookshelves while avoiding drilling holes in the walls, and I wouldn’t be stuck with a mostly-empty clothes closet.  However, the white wire Elfa shelves were neither pretty nor practical for displaying books and other items.

Nursery Closet Before

Inspired by this idea, I decided to replace the Elfa ventilated shelves with stained wooden boards from Home Depot.

Why didn’t I use the Elfa solid shelves sold by the Container Store? Because they’re expensive MDF/Laminate, with an artificial wood grain, and don’t come in larger lengths than 30″.

After the shelves were installed, I made some simple curtains to flank the closet opening and provide a prettier frame for the space.

Nursery Closet After Container Store Elfa Hack

If you’re looking to blend decorative shelving with utilitarian clothes storage, this is a great compromise.  Or if you’re interested in installing a Container Store Elfa closet system with decorative and durable solid shelves, this hack will help you save some cash and get better shelves in the process!

If you’re interested in how I did it (spoiler alert: it took a little more work than expected), in the next post I’ll be sharing the supplies and the process I followed.

Money-Saving Tip: The annual 30% off Elfa Sale is currently happening until March 2 at the Container Store. This is the best deal you can get on Elfa shelves – it happens every year starting on December 24.

Sapling Status: 1 Month Old

It’s hard to believe our baby is one month old today. It feels like she’s been in our lives forever, yet it also feels like we were at the hospital just yesterday.

Maple 2 Weeks

I’m spending a lot of time cuddling her, just holding her tiny, warm body against my chest, resting my cheek against her head. And when I do this, I’m often in awe at the sheer responsibility of this new adventure. Here is this sweet, innocent little thing who is completely trusting and dependent on us to take care of her and to learn to speak her language until she can speak ours.

Ryan was home for the first few weeks, and we had the best time. Never before have we spent three weeks straight together 24/7. He’s been an amazing dad from day one, and an incredibly supportive husband, doing as much as he can to help with her.

Maple is sleeping well at night – anywhere from 3.5 hours to 5 hours at a time. Sure, I miss the days when I could dive into bed and enjoy a 9 hour stretch of sleep, but Maple and I make up for it by sleeping in until around 10 am every day.

I was definitely in for a surprise about just how much time newborn babies consume. Every feeding session includes me breastfeeding, pumping, and giving Maple a bottle of pumped milk to get her weight up.

You see, she was a regular at the pediatrician’s office this month, because she didn’t gain any weight at all from weeks 1-3.   Fortunately, after a frenectomy to fix her tongue tie, an unremarkable visit to a pediatric cardiologist, and a visit to a lactation consultant, Maple gained 11 ounces between weeks 3 and 4. She’s still got room to grow in her newborn-sized clothes, though.Maple 1 Week

Amber the Poodle is thrilled with the “human puppy.” She follows us around when we have the baby, and she worries when Maple cries.   The cat and Merlin are not pleased with the new addition. They find it a waste of attention they could be receiving.  We’re making every effort to keep all the animals feeling well loved, but we have room for improvement.  It’s definitely a work in progress.

I can’t take the pups for long walks yet, because I’m still recovering from the C-section. I’m itching to go for long walks and do yoga and carry heavy things without having to worry. 6 weeks of taking it easy is NOT my cup of tea.

Jane Maple 1 Month

Anyway, Maple and I are trying to find a routine now that Ryan’s back at work. I make sure I get a shower and straighten up the house when she is napping. I try to fit in time for Janery and the blog, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen because Maple and I curl up for a nap instead. And baby snuggles take priority over anything online.

An elderly neighbor that Maple and I visit with gave me this wise advice the other day. “When I had my son, I tried to clean the house and cook every day. Later I always said if I had a second child, I wouldn’t worry about any of that, because it goes by too fast. I would just enjoy my time with my baby.”

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