How to Turn an IKEA Unit Into a Cool DIY Isobel Bookshelf Dupe

In the last few months, so many of you asked me over and over to make a DIY Isobel bookshelf dupe, inspired by the Isobel bookshelf by Urban Outfitters. This bookshelf retails at $1,299, but we can totally DIY something similar for a fraction of the price.

Usually, I direct people to the amazing dupe that DIY Danie did, as I don’t want to repeat what she already made. However, one of you sent me an idea about using foam instead of cutting wooden pieces, so I realized I could do my own DIY Isobel bookshelf dupe using a completely different method and for even cheaper!

We're going to need only very simple ingredients to make the entire shelf library come to life: the KALLAX bookshelf that you're going to go and buy from IKEA, the cardboard that your KALLAX bookshelf comes in, plus some spray foam.

Isobel bookshelf by Urban Outfitters

Tools and materials:

1. Assemble the KALLAX bookshelf

First, assemble the bookshelf. You can keep the shelves as they are, or cut them for an asymmetrical look. Some versions of the KALLAX bookshelf have asymmetric shelving already.

Assembling the IKEA KALLAX bookshelf

I cut away half of the first shelf and the top shelf with a jigsaw. If you’re cutting some of the shelves, remember not to cut where the holes are because they’re used to connect the shelf pieces together.

Cutting the shelves with a jigsaw

2. Add cardboard

Take a large side of the cardboard box that the KALLAX bookshelf came in, and tape it to the back of the bookshelf.

Taping cardboard to the back of the bookshelf

Next, we’re going to create a rounded shape using other pieces of the cardboard box. For the arched top, roll the cardboard piece until it has a bent shape. Then place it on top of the shelving unit, taping down the ends.

Taping down the ends of the bent piece of cardboard

For inside the shelves, you can really get creative. I wanted to make the large unit round, but the smaller units mostly square, and split the other large shelf in two… basically, think about what you want to store in the shelving unit and create shapes accordingly. Bend and tape cardboard to make the shapes.

Bending and taping cardboard to make rounded shapes in the shelves

3. Spray foam in the gaps

Now, take your spray foam and fill in the gaps between the shapes.


Hold the spray foam upside down; the foam comes out way smoother and is much easier to control. Of course, also keep in mind that the foam expands.

Filling the gaps with spray foam

4. Cut off the excess foam

Three hours later, the foam should be dry and you can cut off the excess with a saw or knife.

Cutting off the excess foam with a hand saw

This is looking so awesome! You can totally see the shape already.

How to make a DIY Isobel bookshelf

5. Spray-paint the cardboard white

Next up, we’re going to spray-paint the brown cardboard white. This step might look a bit useless, but I promise it makes the following step a lot easier.

Spray-painting the brown cardboard white

6. Cover the surface with spackling

Next, we’re going to cover everything with hole filler, joint compound, or something similar. I’m using a white lightweight spackling. The coverage is much better now we have the white surface underneath. This also provides the kind of texture that we’re going for.

Covering the bookshelf with spackling

7. Sand

Once dry, sand down the surface for a cleaner finish. I quite like the “undone” look, so I kept a lot of the texture as it was. It’s up to you.

Sanding down the bookcase


This created a lot of dust, so remember to use a mask and some goggles or sunglasses or something to protect your eyes.

DIY Isobel bookshelf dupe

Here’s our final Isobel bookshelf dupe! What do you think about this DIY bookshelf? This was such a simple and effective IKEA hack. I absolutely love the results and I can't wait to see the comments and see what you guys think about it. See you next time!

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