Ikea’s Expedit shelving: the Cubitec alternative

I’m a fan of Design Within Reach’s Cubitec shelving, as you know. I’ve used it in my daughter’s bedroom

Orange Cubitec in pink room

…twice, in fact…

Orange Cubitec in blue room

…and I’ve recommended it for clients’ offices, family rooms, and TV rooms.

Cubitec in red room

1 kit of CubitecBut here’s the thing. It’s not dirt cheap. Not if you want more than six boxes, which is what constitutes one kit.

One Cubitec kit is $245 or $265, depending on the depth. So double or triple that if you want significant shelving space.

Enter Ikea’s Expedit. It’s enormous. And it’s $199 for aaalllll those little boxes.

Ikea Expedit shelving

(You can go a little smaller – and even less expensive – but I’m trying to make a point here.)

Clients recently used the white Expedit in their daughter’s bedroom,

Ikea Expedit in yellow room

And a bossy basic client knocked my socks off with the Expedit in her living room

Ikea's Expedit in living room

and children’s bedroom.

Ikea Expedit light wood

One of the reasons the Expedit looks so amazing in her house is that the shelves are EXTREMELY TIDY. My client wisely knows that with open shelving, everything’s on display, all the time. So it better look nice.

Look. I still think Cubitec is decent value – it’s certainly less expensive than wooden bookcases or built-ins – and has lots to recommend it. But if you’re looking for a SUPER inexpensive, stylish alternative, Ikea’s Expedit may be the way to go.

Annie Elliott – aka bossy color – is an interior decorator and design blogger in Washington, D.C. She has been quoted in publications from The Washington Post to Real Simple and is considered an expert on color, residential space planning, and telling people what to do in the nicest way possible.


  1. says

    I have one in my guest room/office! I love how it just asks to have books combined with decorative items – and that I can also use fabric covered boxes without them hanging off the edges as with regular bookcases.

  2. Angela N says

    I have the BIG 5×5 Expedit in my girls’ playroom and LOVE it. I am not sure where it will go once we convert our LR/DR back into those rooms though. I am sure I can find a spot somewhere. Even if it ends up in the garage, it would still be fabulous storage space for such a low cost.

  3. Sara says

    Expedit also looks great as a room divider, at least in the catalog and at the store.

    We have a 4 shelf by 4 shelf unit in the basement, and as you can also see from your clients’ photos it’s great for games, art supplies and other stuff that never seems to fit on regular book-depth bookshelves.

  4. Magnaverde says

    I actually prefer the IKEA shelves to the Design Within Reach version, because the IKEA shelves have a solid base. Sure, you can add a piece of molding to hide that gap on the DWR shelves–and in a traditional room, where I have to shelve a lot of oversize art & design books printed on heavy coated stock, I often add moldings to heavy-duty industrial shelves to hide their utilitarian nature–but when you do that to a Modern design like this, you screw up the clean lines, which are the whole point.

  5. says

    I love the Expedit bookcases – I have 2 sets of white ones in my rec room. My husband bought some thin plyboard, painted it, and nailed it to the back of the bookcases. Now I use them as a large room divider so that I can store staging props for my business without the visual clutter! Even without backs, they work great as a room divider. Especially for kids who share a room.

  6. Kathryne says

    Did not know about the Ikea “Expedit” shelving. I am going to get the bookcase model to use in my sewing room to hold my fabric.

  7. says

    Gentle Readers, thank you so much for your wonderful comments! I love hearing how you all are using the Expedit. It IS a natural as a room divider – a great point. Happy shelving –

  8. mary says

    were you able to find a paint color that closely matches the white Ikea Expedit bookcases? I am trying to paint another piece of furniture to match the shelves and am having a difficult time finding a good match.

  9. says

    Great job Melanie! Makes me want to tackle our patrny area…but not until Spring. (My to do list is growing..lol) I’ll send you some pics..maybe your have ideas for me? Our patrny is part of our laundry room…off of our kitchen. I absolutely know I want different doors to the patrny. I have my microwave in a little “nook” and that works fine for us. Will be in touch! Glad to see you have recovered…and are up and around. *Tricia*

  10. says

    We are in the process of buidilng a cutting table like yours, thanks to your inspiration. Hubs has a question, how did you attach all of your bookcases together? Are they just sitting on the plywood, or are they attached to each other? My sewing room is strewn all over the house, and I really need to get it put back together so I can sew!! Thanks so much for the help and inspiration!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *