Recycled album art jazzes up an IKEA bookshelf

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

In this new occasional feature, Home challenges Southern California artists and designers to have some fun tranforming inexpensive, mass-market pieces.

MOST shoppers look at IKEA’s Värde shelf and see a $39.99 wall-mounted unit made of wood. Rebecca Johnson and Jeff Klarin, however, see a blank canvas ready to be transformed.

“It’s solid, basic and unembellished,” Johnson says.

“And a little boring,” Klarin adds.

The husband and wife are the partners behind Bughouse Art & Design, the Eagle Rock gallery showcasing their Pop art prints and inspired interpretations of mass-market furniture. Here, Klarin and Johnson show Home readers how to turn this plain hanging bookshelf into an artistic focal point -- a music lover’s ode to vinyl that could work equally well in a kid’s bedroom or a loft space.


“Our design credo is, ‘See the unseen,’ ” Klarin says. “Maybe a shelf doesn’t have to be what you’ve always been told it is.”

Indeed. The Värde’s “idiot-proof” assembly, which took only five minutes, was followed by Bughouse improvement No. 1: conceal the structural uprights.

Klarin and Johnson created new back panels using wood from a lumberyard -- less than $15 worth of 1-inch-thick construction-grade pine. Thinner Masonite panels and even heavy cardboard can be used, but solid wood achieves an effect reminiscent of Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld’s 1934 Zig-Zag chair.

Next, Klarin channeled his teenage bedroom to add graphic punch.

“Growing up, I would buy posters and mash them together on the wall,” he says.

For this project he cut up vinyl record covers bought at thrift shops and glued them to the panels.

“You could use any number of things -- wallpaper, movie posters, photographs, dust jackets from books, junk food wrappers, crushed soda cans,” Johnson says. “And you can customize the panels for the contents of the shelf or the room it’s going to live in.”

The permutations are only as limited as one’s imagination, Klarin says. “It’s about personalization, and social activism,” he says. “If everyone did things like this, we’d be less inclined to throw things out and the world would be enriched because wherever you went, you’d be walking into environments that are empowered by people’s history and creativity.”


Equipment: power drill or screwdriver for assembly.

Shopping list: Värde wall shelf from IKEA; 1-by-10-inch wood planks, cut down to be 8 inches wide and 20 inches long (seven pieces total); album covers; utility knife (the kind used to cut mat boards); all-purpose glue, such as Elmer’s.