Basement Organization


Remember this floor plan sketch for the basement, with the storage units labeled GORM (which is either a really unfortunate name or an IKEA product)? Right. Well, I went out to IKEA last week with the little ones in tow to make it happen. I’d promised Eleanor a visit to Småland, so she played while August and I hit up the utility shelving section. The shelving I’d planned on was cheap, but it felt cheap. Wobbly and thin, I was afraid it wouldn’t hold up well, so I went for IVAR instead.

Five days later, Brandon took all of the pieces out of the car and brought them downstairs. I took over from there.

IKEA IVAR Wooden Storage Shelving

Building the corner unit went smoothly. Each shelf has a tiny plastic pouch with its six pegs stapled to it. You just line those up in the end and corner supports, rest a shelf on top, and away you go. I assembled it, attached the whole thing to studs in the wall, and was done in 15 minutes. Next, I wanted to build the chest of drawers I’d bought. It was an expensive component but I figured the drawers would prove useful.

The instructions showed the chest installed with a cross-brace above, and I realized I’d have to move the corner unit to attach a brace to the side. Not a big deal; I just had to unscrew the safety strap attaching it to the wall. I went to get a shelf so that I could determine the proper distance, and I realized I had no pegs. The corner shelves each had a piece of wood beneath for stability, which allowed space to attach their hardware pouches. The others are just shelves that stack flat against each other. Of course by the time I’d reached the warehouse section of IKEA with two punchy children up past their bedtime ready to run around or melt down, that detail didn’t register properly. I also overbought long shelves and now need to return to IKEA for shorter versions, along with my 48 missing pegs. I don’t do well with last-minute changes, clearly.

No matter! I took one corner shelf out and used the pegs to attach a shelf along the top, I lined another shelf up along the floor, and took measurements that way. Whee, problem solved! Why do people have such a hard time assembling IKEA furniture?

IVAR Shelving

I attached the cross-braces to two sections, congratulated myself on a job well done, anchored everything to the wall, and moved on to build the drawers. As I put it together, stopping intermittently to take photos, I was composing this blog post in my head.

Do you know how fun it is for a perfectionist to put together one of these storage units? No, really, I’m not being sarcastic. Do you know how fun it is!? This thing snaps together and is easy to build, but not if you want it to be level/plumb, or sturdy. And this is both.

Whee, what fun! Let’s stop and take pictures! Note that this is step 1. This will later become important.

Step 1 of Building the IVAR Drawer Unit

I was running out of room in the small storage room of my basement, but I wanted to build everything right there. The chest weighs 70 pounds, and I wouldn’t be able to move it myself if it was fully assembled in another room because it would be too bulky. (I wanted to build everything myself.) So I cleared a small area and got to work. The directions weren’t clear and attaching the drawer glides was confusing because you had to intuit everything from illustrations, but I figured it out. Drawer glides, attach the sides, slide in the backer, attach the last side, done. Time to build the individual drawers.

Since I didn’t have much room, I figured I’d be clever and build just one and make sure it fit, attach the case to the shelving supports, then build the other two drawers. So I did. And that drawer slid in so smoothly into the middle slot. Success! I did a little dance and got back to work. The chest was heavy and cumbersome, but not impossible to get into place. (Again, I wanted to do this all myself.) I finally lined everything up just so, screwed the final brackets in place, and slid the drawer I’d already built into place. I put it in the lowest slot this time, then noticed the three-inch gap along the bottom. I chastised myself, channeling Brandon in my head with appropriate Star Wars nerdery, but apparently the phrase isn’t even “don’t get cocky, kid.” The “kid” part comes just before. I didn’t even get that right.

Step 1 of Building the IVAR Drawer Unit

I fumbled for the next 15 minutes turning the drawer upside-down, then removing the unit I’d just gotten into place and turning the whole thing upside-down, and still I couldn’t get my drawer to line up. Finally, I realized I’d attached the glides incorrectly. They had to be unscrewed, turned and flipped, and reattached. Remember step 1? Yeah, that’s where I screwed up. After I’d corrected my mistake, getting the chest back into place was much more difficult than it had been the first time. Of course it was more difficult! This is why people hate assembling IKEA furniture!

Six hours after I’d started my shelving project, I got the chest and all three drawers into place, threw a few fake plastic trees on a corner shelf (sans green plastic watering can), and called it a day.

IVAR Drawer Unit

Now I’m steeling up my nerve to return to IKEA, brave the returns area, and get my stupid pegs so I can finish the storage shelving.

hr 644

Edited to add: Pegs! I’m an idiot. (Thanks, Amanda.) What would it take to convince everyone that this was an April Fool’s joke?


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  • Tina Slocum
    April 2, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I’m exhausted just reading about putting ikea together! It takes a certain type of mind and skill.
    It’s fun that you love putting it all together!

  • Heather
    April 2, 2013 at 1:09 am

    How fun! I can’t wait to see the finished project. IKEA furniture can be a challenge, but the price and ease of shopping there make it worth it. It all looks great so far though!

  • Amanda
    April 2, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I have had and modified my IVAR system for years – the pegs for the shelves are stored in the shelf supports – flip one over and you will see two on each side! I can see them in your photo actually. Hope that saves you some hassle.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 2, 2013 at 9:25 am

      OMG. I see them in the photo now. I’m such a dunce!

      • Rachel
        March 31, 2016 at 1:32 pm

        Ha, I bought these and had the same discovery about the missing pegs. I went to the store, gave them a tongue lashing because I couldn’t find the pegs anywhere. They had some sent to me from Europe- no one ever told me there were under the shelf! It wasn’t until I was at a craft show assembling these for my display that the valet- yea the guy that helped park and unload my car- point out the pegs to me.

    • Marina
      October 13, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      I was JUST having the same struggle, wondering where the pegs are. Thank you (2.5 years later!) Amanda!

    • brooke
      February 10, 2016 at 5:16 am

      I could kiss you, Amanda!

  • Anja
    April 2, 2013 at 2:34 am

    Ikea is both my best friend and my worst enemy ;-) But the worst thing about it is that every time I return from a visit, there’s one important thing I forgot to buy. The next Ikea store is too far away for just a quick pitstop, so I have to wait for next time. Pfffft!

  • Betsy
    April 2, 2013 at 7:14 am

    This happens to me every time! In fact, I just road tripped to Ikea last week to get my son a bed. It was a simple build, but I still had to take apart and redo 2 things. But I got inspired while in the store and am planning my next trip for another dose of frustration.

  • elizabeth
    April 2, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Now I have to listen to Radiohead.

  • Alison
    April 2, 2013 at 8:26 am

    You are a brave soul! I put together the Tarva shelf, it took me two full weekend days and one month later the drawer broke – I blame it on the missing screw from the packet. Oh well, good luck with your building adventure!!

  • Jen @ RamblingRenovators
    April 2, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I’ve learned that IKEA is never a one-time trip. There’s the trip to look around the showroom for inspiration, the second trip where you argue with your husband about what exactly you need, then the trip to buy, and then the trip to return what you bought incorrectly. You are brave to tackle IKEA with kids in tow. I think so many people have problems assembling IKEA because it forces us to think visually instead of verbally. Looks like you’re doing well! Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

    • Morgan
      October 8, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      Do you have any photos of how the glides are supposed to look? I’m struggling and thought I followed all the directions carefully.

  • Megan @ Rappsody in Rooms
    April 2, 2013 at 9:07 am

    That definitely sounds like my journey when I assemble IKEA stuff. I always want to do it myself out of principle, since it really shouldn’t be that hard. But it does makes you think! Those pictures are deceivingly easy looking. This past weekend I had to put together a stool and it made me think more than I should have. Major props on deducing all that storage. Good luck in the returns!

  • Alisa
    April 2, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Holy cow! I had a giant walnut stained IVAR unit in my Chicago apartment circa 1999… I really don’t think they had integrated drawer units back then. That IVAR chest is AWESOME–and the corner unit? Shut up. I need to give this a second look. This is exactly what MY basement needs too! Thanks for the IVAR refresher!

  • Kristina
    April 2, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Oh IVAR. I’ve been toting around the same set for about 15 years now (seen here and here – the fact that they basically don’t change a thing makes it so easy to build (if you’ve been building them and taking them down once a year for ten years like I had, I guess?)(I haven’t attempted the drawer unit but I’ve built a malm dresser or two, as well as drawer inserts for the expedit, which I also had to unscrew and flip, etc. so I FEEL YOU) and add to it. And painted, IMO they don’t look so bad.

    But I was raised overseas where IKEA is a way of life, so you know. Ymmv.

  • casacaudill
    April 2, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Those IVAR shelves are surprisingly sturdy. We bought a bunch for our storage unit at the loft and then moved them to our house, where they found a home in the basement for seven years. When getting the place ready to sell, we moved them again to another part of the basement, and they’ve held up fabulously.

  • Jillian@TheHumbleGourmet
    April 2, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I am now tired just from reading that. Good luck!

  • Robin-Lynn
    April 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I have about as much anxiety reading this, as I did watching that Felicia Day youtube clip the first time around.

  • Christina W.
    April 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Based on your door glider mistake that I would definitely make (if my putting together and subsequent taking apart/putting back together of a Karl is any indication) I am infinitely grateful that I was able to find a PRISTINE floor model Hemnes dresser in the As Is section. No building for me, thanks!

  • Zsuzsi
    April 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I love IVAR. First they were in our closet. Later on they became shelving for the storage room next to my studio. Since this is in the attic we had to get the top parts cut shorter. This is such a flexible series of IKEA!

  • Kathryn
    April 2, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    This sounds like our kitchen fiasco this weekend. I was going to get it all done by myself too :)

  • jbhat
    April 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    You are far braver than I. But I’m excited to see what becomes of this space.


  • mary
    April 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Wow….that is one huge undertaking. You should be mighty proud of yourself! Ikea furniture is no fun to put together but that shelving unit looks waaaaaaaay complicated. Can’t wait to see the final result.

  • corey
    April 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    oh man! you are way more brave than i am!! i went to ikea for the first time ever recently(i know- total newbie) and knew that i would never be able to put the stuff together without a gallon of ice cream and a lot of yelling. i left it to the husband and he calmly put it all together (although it took 3 weeks.. wheatever i didnt have to do it.) he is my hero.

    i am in total awe of you and your serious skills. nicely done! can’t wait to see what it looks like all finished!!

  • Amanda Young
    April 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    For what it’s worth I did the same EXACT thing when I assembled these shelves… my husband found them! ;)

  • Lynn
    April 2, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    We bought a bunch of Ivar storage when we first moved in together, in 1979, and there were a couple of drawer units involved, though they had recessed drawer pulls in those days. We still have it all – in the meantime parts have been white, provencal blue, pale yellow, and a dusky turquoise – but they have been in the attic for 6 years waiting for our oldest to move out and need shelving. :-) It’s a sturdy, flexible system, and we used it for decades with great pleasure!

  • Amanda Z.
    April 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    We used GORM shelves in our basement and I really love them. We have three “rows” of shelving for storage, and a U-shaped unit under our stairs as a pantry. But we also live 300 miles away in St. Louis so returning things (or forgetting something) isn’t an option.

    I did personally (all by myself) sort and assemble 18 ikea cabinets when we remodeled our kitchen. That was the best puzzle of my entire life and I loved every minute of it!

  • Evelyn
    April 2, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    It’ll be worth it in the end but I feel your pain.

  • Nicole
    April 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    That step 1 you messed up on…did the same thing on the dresser we built on the weekend. Solidarity sister.

  • Jenny@Simcoe Street
    April 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I totally feel your pain. We are settling into our first house and have so far built 5 ikea dressers, 1 giant expedit, 5 billy bookcases, a bathroom ikea vanity, and 2.5 besta storage units. On the second dresser we messed up on one of the first steps. It is totally not fixable now that I’ve nailed the back on and everything (well, not fixable by me). I am now going to fill the exposed screw holes (yes, I really messed up) with wood putty, then match paint to it, then paint that piece of the dresser. Such a bummer. Ikea is a good test of patience! I am sure the storage is going to turn out to be so worth it though for you! And much as ikea is tough, at the end of the day, the bang for your buck is pretty hard to beat!

  • Erica
    April 4, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Yeah, IKEA can be kind of a pain in the neck, especially if you don’t realize all the stuff isn’t in the box. My nearest IKEA is an hour and a half away, so I have to remember to get everything or I’m out of luck!

    Love the Radiohead references. Now I need to go listen to them.

  • Annelise in Edmonds
    April 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Gorm isn’t always such an unfortunate name! Gorm the Old is the first documented king of Denmark! And father to Harald Bluetooth…which is where the techies got the name for Bluetooth technology! Being a Danish Major, I view Gorm as a good thing! :) And translating the IKEA product names is a favorite past time! ;)

  • Shayla
    April 5, 2013 at 7:56 am

    My husband and I are considering these for our garage, we just moved into our home a year ago so we’re still working on the inside but I have lots of craft fair things and he has lots of well everything so I know we’ve got to get it all organized properly at some point. I look forward to seeing your unit when it’s all done.

  • Christine @ Little House On The Corner
    April 8, 2013 at 8:44 am

    I love Ivar, but what I love even more, is that I’m not the only person in the world that couldn’t work out that the pegs are stuck in the shelf!

  • J. O'Neill
    July 6, 2013 at 5:30 am

    The problem with IVAR shelving is not only the assembly but if you paint the pieces as I did before, you run the risk of the wood warping (bending) and this is now causing problems with assembly. But how can you paint a 226cm high construction once assembled?

  • Jan
    February 21, 2014 at 10:46 am

    This is a wonderful post. I am finally putting my Ivar shelves together. Your post gave me the little push I needed!!!

  • Caroline
    February 7, 2016 at 1:57 am

    You wonderful woman! Thank you so much for putting up information about where those pins are! I was just about to call IKEA and waste an hour of my life on hold, then be really embarrassed by my own stupidity!!

    • Floraidh
      April 14, 2016 at 4:13 am

      So glad to have seen this post. I couldn’t find the pins,was trying different sized wooden dowels to fit. I live in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (so not exactly down the road from an ikea store) I thought I was going to be left with useless bits of wood. They are so discretely hidden and nothing pointing the way to them. So thanks again!

  • Rica
    November 15, 2018 at 12:53 am

    Came across your blog when looking for the corner unit for Ivar. Trying to furnish my little pantry but I’m based in Malaysia and they don’t have the corner unit! Wd u be able to provide estimated measurements of that corner shelf piece? I’m considering making them myself!

  • Selina
    January 19, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    Hi I know this is a really REALLY old blog post. But on the odd chance you get this message, and still have the shelf… I’m trying to find out how wide the front opening of the IVAR corner shelf is! I know the dimensions of the shelves but I don’t know how wide that front portion will actually be once assembled. Would you be able to measure the opening for me?!