EFF YOU IKEA: I'm Giving My Outdated Media Furniture New Life!

I am putting things that are not CDs on old CD shelves and things that are not computers on old computer desks. IT IS FURNITURE ANARCHY.
Publish date:
September 4, 2012
furniture, home decor, breaking the rules

Once upon a time, I had a massive CD collection.

Well, technically I still do. What I mean is that once upon a time I had a massive CD collection that I displayed proudly, as others might display art. My CDs were the centerpiece of any design philosophy I might have had -- stepping into whatever space I was living in, you would know, immediately, that music was wildly important to me. (Nerd.)

Today my remaining thousand-plus collection of discs resides in incredibly heavy CD binders hidden behind the closed doors of the entertainment-center wall-unit that dominates our living room. When my husband and I first moved into this place in 2004, I initially remained committed to my CD-display past, and there was another wall that provided a home to several floor-to-ceiling CD shelving units, but within a couple years, I got tired of looking at them and transferred most of the discs (save one rack holding about two hundred of them) to binders. Especially since I’d all but quit buying CDs altogether in favor of iTunes.

For most of my adult home-furnishing life, I have had a love/hate relationship with media-specific furniture. On the one hand, it sure is convenient to have shelving units specifically sized to hold CDs or DVDs or -- heaven help me -- VHS tapes. On the other, it’s kind of wasteful in the end, because said furniture isn’t good for much else once its chosen medium ceases to be relevant.

It’d be easier for me if I was comfortable with just trashing stuff, but when I’ve paid good money to IKEA for particleboard media furniture, I wind up resenting the idea that it’s disposable. (The CD shelves from that first round of binder-transferring years ago went to my father-in-law, who intended to use them to neatly rehome his own CD collection. Actually I should say they went to my in-laws’ garage, where they may well still be residing today.)

In the past, I’ve just begrudgingly accepted that said furniture was now trash, in spite of feeling angry about the waste, because I’m just not much of a DIY soul. But these days I’m trying something new: repurposing purpose-built media furniture. DEFYING the 5.5-inch rules. FLOUTING particleboard convention. I am not throwing the old stuff out and buying new stuff to replace it -- I am bending the old stuff to my will.

Exhibit A: New Sewing Table

I used to have a sewing table in the guest bedroom. The guest bedroom is now my office. The sewing supplies -- which were substantial, as I have a weird habit of buying huge lots of fifty-year-old notions on eBay, most of which I suspect were uncovered upon the death of the seller’s elderly relative -- were relegated to the closet, which is already overfull with other crap, most of it relating to my husband’s toy collection. (We also have a massive wall storage unit dedicated to this purpose in said guest bedroom/office/toy vault -- if ever you have reason to sleep at my house you will not be bored.)

Said sewing supplies and machinery have spent the past year in that closet, dejected and abandoned, with me only pulling out my sewing machine on a few occasions to mend things that I just couldn’t bear to sew by hand. This bummed me out. It bummed me out enough that following a bit of computer-reorganization in the living room (we have five regularly-operated computers in this house, three of which reside in the main living space -- MY GOD WE ARE EMBARASSING), when I found myself with a free corner in which a now-unoccupied computer table stood, I started shopping for sewing tables online.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson about the limitations of purpose-built furniture by now, but no. Luckily, sewing tables are freaking expensive. Ludicrously so. So I didn’t shop for long. Having been soundly thwarted, I resigned myself to accepting that my lack of dedicated sewing space was simply a cross I would have to continue to bear.

But then this weekend I found myself looking at the vacated computer desk. It’s obviously a computer desk, with a sliding keyboard tray and a space for a tower and three special slotted sliding drawers fitted for -- OF COURSE -- CD cases.


I realize this is probably an obvious solution to anyone without my severe DIY-furniture impairments, but it was a revolution to me. I’m not much of a visionary about space or design. I look at a computer desk and see a computer desk, and nothing else. So looking at a computer desk and seeing a sewing table was a big freaking deal in my stodgy brain.

It turns out the keyboard tray is the perfect height for sewing. And with a little jockeying all my many notions fit AND are easily accessible, so if I need a still-in-the-original-package metal zipper from the early 1970s at a moment’s notice, it’s right there. HOW PROUD OF MYSELF AM I RIGHT NOW? Pretty damn proud.

Exhibit B: Bedroom Bookshelves

Flying high from my radical computer-desk reclamation, I turned my attentions to my one remaining CD tower, a tall and heavily built affair of solid pine, which has graced every place I’ve lived going back to the mid-90s. I had recently moved the CDs that had filled it to less-substantial and more subtle storage space, and the tower had been standing empty and lonesome against a dining room wall until I decided what to do with it. I had been thinking Freecycle.

But NOW, with my new furniture-revolution eyeballs, I saw a solution to a longstanding gripe between my husband and I: my bookpile. No matter what I do, no matter how solemnly I pledge to file them away in the proper places on the huge shelving units that take up an absurd amount of our household wall space, I always seem to have a giant pile of books on the floor in the bedroom.

My husband hates the bookpile, and to be fair it is kind of messy-looking. I had often thought it would be nice to have a small set of shelves to organize it, but never really moved on that idea. Until this magical weekend, when I realized the old CD tower would perfectly fit a narrow strip of wall next to the closet. VOILA!

I AM KIND OF A GENIUS. I can hardly bear it.

When I took to Twitter to crow about my own brilliance, longtime xoJane community member Dana shared an old pre-flatscreen TV cabinet turned indoor garden, which is so awesome it almost makes me want to troll garage sales to score one of my own (ALMOST, except I hate getting up early and a lot of the time secondhand furniture creeps me out -- I blame the time I took a small chest of drawers from a moving neighbor in my 20s and found a used condom inside as a bonus feature AFTER I’d brought it into my apartment, which was a little bit scarring).

Amazing, right? And weirdly perfectly suited to the task.

So what do you think? Also, I want to hear about your media furniture repurposing experiences, if you have them. Also also, does anyone have any bright ideas for what I can do with two empty VHS-tape storage cabinets? I may have used up all my newfound DIY intelligence already because I’m utterly stumped by them.