...because home doesn't happen overnight.

reclaimed shelves 2

I received an email from a reader a few weeks ago asking for help tracking down unfinished boards to fit Ikea’s BJÄRNUM brackets. (You may recall we fitted the brackets with reclaimed fence boards to create open shelving in the kitchen.) The brackets are meant to support 1″ thick, 11″ deep boards. Unfortunately, the “common” boards carried by most big box home improvement stores aren’t actually 1″ thick – even though they’re labeled as such. So annoying!

Anyway, I’m afraid I wasn’t much help. I advised the reader to scope out craigslist or other secondhand sources for reclaimed boards that could be cut to size. (We cut our fence boards so that the ends taper into the brackets.) A little while later I received a followup email. The reader had found the perfect unfinished boards at her local home improvement store: stair treads! Ingenious. Sometimes, a little creative thinking leads to materials that are less expensive and / or more unique than blatantly labeled materials.

This renovation trick was on my mind while reading the November issue of Dwell. In the magazine, I came across a few more examples of not-so-obivous material choices.

maple shorts

This modest new build incorporates maple “shorts” as flooring. The cut pieces were left over from previous projects and sold at a discount.

cedar shelves

In this same home, leftover cypress (used elsewhere on the exterior as siding and decking) is incorporated in the kitchen as shelving.

“…you’re using basic things, but you’re using them in new and unique ways.” – Jonathon Kemnitzer, designer

marble thresholds as bathroom tile

I spotted another clever use of material in this bathroom. The “tiles” are actually 6″ wide marble thresholds that have been cut to length to cover the floor and shower walls.

“This is considered junk stone in the interior design world but we saw something really handsome in it.” – Paul Syme, architect

I love the idea of thinking outside the box when it comes to building materials. As I mentioned, we repurposed reclaimed fence boards as kitchen shelving. We’ve also created outdoor art using wood salvaged from our home’s attic, and we recently constructed a tub cradle base from an old beam. Have you made not-so-obvious material choices in your own home?

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2 & 3) Kem Studio 4) Nathan Dykstra



I had this same issue when I was thinking about using these great brackets in my laundry room. After much blog and pinterest searching I discovered that there are actually 5/4 in boards at Lowes/HD that are actually 1″ and fit perfectly into the brackets. You do have to use a couple in order to get the entire depth but their cedar so it’s really nice wood! Just an FYI for anyone else with the same issue!


Hi Dana,

It’s funny that you mention your truly beautiful shelves again… because I was OBSESSED with them and with finding reclaimed boards to fit the IKEA brackets for months! It drove me mad. There are so many websites and shops out there, but the boards also tend to be very pricey and just not right-sized. I eventually found perfect boards that were washed up at the coast of the North Sea in Germany… on eBay (Germany)!


Here they are. I only cut them to size (3 shelves in total), lightly sanded and then spray-painted them with clear varnish (?! I’m German, so excuse my amateurish use of words).

Thank you for your beautiful blog and the continuous inspiration!


Smart! We had the same problem when we were using the Bjarnum brackets in our bathroom (http://www.glitterandgoatcheese.com/2013/10/11/powder-room-revamp/). We ended up finding a red oak board at a lumber yard that was slightly too thick, and my husband sanded it down until it fit. It took a long time, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it worked! We’ll try stair treads next time, though. :)


We did this! We made open shelves with stair treads, and we love them!http://www.magentaandlime.net/2013/02/the-kitchen-of-our-dreams-open-shelving.html?m=1

I love your shelves. And the floors in that Dwell article are amazing! We’ve used reclaimed beams to build a deck. http://ourhumbleabodeblog.com/2013/07/08/deck-dynasty/. It’s a very unique material, but we love how it turned out. More recently, we reused our old cedar siding as an accent wall in our bedroom: http://ourhumbleabodeblog.com/2014/07/07/cedar-planked/ People either love it or hate it, but it really warms up the room.


The maple shorts work particularly well in the space. It’s so clean and minimal, the choppy texture of the pattern really adds something.


Great post, Dana!


Apparently I wasn’t the only one who discovered $10 stair treads are a perfect fit. I roughed mine up and gave them a walnut stain and we’re super happy with them!

Here’s a photo of mine: http://instagram.com/p/kCeEEWGDJZ/?modal=true


Favorite thing to do is use materials in other ways than what they are purposed for. We have some exciting ideas for doing things to our basement with “out of the box” building materials when we begin to finish it next May. I vote for recurring blog posts dedicated to this.


When we built our last house, we had leftover flooring. My husband turned these into several side tables and a long console table that we still use today. Everyone is amazed to learn it was leftover flooring.


5/4 hardwood is actually 1″. It’s been that way for ages… the sizing standard for lumber. The first rough cut of a 2×4 is actually 2×4, but then it’s planed/smoothed so part of it’s size is shaved off. If you want a true 1″ shelf, ask for 5/4. You can find them at Lowes.

Wow! Great tip Lisa. Thanks for sharing.

I actually love seeing finish grade plywood used on ceilings. I think its such a fresh and modern take on plank ceilings. Id love to actually do it in my kitchen.


Sweet! Thanks for this!


No waste FTW!


So SO good! Your stair treads turned shelves look amazing in your kitchen!!


I think so too. They might not be the ideal choice in certain homes, but they work really well here.


Loving all these stair treads as shelves! Great work.


Oh my, I love that you painted the brackets gold! The wood looks so rich against those dramatic cobalt walls. What a great bathroom!


Gorg! I think I could do a post of nothing but images of BJARNUM brackets. I love seeing how everyone has used and styled them in their own homes.


Thanks Nicole!


We used a new piece of cedar fence panel for ours and LOVE them! $16 for the boards to get all three shelves.


Wood is often the best choice in anything, but especially flooring! There’s nothing like earthy tones, and the high quality of Mother Nature. Great choices.