before and after

Before & After: A Genius Air Conditioner Coverup

by Grace Bonney

Air conditioning is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about in the winter, but I do spend a lot of time wondering how to cover air conditioning units this time of year. Most people I know living in apartments have their AC units drilled into their windows, so they can be a pain to remove each year. So most of us seal them up and try to look the other way. But some apartments come with huge AC units that are permanently mounted at the top of the wall that can be a lot more difficult to ignore. For those people, blogger Mara Greenwald of Design Evolving has the solution: a coverup made from IKEA BILLY bookcases.

Mara’s wall unit air conditioner is necessary for her Chicago summers, but sits there like an eyesore the rest of the year. So she decided that building a coverup for October through April was worthwhile. When she noticed that her IKEA BILLY bookcases were tall enough to cover the unit, she decided to create a standing unit that would open and close when she needed — and didn’t need — the system in use. The result is a neat and tidy storage unit that you would never know housed a bulky air conditioning unit. Click through to see more about how she created her coverup! Thanks, Maraxo, grace

The Before: A situation so many of us are familiar with. A necessary wall unit that is great for summer months, but is a non-functioning eye-sore the rest of the year.

The project: Mara took the back off of her Billy bookcase and then measured and cut out a space large enough for the air conditioner to fit through. Then the piece was reassembled and placed in front of the AC unit.

The After: Now that the unit is tucked inside the cabinet, it can be closed and hidden in colder months.

When temperatures start to rise, Mara can open the cabinet to cool off the room.



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  • LOVE this idea! Wonder how hard it would be to make the upper cabinet door one that slides up and over the top of the bookcase? I imagine it would make for better airflow/less likely for someone to konk their head, etc

  • What a great idea to use a Billy bookcase. I have been trying to figure out a similar solution for an electrical panel in my dining room. Definitely going to check out a Billy.

  • Ditto above! Have central A/C now but had window A/C in the past and was always trying to find a way to hide it. Wish I had seen this before!

  • The top doors need to be able to open, then slide bac into the unit. Should be an easy fix . That way no one will hit the doors. And the air will circulate better.

  • I am Mara’s Aunt and have been to her condo many times. Never realized her cabinet housed her A/C unit. That’s my clever niece for ya! She has worked very hard to make her place her own. Love from your proud Auntie.

  • This is a wonderful idea. Another option is latticed or other non-solid doors that allow the air to flow through the doors.

  • That’s great idea to hide something that you don’t have to use all the time and you definitely don’t want to see these all the time.

  • It’s a lovely solution for when the AC is not being used. The open doors sticking out would bug me when it was being used though. Some suggested a roll-up door- I would be too lazy to switch it- I would probably just take the doors completely off the cabinet and store somewhere else when it was in use. Then put back on when it was the off season.

  • Looks like a great solution! Just a clarification to the post, though: A/C is still a luxury in the upper Midwest for most people (very few people need A/C for health reasons–more and more people have it (and it contributes to the urban heat island by itself producing more heat in the ambient air), but it is far from “necessary” in this climate for healthy individuals). I get a bit frustrated when blogs legitimize unsustainable consumption as somehow necessary–we all make choices, but it’s important not to do that under false premises. (Not a critique of Mara and her solution! It looks like a broadly applicable and smart way of covering an eyesore!)

  • Genius! I used to have a wall unit and wish I would have thought of this back then – after we installed central air/heat we removed the unit and my Dad and I sealed up the hole with glass block!