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I’d been looking to create a freestanding cat tower for my high-flying cat, Frank, for a long time but was disappointed with the ready-made options out there, and some of the DIY projects look a little too, well … DIY. It needed to be tall, freestanding (since it needed to be installed in front of our sliding glass doors), very secure since he likes to catapult himself on and off of all our furniture, and very good-looking since it was going in the living room where we spend most of our time. Tall order, right?

Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower

According to some older IKEA hacks, the STOLMEN system was a go-to for cat tree DIYers back in the day so the new STOLMEN equivalent, ELVARLI, was a natural choice for this cat tower project. Once I started playing around with the configurations of the ELVARLI I realized that by simply changing the orientation of the shelves I could get the exact results I wanted: bring the posts in together and attach the shelves them at the long edge of the shelf instead of the short end, and you’re in business!

Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower

Since the ELVARLI shelves were too deep for my needs I opted for the narrower SVALNAS shelves which also have a nice bamboo finish (and are slightly cheaper!). Honestly, any shelf would work with this set-up, even just plywood boards.

I staggered the top two shelves to allow for easier jumping between levels, and I picked up a few cheap SIVESTED doormats so Frank has something to grip as he flies on and off of the shelves.

IKEA items used:
  • Two ELVARLI posts
  • 3 ELVARLI brackets (each a pack of two)
  • 2 SVALNAS shelves (9.75″x24″)
  • 1 SVALNAS shelf (9.75″x31.75″)
  • 3 small SIVESTED doormats
Other materials and tools:
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Scissors
  • 2 screws to attach ELVARLI posts to ceiling
  • 8 small screws (for attaching SIVESTED to the SVALNAS shelves, about 0.5″ long)

Hack instructions for the ELVARLI cat tower

1. Assemble the ELVARLI posts according to the IKEA directions.

2. Install the first ELVARLI post where you want your tree. Attach the first post to the ceiling with screws and tighten at the floor as directed in the IKEA directions.

3. Install the second ELVARLI post opposite the first post 9.75″ away. The posts should be facing each other the same way the IKEA directions indicate but make sure the distance between the two posts is 9.75″ to accommodate the narrower dimensions of the SVALNAS shelf. Attach the second post to the ceiling with screws and tighten at the floor as directed in the IKEA directions.

Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower

4. Install the ELVARLI shelf brackets at the 28″, 46″, and 64″ points in the posts according to the IKEA directions.

5. Open the first SVALNAS 9.75″x24″ shelf and discard the accompanying metal brackets but set aside the extra screws (four 100365 screws). Slide the shelf into the ELVARLI bracket at the top (64″) from left to right until the left end of the shelf is aligned with the left edge of the bracket, leaving about 10″ of the shelf overhanging the bracket on the right end.

6. Use a pencil to mark the locations at either end of the bracket where the shelf will be attached through the existing bracket holes. Remove the shelf and use a drill to pre-drill holes where the marks were made.

7. Insert the shelf again as in step 5 and use the extra ELVARLI screws to attach the SVALNAS shelf to the ELVARLI bracket.

8. Open the second SVALNAS 9.75″x24″ shelf and discard the accompanying metal brackets but set aside the extra screws (four 100365 screws ). Slide the shelf into the ELVARLI bracket in the middle (46″) from left to right until the right end of the shelf is aligned with the right edge of the bracket, leaving about 10″ of the shelf overhanging the bracket on the left end.

9. Use a pencil to mark the locations at either end of the bracket where the shelf will be attached through the existing bracket holes. Remove the shelf and use a drill to pre-drill holes where the marks were made.

10. Insert the shelf again as in step 8 and use the extra ELVARLI screws to attach the SVALNAS shelf to the ELVARLI bracket.

11. Open the SVALNAS 9.75″x31.75″ shelf and discard the accompanying metal brackets but set aside the extra screws (four 100365 screws). Slide the shelf into the ELVARLI bracket at the bottom (28″) from left to right until the shelf is centered on the bracket, leaving about 9″ of the shelf overhanging each end of the bracket.

12. Use a pencil to mark the locations at either end of the bracket where the shelf will be attached through the existing bracket holes. Remove the shelf and use a drill to pre-drill holes where the marks were made.

13. Insert the shelf again as in step 11 and use the extra ELVARLI screws to attach the SVALNAS shelf to the ELVARLI bracket.

14. Cut the SIVESTED mats so they fit on the 9.75″ wide shelf, leaving four tabs on each mat to wrap around the shelves, making sure to stagger the cuts on the two mats for the 24″ shelves. See image.

Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower

15. Put mats on shelves, wrapping the overhanging tabs underneath each shelf. Use a drill to make a pilot hole through the center of each tab and into the shelves. Screw the small screws through tabs and into the bottom of the shelves.

Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower

Needless to say, we’re all pretty happy with our cat tower! I’m considering installing a cat hammock underneath the bottom shelf, but one hack at a time…

Super Easy ELVARLI cat tower

This cat tower project took me about an hour altogether and all the pieces together cost $142.97, plus a few cents for some extra screws (but I managed to get one of my SVALNAS from as-is for $3 and found an extra doormat abandoned in the parking lot, so only $125 for me – as-is for the win!). It was as easy as assembling an ELVARLI shelf system. I was able to do it alone but it might go faster with help from a friend when steadying the posts, aligning things, etc.

~ Lia