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Inexpensive DIY Cold Frames


My friend Lorene built the coolest cold frames ever earlier this spring. They look like she spent hours measuring and cutting and screwing wood slats together. But she didn’t. Instead, she built the frames by repurposing some old IKEA shelving units. Genius!

The sides of the cold frame are simply shelves from a corner unit from the GORM storage system. She used four foot long pieces of wood to form the back of the frame and another to join the sides together at the front (see below). If you don’t happen to have spare shelves hanging around your basement, you can buy the corner shelves new for $9 at IKEA.


Lorene decided to help preserve the wood by paint the frames a spiffy barn red. To keep the frame toasty warm inside, she cut rigid Styrofoam insulation to fit and then wedged them into the inside of the frame. She covered the top of the frame with a double layer of 4.5 mil clear plastic. To make the plastic easy to roll up, she stapled the end to a piece of wood (see top photo).

All in all, it is by far the best DIY cold frame I’ve ever seen. It’s attractive. It’s really functional. It’s super inexpensive to build. And it holds a lot of salad.

Lorene has a tutorial for building this cold frame—plus more photos of it—at her blog Planted at Home.


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18 Responses to “Inexpensive DIY Cold Frames”

  1. 1
    Lorene Says:

    Aw shucks Willi, my little cold frames are famous. Long live Urban Hillbilly Chic!!!
    oxox Lorene

  2. 2
    Theresa/GardenFreshLiving Says:

    Oh! So very, very clever! Love it. You could paint it so many cool ways too. This is something even the kids could do. Great idea…Thanks for sharing it.

  3. 3
    MA Says:

    Isn’t that Lorene a clever one? I am getting the guest room ready for her. Her son will be going to school here so I’ve invited her to stay. And stay! Love those cold frames.

  4. 4
    Karen Says:

    Wow, those are really spiffy! I read Lorene’s blog but somehow missed seeing that plan. I am super un-handy but maybe I will try these. Lots of old Ikea stuff lying around in the basement, there’s gotta be something that would work…

  5. 5
    Sandy Says:

    Ok, I just love these! I might even be willing to haul myself all the way down to Ikea to set a few up.

  6. 6
    chassie Says:

    I discovered you in my Sunset magazine and I have loved following your blog ever since! This little boxes are fantastic! Thank you for sharing.


  7. 7
    Carole Says:

    Great idea! Although be careful with IKEA shelving. A lot of it is particle board underneath the melamine. It won’t last long in a wet climate.

  8. 8
    Willi Says:

    I’m glad you guys agree that this is such a great cold frame idea. Carole–good point about IKEA shelving. Much of it is made from particle board. Luckily, the GORM shelving is made from solid pine. Painting it or preserving with a nontoxic wood preserver will help them last longer…but unfortunately not forever!

  9. 9
    Rachel Says:

    Wow! I just discovered your blog today and I’m so glad I did. This place is right up my alley. I love the squash trellis-SO doing this! I’d love to link to some of your projects if you don’t mind.

  10. 10
    Shibaguyz Says:

    We just priced this entire project out and, if you bought all of the materials new, you’d spend less than $40 on the entire project. If you repurposed some of the extra wood and plastic, you’d probably get down to around $25 or less. Cost savings? Buying a cold frame is around $65 for a cheap cheap cheap one. This is a GREAT project! And, at $5.00 a bag for fresh greens at the farmers markets, this puppy pays for itself with your first few harvests.

    We are definitely adding this to our projects for this fall/winter. Thanks for the tip!

  11. 11
    brenda Says:

    Matt – thanks for sharing the idea. I recently attended a workshop on building cold frames & raised beds at Seedy Saturday … very ingenious (the women giving the talk mentioned using old Ikea slatted futon bases for the wood but there was a fair amount more cutting and whatnot involved)!

  12. 12
    Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. Says:

    ehhhhhhhhh, what are cold frames for? is it a stupid question? I’m a total beignner… is it for cold weather? and if it is, how does is actually help?

  13. 13
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    … they extend the growing season … check out this forum on

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