Prior to the pandemic, Robyn Seguin had six houseplants in her Minneapolis apartment. But like many other plant parents, her collection grew quickly in confinement. “I don’t even know how many I have anymore,” she says, although she believes it’s close to 70.
Before long, Sequin started amassing more tropical plants, flowering anthuriums and glossy-leafed philodendrons, which she has purchased and imported from other countries. But the cold, dry environment in her apartment during the winter was not an ideal habitat for them.
In one of the many plant groups to which she belongs on Facebook, Sequin came across a trending DIY hack that transformed glass Ikea cabinets into indoor greenhouses. It was the perfect chic solution for her greenery. “It’s not feasible for me to have an outdoor greenhouse or large indoor greenhouse,” says Seguin. “Greenhouse cabinets are a great solution.”
The setup doesn’t require much: a glass cabinet, grow lights, a small fan and humidifier. Seguin says there are many ways to customize them and they can be as high or low tech as you want.
These hacks were so popular during the pandemic that certain Ikea cabinets were sold out for months. Seguin waited for the Milsbo cabinet until she gave up and settled for a smaller one, the Fabrikör, in January. To the glass cabinet she added a peg board, grow lights, a small desk fan, hygrometer (which measures humidity), a small humidifier and a plastic tray filled with lightweight expanded clay aggregate (Leca), which helps keep the humidity up.
The cabinet greenhouses are aesthetically pleasing, yes, and provide a healthy climate for many plants. But they have added bonuses, too. Seguin appreciates how convenient it is for her to water and monitor her high-maintenance tropical plants now that they’re all in a central location.
The cabinet greenhouses also offer protection—for plants, but also other members of the household who shouldn’t be eating them. “Using the greenhouse helps me maximize space and humidity right in my dining room, and it looks great,” says Brittany Goldwyn Merth, a DIY blogger who made one as a birthday present to herself last year. “And it keeps my cats and kid away from some plants, too.”
The sudden popularity of the Ikea cabinet greenhouse hack can be traced back to December 2019, when the Netherlands-based plant enthusiast Robin Schouten created the #ikeagreenhousecabinet hashtag on Instagram. Several months later, in April 2020, she launched an Instagram page of the same name—right at the onset of the pandemic. The main goal was to have a central location to help and inspire other plant lovers working to create their own Ikea greenhouse cabinet.
Schouten doesn’t take credit for inventing the hack. Prior to starting the Instagram page, she had heard of a few others who had converted various display cabinets into greenhouses. “I absolutely fell in love with the idea and aesthetics,” she says. But when she went searching for more information about how to do it herself, she didn’t find much.
“I killed a lot of plants through trial and error and documented the whole process on my personal Instagram account,” says Schouten. “The positive responses I got from the plant community were overwhelming and I noticed more and more people were getting interested in converting their own.” And so she created the @IKEAGreenhouseCabinet Instagram page, which had 104,000 followers at the time of publishing.
Part of the hack’s success, says Schoubert, is due to how easy it is to accomplish. “[The cabinets] are very versatile and can be as cheap and simple or expensive and complex as you want,” says Schouten. “It all depends on your budget, DIY skills, commitment and which kinds of plants are being kept inside of them.”
They’ve also helped bring beauty into homes and boost confidence in their creators during the past challenging year. “A lot of plant lovers, especially millennials and younger [generations], don’t live in large spaces and want a beautiful, effective way to display their plants while also keeping them happy,” says Goldwyn Merth. “Plus, it’s a really cool project to put together.”