My Amazing Ikea Billy Bookshelf to Built-In Hack

Today I’m sharing how we used the infamous Ikea Billy Bookshelf unit and made them into a row of built-in bookcases in my office! Turns out they are easy and amazing and I absolutely love them!

Why We Used the Billy Bookshelf

When we first moved in I knew immediately that this wall was going to have built in bookshelves. It was the perfect spot for them because it when you’re facing the wall it has a bit of a nook to it on the left side.

There’s an arch doorway there which gives a nice shape to the room and it feels like it should have shelves on that wall.

So now it does.

We initially set out to build bookshelves but when we added the cost and the time, it just made more sense to buy shelves that were already pre-built.

Bring on the Ikea Billy Bookshelf.

In the past I have looked at some of the Ikea products and wondered why people would use them and now I’m definitely a convert. We used their kitchen cabinets in a house and I was impressed with all the options and how well they were made.

These bookshelves are not solid wood though, so if that’s what you’re after you aren’t going to love them.

Ikea does have some products that are solid wood – and I have added one of those cabinets in this room as well, but when it comes to affordable and customizable shelving units, you can’t beat these.

The Wall Before We Added Ikea Billy Bookcases

Of course when we bought this house it had brown carpet and brown walls. The carpet was dark brown and it definitely hides everything but it will be getting a makeover. There are so many things on the future list for this house so it’s exciting to get this project on the books.

The brown walls will also go to white or color but that’s also a project for another day. Or actually several days because the ceilings in this house are tall and none of the projects seem to be small!

The previous owners were using this space as a home gym so they left us the tv and speakers that were mounted to the wall, along with the wall of mirrors.

The mirrors are mounted and glued to the wall so we decided to leave them because we didn’t want to damage the wall and we also didn’t want to have to dispose of broken mirrors. I guess in the future if the bookcases are removed there will be a surprise behind them!

It also made for some fun peek-a-boo while we were constructing the built in’s and I made some videos showcasing the “hidden” mirrors.

This is what the wall of mirrors looked like before the Ikea Billy Bookshelves were installed over them.
Before adding bookshelves

How to Build Ikea Billy Bookshelves

Let me just say that the billy bookshelf is not hard to build, they just take some time.

Thankfully we paid to have these delivered and it was totally worth it.

Even thought the Ikea store is not (too) far away, all of these bookshelves were upstairs and it would have been a nightmare to pick them up, load them into the car/truck, unload them and then carry them up the stairs.

Carrying them up the stairs was really the breaking point for me.

The key is to build each bookshelf one at a time, then stand it up and get it out of the way.

I wanted to get the whole wall built before I decided where my shelves were going to be placed, so I had a lot of loose shelves that got moved around before they were actually installed.

Since some of the shelves are adjustable it’s easy to move those around after you get the core built. We also added the extra box on top called the height extension unit.

Looking back now I’m wondering if I should have added another height extension unit and taken them on up to the ceiling.

I guess I can still do that in the future. I’m not sure I can get my husband on board with it, but it’s a faint possibility.

Five sets of Ikea Billy Bookcases in boxes before being assembled.
Billy Bookshelf in a Box

Building a Base for the Bookshelves

We suspended two of the bookcases to double check our measurements and determine the height we wanted them to be.

Then we built a base for the bookcases.

Next up we added the bookcases and trim!

The beginning stages of a built in Ikea Billy Bookcase wall
Two bookcases suspended for height and measurements.

I had crown moulding left from removing our kitchen cabinets so it was easy to repurpose it to the top of these bookcases.

It also meant that it matched the crown moulding that we have throughout the rest of the house so a definite win win!

Visions of blue paint on Ikea Billy Bookshelves
The beginning of the design
We added trim and crown moulding to the Billy Bookcase so it would appear to be built in.
A wide shot of the Billy Bookshelf Built In

In this wider shot of the wall you can see that we replaced the baseboards over the base we built for the bookcases.

We simply removed the baseboard from the wall, installed our bookshelves and moved the baseboard to the front of the shelves. That was a pretty easy fix.

We used a flat 1X2 on the fronts of the bookshelves to cover the gaps between each one. This meant that we also had to add trim at the top and bottom of the bookshelves so that everything was flush on the front.

The image above shows the finished construction before paint and decorations were added – which is of course the best part of the project!

Tips I Wish I’d Followed when Installing Billy Bookcases

I definitely read lot’s of tips on “ikea hacks”, “ikea billy bookcase hacks” and “painting ikea furniture”.

When it was all said and done I must admit that I’m thrilled with how they turned out! There are a couple of things I wouldn’t change and a couple that I would.

Things I Love about the Billy Bookshelf

I didn’t putty and fill the holes for the adjustable shelves and I’m not sorry about that. I’ve seen a lot of people that fill those in to make the bookcases look more finished but I really like the idea of being able to adjust the shelves.

Now that I’ve got them placed I might not ever move them again but it took some time and some adjusting to make them work with the decor I chose. Which is mostly books by the way!

The Billy Bookcase is definitely one of the most popular Ikea products and it’s so simple to style them without doing any kind of hack to them. You can just build them, set them someplace and you’ve got yourself a great bookshelf.

It’s also available in a few different colors and there are optional doors as well. The doors are great to add the the bottom of the cabinets and have some storage that you can hide. That’s always a bonus in my book!

I originally purchased doors for two of the sets and then decided against adding them.

Kudos to Ikea for also making the returns process easy and quick.

What I Wish I’d Done

The one thing that I really wish I’d done when installing the bookcases was to at least primer them before putting them together.

I think it would have taken about the same amount of time but it may have been easier. It may not have been easier though, since we had five sets of bookcases it may have just taken up too much space to get everything primed or painted before putting it all together.

So while I’m adding this to my “wish” list I also realize that it might not have worked anyway.

I did spread out all the shelves and primer and paint them in our kitchen. Let me tell you that took up a ridiculous amount of space to coat both sides and outsides in primer and paint. It was 20 shelves. Not a small amount of loose shelves to paint.

I do wish I had used our paint sprayer to paint them instead of roller and brush. That definitely would have made the job go so much faster. So much faster.

Amazing Billy Bookshelf Built In


After the walls had primer and paint.

After the brown carpet was removed and I went crazy with paint swirls everywhere. And then the dog walked through it and made paw prints in a few places.

After I added books and boxes and hid ribbon in baskets.

And of course disco balls. There must be disco balls.

Ikea Billy Bookshelf Built In's - painted blue and decorated.

What do you think?

I might have second guessed the project in the middle of it but it was so worth it in the end!

I shared videos of this project on my social media so if you want to see action shots you can find them there.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest for more inspiration!

If you liked this project you might also enjoy:

How to build in an Ikea Billy Bookshelf and customize it.  (Billy Bookshelf hack)

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