Making Billy Bookshelves Look Like Built-Ins - Juniper Home

Making Billy Bookshelves Look Like Built-Ins


I’ve always loved the way that books make a home come alive. When we were planning on where to put all the books from our office in the loft, there was only really one place to put the Billys – the living room. So we bought four more sets of the extender shelves and spent a few days last fall “building in” our IKEA bookshelves.

Here’s how the space looked on move in day. It looked like a giant H to me.

I love it all so much more now. That nook was the worst! Ready for all the details on how we filled the nook and built up and in the Billy bookshelves?

This project got done much sooner than I had planned on. We moved into our place and we had a huge wall of book boxes that were oppressive and dangerous. So in an effort to make at least some progress on the house, we threw up the old Ikea Billy shelves on the wall flanking the fireplace and quickly unpacked the dozens of boxes. Here’s what the shelves looked like for the first couple weeks we lived here:

Then my amazing parents, who are always up for a project, came in to town and on a whim we decided to tackle the bookshelf wall. We raced to Home Depot for supplies – lumber, moulding and drywall.

Joint compound, drywall tape and a grouting sponge…

We worked to quickly frame out the bookshelves and the nook in 2x4s. And actually we put 4x4s underneath the bookshelves, so they would be lifted up off the ground.

We all signed the inside of the wall. :)

Drywall was marked with chalk tape and cut with a razor blade knife.

And the first pieces went up and we happily said goodbye to the nook.

Once the drywall sheets were screwed into place, we taped the seams.

Then we went over the drywall and the tape with joint compound.

Meanwhile, after “wet sanding” the joint compound with the big grout sponge, we also started the crown moulding. Also, I’d love to point out the obvious here – that we should have taken down all the books first. They were a dusty mess after all the work we did! I just didn’t really have a place to put all of them before we started. I told you this was a spur of the moment project!

Probably my favorite part of the project was the footing of the shelves. Like I said, we sat the bookshelves on three 4x4s running lengthwise. This gave the bottom a lot of height.

Then we framed out the whole bottom with 2x8s, which gave the bookshelves a really chunky base and made them look less IKEA I think.

For the face of the bookshelves, we found this great small moulding at Home Depot too. We measured and cut everything to size and then sprayed it with a black gloss enamel.

It was so easy to add the moulding with my brad gun. We used thicker stripe moulding for all the vertical lines.

I love how the white shelves and shelf backs contrast with the dark black trim on the face of the shelves.

Not bad for just the cost of some lumber and supplies and a few Billy Extender shelves! Now just to find a mirror that better fits that wall space!

And also, to make a sofa back table to help hide the fireplace a little more and to hold a pair of lamps.

I tried a new method for organizing books – one that’s functional and pretty! I’m excited to share the how-to!

How was your weekend? 
What did you think?
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91 thoughts on “Making Billy Bookshelves Look Like Built-Ins

  1. Looks gorgeous Jenny! I've just done a bit of a project with a client where we used her existing Billy shelves to make a reading nook around her sofa. I love your moulding though – perfection! xx

    Anna (My Design Ethos)

  2. This looks wonderful! I can't wait to own my own home and be able to do projects like this. One of my dreams is to have floor to ceiling bookshelves someday. Thanks for sharing this!


  3. I can't believe the amount of stuff your landlord let's you guys do! It obviously increases the value of the home, but geez, my landlord would never let us make changes like this. Maybe it has something to do with you being a super talented interior designer. ;)

  4. @Grace, we have four sets of Billys at our place and after two years, some of the shelves are starting to sag a bit (nothing extremely noticeable). When I saw that, I made sure to reorganize the shelves to try to distribute the weight of the books a bit more evenly and intersperse objects and frames between heavier titles.

  5. Um can you and your parents come to my apartment and do this? Seriously, this is gorgeous. It's like a mini-rental version of the library in Beauty and the Beast. ;) It's amazing what you've done to the place (and that your landlord is so cool about it!)

  6. Wow this ought to be the best Billy hack I've ever since. I love that you added painted mouldings and trims around the built-in. We also put together a wall-to-wall built-in based on Ikea Billy bookcases in our basement, but it seems so amatuer work compares to yours.

  7. Hey Jenny-

    I was planning on building a bookshelf in this super-odd nook in my dining room, and I was hoping to top it off with some dentil trim. I was hoping that you might give a closer look at the crown/dentil trim combo that you used, because I haven't really got a clue and I love how yours looks. Pretty please?

  8. This is just so inspiring! Thank you for breaking down your DIY's. As my family & I are on the hunt for a new house when I now see those awful TV nooks over fireplaces it gives me hope I can change them! Thanks again.

  9. Jenny – is the fireplace totally nonfunctional? Why did you decide not to wall it up when you filled on the nook? Just wondered….

  10. Hi Grace!

    The sagging situation is one thing I forgot to mention! Thanks for asking!

    So, we've had these Billys (or at least two of them) since 2007-ish? And they've always held lots of books. I noticed in the loft that the shelves were starting to sag a little. And when we took on this project here, I meant to replace the worst offenders (you can buy new shelves for $10 at IKEA). I also had a thought that flipping them upside-down would be an option.

    Anyway, I think the black moulding makes the sag less noticeable than the white edge, but it's still there. I don't mind horribly though, and for the price, I think it's worth it. It would have cost me thousands and thousands to pay my guy to make a wall like this out of furniture-grad wood, you know? Still might replace those shelves down the road though!


  11. jtc – The fireplace smokes badly I guess. The previous tenants had it serviced, but it still wasn't in the best working order. I covered it up because it wasn't pretty at all (including the hearth) and I didn't want the focal point of the room to be the TV we'd be forced to hang above the fireplace if we'd left it uncovered.

    If it had been an original, pretty fireplace, I would have kept it out though. I love most fireplaces :) This one just looks very 70s to me.


  12. I love that this was just something you decided to do "on a whim"! I would think about this project for months deliberating over colors and timing and "how on earth am I going to get to Ikea!". The end result is absolutely stunning (as usual). I also love that your version of just quickly unpacking books to get them out of the way results in incredibly beautiful styled shelves. You are truly talented, my friend!

  13. I have been following your blog ever since someone sent me a link following my own unexpected home birth experience! This project is fantastic – I already copied your first Billy Hack, and now I'm itching to check out trim options. That black trim on the shelf fronts looks amazing!

  14. Why not just do a moulding/trim border around the mirror and leave it there. The fluid lines work so well with all the other straight lines you have going on. Would make the mirror more substantial/or the wall less substantial, I suppose. When you add a table and lamps below . . . .

  15. Amazing tutorial. The shelves look amazing, and I hope I would have reason to do something like this someday. I was thinking sofa back table behind your sofa, so I am not surprised you were already thinking that! The room is looking beautiful.

  16. I am so just incredibly jealous of how beautiful you make a space. I wish I could afford to have you come to Virginia so you could make my whole house fabulous. I am also willing to place myself up for adoption if it means I could just live in that living room. :)

  17. Wow!! What an absolutely amazing transformation. These look gorgeous. I would never have thought they were Ikea bookcases.

  18. I like your idea of using substantial trim on the base-it really gives the bookcases the look of custom build ins. Great job Jenny.

  19. What a perfectly timed post Jenny! They look fantastic with the chunky footing. Currently trying to find a solution for my own boxes of books. Have you read The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman? She also talks about how to organise books. Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Morgan (

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