Built-in Bookshelves from IKEA Billy Bookcases–How to do it.



I showed off these fabulous shelves my Dad recently built for us in this post HERE...If you missed it, this was just a blank wall in our living room.

and showed them once I decorated and styled them in this post HERE.

Here is the step by step of this project. Since I didn’t actually do most of the hands-on work, I suppose it is easy for me to say how simple this is, but this project is certainly simple compared to building a wall of shelves from scratch.

A quick recap if you missed the first post, I’d been dreaming about building these shelves since we moved in our new home. At one point last year, I showed my Dad a picture of some shelves that were similar and asked if he could help me with the harder parts of construction. He basically showed up one day with the lumber and did the entire project for me himself, I sure am one lucky girl!

Here is the space I started with. This picture is from our move-in day, before we had the room painted pale gray. This is the home’s formal living room just inside the front door, we use it more as a quiet reading/library space since formal entertaining isn’t high on our list these days.



What is nice about the space, which is open to our foyer, is that the walls already created the perfect “niche” to put shelves in. I had two shelves already from my former home office so I picked up two more tall Billy bookshelves from IKEA.

To figure out how to best use the space, the picture below shows how we did the math. I measured the space in between the walls, in our case it was almost exactly 12 feet, or 144 inches, then I subtracted out the width of the bookcases which are 31″ each, or a total of 124 inches. That left me with 20 inches of open space to cover over with trim, so I knew we would need five 5″ boards on the ends and in between each shelf.


Once I had that figured out, I just had to figure out the top part of the shelves. I knew I wanted to go as close to the ceiling as I could, and as luck would have it I found out you can purchase Billy Shelf Extenders  from IKEA to make the standard bookshelves taller.

This is the shelf we used (four of them) in case you aren’t familiar with them.


We added them to the top of each shelf which added another 14″ to the height of the shelves and made such a huge difference. You can see them below with the additional height, which got them much closer to the ceiling.


shelves 1

Here is how we {by we, I mean my Dad} built them.

I should add that to do this job a mitre saw and a nail compressor are helpful in addition to other basic tools and painting equipment.

He started by building essentially a rectangular box to set the shelves in to keep them steady and in place.


shelf base


We also pulled the molding off the wall, then saved it to use again once we were done.




From there, he set the shelves in the base, spaced evenly, and then secured them to the wall.


secure to wall


Once they were secured, he cut and painted the boards to “build” them into the walls. All the boards came from the molding and trim section at Home Depot. Below shows how he secured the large top board to the ceiling and the bookcases. This front board was later covered with more molding so the gap above it didn’t show.




Just a quick note in here about why you don’t see lights along the top of these shelves as was my original intention. My father, who spent his career as a Fire Chief, was not going to let me drop extension cords behind the shelves to run power to the lighting along the top. Before we started building, we hired an electrician to come out to place a new outlet at the ceiling on top of the shelves so we could plug the cords into it directly. However, our home was built during the early 2000’s building boom, and our builder used a construction technique rare in single family homes known as “pre-cast” construction. Essentially our house doesn’t have traditional studs, but rather our exterior walls are solid concrete. It’s nice for our heating bills, but it makes it impossible to run a wire up the wall behind the drywall. After about 100 holes in the wall and a hefty electrician bill, we gave up on the lighting idea. I think they look nice enough without it.

Here is a closer shot with the molding boards tacked on. He gave everything a coat of paint prior to nailing it up, then everything got another coat of paint at the very end.


boards on shelves


After all the construction was done, we caulked the gaps, then I spent an evening spackling all the little tiny holes in the sides of the bookshelves. The spackle will pop out if I want to arrange the shelves differently but it just made them look much more finished.




Here is a “finished” shot of them {minus some touch-up areas}. Aren’t they beautiful?



And again, here is my Dad who gets all the credit for this project. I bet he’ll run for the golf course or the baseball field for sure the next time I say “so Dad, I was thinking about doing this project– would you like to help?” 🙂  but in the meantime, I am so grateful that he did this for us. If you have questions, please leave them in the comments, and I’ll ask ‘the man’.









See the other posts on this project : The How To Build Them and The Final “Styled” Reveal!

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Here is an easy-to-pin image so you can remember this project for your next open weekend!

How to easily DIY built-in bookcases from IKEA Billy book shelves, and easy IKEA hack you can do in a weekend.

You can also see how I used Billy bookcases to build additional shelving under the counter in our kitchen HERE.




If you would like to see more of our home here are some other posts:

Our Complete Home Tour

2 Years of Projects {recap} Updating a Builder Home

Holiday Home Tour

DIY Mudroom from a Coat Closet

{You can follow more of our DIY projects via the buttons under my photo!}


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  1. I love the bookcases and your dad did an amazing job!

  2. This is amazing! Your dad did a fabulous job and you styled them perfectly–love it!

  3. So smart to use pre-made shelving – I bet this saved a ton of time and effort! Your dad is a sweet, sweet man for taking on this project with you! xx, b

  4. hi – do you remember your costs for supplies on top of the shelves? looking to do something similar and it looks awesome!

  5. Did you paint bookcases themselves or just trim?

  6. Did you paint Billy’s and trim? Otherwise wouldn’t the fill for the holes show?

  7. meredith says:

    Hey! I was also wondering if you painted both the bookcases and the trim so they would match? Which paint color did you use?
    Thanks so much!

    • Yes–we painted all the bookcases and trim, just an off the shelf white. In another project I used BM White Dove and it was a close match to the white of IKEA Billy bookcases–you could try that. Amy

  8. Wow! Well done to your dad! It looks amazing and so professional!

  9. What size wood did you use to make the supporting box? Was it 2″x8″ or 1″x8″?
    looks so pretty. thank you

  10. amazing job. Ypur dad did a great job. I have always wanted a bookshelves built ins and in our next house we are def doing this. My question is, the area where we want the bookcases has an ac vent on the floor, any suggestions how to work,with that situation? Also now sure why these are all in caps, didnt mean to, seems like the keyboard hasma mind of it’s own, lo, thanks

    • Hi Sam–I would suggest cutting a hole with a jigsaw and using a vent so that the air can escape under the shelves, you can paint the vent to match. I hope that helps, you may want to put in two if you are doing 4 bookcases like we have so you don’t limit your air flow.

      Good luck!

  11. Hi Amy, thanks so much for posting this. looks amazing! we have almost the exact same wall dimensions (148″ across) but a much shorter ceiling (93″ high). We were thinking of foregoing the billy extensions but wanted to still have roughly the same distance separating ceiling and floor from the shelves that you do. Do you mind letting me know what this is? any additional pics or dimensions of the box frame your dad made would also be greatly appreciated! thanks!

    • Hi Joyce, it is just short of a foot from the top of the bookcase to the ceiling so if you skip the extensions that should work well! Good luck with your project 🙂


  12. Oh my, this is just beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with everybody. I love the picture of your dad, he looks really proud as he should be!
    i will definitely follow you as i’m starting to do some little things around the house.

  13. This looks amazing! I’m hoping this post inspires my husband!


    • Thank you so much for the compliment! We really LOVE our shelves 🙂 Yes, we did use the backers for stability. We just painted over them with the same paint. If you get up very close you can see the lines but I don’t think anyone would ever notice them. Good luck with your project!


  15. Love these bookcases. I have similar wall that I’d love to add these to. When you set the bookcases in the supporting box, it looked like there would be a gap between the book cases and the wall that you needed to fill with something to be able to secure the book cases to the wall?

  16. This is the best hack yet! The idea of the support box solves my concern for stability. I am putting my “built-ins” on top of 2 lateral files with an open area between at the bottom. Good idea Dad, thanks!!! Did you secure the bookcases only at the top and bottom and the 2 walls or did you also put some L brackets on sides between the cases as well? The other thought I had was securing them to each other. Not sure which would be best.

    • Hi Becky–Ah, sorry I thought I answered you. I guess I didn’t! No we only secured the top and the bottom, it is very stable especially with the boards fronting them. Hope that helps!
      Thanks 🙂


  17. Incredible job and thank you for the step by step guide.

  18. L. Natarus says:

    They are absolutely beautiful ! I bet your dad is a really cool dad . 😊I would love more info on this if you could contact me on Facebook or here. Especially the size of the box he made to put it in and what he used to secure it to the wall & ceiling . Thanks

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