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

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I showed off these fabulous IKEA bookshelves my Dad recently built for us in this post HERE...If you missed it, this was just a blank wall in our living room. This post has the step by step tutorial of how to build these bookshelves using IKEA Billy Bookcases (or similar inexpensive bookcases). They look just like built-ins and provide great storage!

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After they were built, I decorated and styled them and I showed them off in this post HERE. 

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A year or so later, I painted the room a darker color and now the shelves really pop. You can read about that update HERE.

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 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.

Sources are linked throughout and listed at the end of the post.

before-library-shelves
 

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.

How to Build Built-In Bookcases from IKEA Billy Bookshelves

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.

shelves-before-extension-measure
 

Once I had that calculated, 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.

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This is the shelf we used (four of them) in case you aren’t familiar with them.  If you don’t live near an IKEA, these are a good online substitute, but check your measurements!

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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.

We did not cut a hole in the back of the bookshelves for the outlets, although you certainly could.

shelf-base-full

 

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.

 

securing-shelves-to-top

 

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 pretty much 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. (Tip: you can take one of the shelves in to the store and have them tint your white paint to match  exactly)

 

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.

 

spackling-shelves

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

shelves-complete

 

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.’

 

dad-new-library-shelves

 

library-fall-home-tour

 

 

Bookshelves

Update: More recently we painted and restyled the room, you can see how it currently looks in this post HERE.

Sources

 

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.

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plain-ikea-hack-shelves-done-billy

 

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!}

Organize your home decor with our Whole House Home Decor Planner

 

We also offer a FREE Printable Whole House Home Decor Planner to help you organize and simplify your home decorating process. Simply click HERE for more information or to receive your free printable planner.

XO,

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Comments

  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!

    • Craig Smith says

      Thanks a lot Amy, because of you i have another project to do at my daughters house, your dad and I need to get together for some Dad time so we can relax, I love the finished project, looks great Dad, I’ll let you know how mine turns out.

      • Your daughter is lucky to have you to help! I can’t wait to hear how they turn out. We appreciate ours (and the guy who built them!) tremendously 🙂 Good luck! Thanks for sharing, Amy

  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

      • Byron M. says

        Looks great! I noticed in some of the early pics your dad removed the electrical outlet plates. Did he cut openings for those on the book case? If so, what instructions do you have for that part? Thanks!

      • Byron McKinney says

        What did you do for the electrical outlets on the wall? Did you plug anything into them, or cut a hole in the back of the bookshelf to be able to plug into the outlets?

        • Hi Byron, sorry for the delay in my response! We just covered the outlets up in the end with the IKEA shelf backing. We didn’t need them, so they are behind the shelves. Hope that is helpful! Amy

      • Did you sand the shelving before painting?

  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!
      Amy

  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 🙂

      Amy

    • Hi there, I am a little late to the party. This was so helpful and a lovely job. I definitely would want the lights as i feel that bookshelves are never completed without it, but you did amazing job decorating. I wonder if billy bookcases are good for the long term?

  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.
    carmen

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

  14. THERE ARE MANY BILLY BOOKSHELF “HACKS” OUT THERE WHERE PEOPLE HAVE USED THEM TO BUILD “BUILT-IN” WALLS…AND YOURS IS BY FAR THE BEST LOOKING! DID YOU USE THE TRI-FOLD BACKING THAT CAME WITH THE BOOKSHELVES? I CAN’T SEE FROM THE PICS, BUT I’M NERVOUS ABOUT SEEING THE LINES FROM THE FOLDS. I’D LOVE TO KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS. DID YOUR DAD PAINT THE BACK ALSO? DID THAT HIDE THEM?

    • 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!

      Amy

  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 🙂

      Amy

  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

  19. Byron McKinney says

    What did you do for the electrical outlets on the wall? Did you plug anything into them, or cut a hole in the back of the bookshelf to be able to plug into the outlets?

  20. Patricia says

    this is my next project in my home renovation. Do I really need the box on the floor? I as planning to anchor the shelves to the wall. I also plan to use the doors with solid bottoms and glass on top, as I need storage. Thank you for the specific directions that I can show my handyman

    • Hi Patricia, I don’t know that you would have to have the box. You can probably anchor them to the wall then add the trim in the front? I’d ask your handyman to weigh in to be sure. Good luck with your project! XO, Amy

  21. Can you provide the dimensions of the platform and the bottom floor of the platform? Did you place the wood on the bottom of the platform 4 inches deep?

  22. Pathrina Watson says

    Hi Amy this is just perfect and what I am planning for a reading room. just one question. what did you fill the shelf holes with? and did you paint them then??

  23. When you say you caulked all the gaps, where exactly are you talking about? Thanks!

    • Hi Chelsey, we caulked all the gaps between the molding and the bookcases, then painted it all. It looks more finished that way. Thanks! Amy

  24. Hi Amy! I am so glad I found your post on these DIY shelves! It is exactly what I have been looking to do in our “nook”, and your plan is easy to understand and looks beautiful! Do you have an idea how much the over all cost was to complete this project? Just trying to get a rough estimate 🙂

    Thank you!

    Stacie

    • That is hard to answer because my labor was free 🙂 I’d figure out the cost of the shelves (I already had 2 of those) and the wood trim, if you plan to do it yourself outside of the paint and caulk costs that would be all you have to worry about. XO, Amy

  25. Hey Amy! What did you use to fill in the gaps between the bottom of the bookcases and the board that runs along the front? I am working on my built ins using the billy bookcase, however I noticed the gap between the bookcase front and the molding is substantial. Did you use anything else other than caulking?

  26. Love this! We are looking to create something similar. Thank you for the step by step.

  27. Hi! I love the way your shelves turned out! I am dying to do this project in my own home. I do have a question that maybe you can answer. Do you think this project would work over carpet? Or would it not be level enough?

    • Hi Hilari, so sorry for the delay in response, we have been moving. I think it would be fine over carpet, you will be securing the bookcases to the wall, so they should be very stable. Good luck! Amy

    • Hi hilari.

      How did ypur bookcases go being built.on carpet??

  28. Hi Amy, I’m about to embark on a project like this myself and I’m in awe of how perfect your ‘built-in’ looks. My wall accommodates 4 3/4 billys (we are using 4 wide Billys, 1 narrow Billy and a Gnedby). I really don’t like seams and noticed that the top board (the one covering the empty space between the bookcases and the ceiling) looks flawless. Would you mind telling me how you hid the seam? Or did you use a board that is longer than the standard 8′? Thanks for your time and congratulations of your beautiful job!

    • Hi Maria, we did use a longer board, I believe it was closer to 12′. If you can’t get one that size, just use caulk the seam then paint over and it should be fine. Good luck with your project! Amy

  29. Hi there 🙂 ….I am a newbie DIY-er, and my hubby and I have purchased an IKEA system to use in our MA closet. But it is NOT the well-known PAX closet system….we are using the BESTA components and making it work for us.
    BUT I’ve been combing Pinterest all day for good instructional posts on adding trim and moulding to such “Ikea hacks.” Your BILLY built-ins turned out great! But I am desperate to know more about how your dad – as you described the photo to show – “secured the large top board to the ceiling….”
    Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great photo, LOL – but I can’t tell by looking exactly how he attached that sucker, particularly to the ceiling. So I know this question is a couple years later – but any way you could ask “the man?” 😀 Thank you!! Blessings!

  30. YOU HAVE ONE AMAZING DAD! iF HE EVER FANCIES A TRIP TO lONDON LET ME KNOW. i AM COVETING THOSE BOOKSHELVES, AND I ALREADY HAVE SOME BILLY BOOKCASES HERE AND THERE IN THE HOUSE. BUT FEEL ANOTHER TRIP TO IKEA COMING ON! ONE QUESTION FOR YOU–HOW DID YOU FINISH THE SIDE EDGES OF THE BOARDS THAT RUN VERTICALLY INBETWEEN THE UNITS? JUST SANDED AND PAINTED, OR DID YOU HAVE TO FILL THE EDGES AS WELL?

  31. Hi Amy,

    LOVELY PROJECT. i DO HAVE A QUICK QUESTION. DID THE BOOKSHELVES FIT IN THE FRAME OR REST ON TOP OF IT?

    tHANKS. `

  32. Allison B Rhodes says

    In case you’re still looking at adding lights, you can install “puck Lights” with a remote control inside of a traditional light rather than wiring it and using a bulb.

  33. Your Dad is AMAZING ? Bless him forever more xxx

  34. Well done post and bookcases! Hoping to do this in our home this winter! One question and one idea.
    First, how long did this project take for dad, once all supplies we’re assembled? Hoping to do as a surprise for my husband, will have a couple friends to help. Minus final painting and detailing, wondering if the basic structure could go up in a day??
    Comment, I am also hoping to add lights at the top, because we have scallped ceiling that I don’t want to build into (sorry, dad, I promise to keep it safe) I found this post that seems to have a reasonably safe idea.
    https://www.viewalongtheway.com/2012/01/let-there-be-fancy-low-watt-high-tech-light/
    At any rate, I think we’ll give it a go at least at the top. Thanks again for the inspiration!

  35. Katarzyna Misiaszek says

    Kudos to your Dad! thank you for sharing!

  36. OMG I love it! I have a quick question: DID YOU PLACE THE BOOKSHELVES ON TOP OF THE BASE SO THAT THE BASE WAS ESSENTIALLY ON THE INSIDE, OR ON TOP OF IT SO THAT IT SAT ON TOP OF THE EDGES OF THE BASE? tHANKS!

  37. Shani Binstock says

    Love love this!! Was stressing over how to fit the billys i need to look finished , now ive got it!! Thank you!

  38. Did you attach some sort of board along the left and right wall so that the vertical board along the left and right sides had something to nail into?

    • Hi Kate, if I remember they were just secured to the bookcase and flush with the wall? You could do that though for more support. Best, Amy

  39. Your dad is very talented! How long did the entire project take?
    Also how did you cover the spackling you did of the holes inside the bookcases?
    Did you end up painting the interiors of all the bookshelves?

    • He did the project as his schedule permitted so it probably took a couple of days all in all. We had the shelves all put together beforehand. The spackling blended into the shelves (it was also white) so that wasn’t an issue. I did not paint the inside of the shelves, I just used the backs that came with the bookcases. Hope that helps! Amy

  40. These look so great! Well done! Quick question- did you just paint the front facing of the shelves or the shelves themselves as well? If you just prayed the front, does the pranked section look different than the ikea shelving since it comes prefab?

    • We painted the front trim but didn’t really need to paint the shelves, however you could if you really wanted a perfectly cohesive look. I just didn’t feel like they really needed it. Good luck! Amy

  41. Love your bookcases. My husband is going to make them for our new home but he would like to know the dimensions of the box on the floor that the bookshelf went into. Also do the bookshelves touch the wall or are they away from it the depth of the wood used in the box. Thanks so much. Ava

    • I am sorry, I don’t have any specific dimensions as we’ve since moved from this home. The box was just large enough to hold the bookcases and we used the IKEA ones. I can tell you that some of this just happened as we went along! It all worked out fine and they were very secure 🙂

      Amy

  42. Well done, and thanks for posting. Interesting, only caps allowed. (not meaning to shout)

    On the trim, curious if you tacked the trim directly into the shelfs or did you add any spacer wood between to serve as anchor points?

    • I believe it was tacked directly into the shelves as well as secured to the end pieces. Sorry not to be more helpful but it’s been a few years and we’ve moved from this home. Good luck! Amy

  43. Mallory Pultz says

    WHERe IS THAT CHEETAH RUG FROM?! I must know….soooo gorgeous!!!!

  44. Love these! How tall are they? My ceilings are pretty high. Do you know if you can add multiple extenders? Thanks!

    • Sorry for the delay–I would think you can add more extenders, you just might have to drill some extra holes? Our ceilings were 9′ in this house if that helps. I had one extender on top of the regular Billy’s. I am so glad we did it that way. Good luck with your project! XO, Amy

  45. Soooo good! Darling photo at end with dad. What kind of caulking did he use? Thanks!

    • Thank you! I don’t remember specifically but it wasn’t anything special–just off the shelf white caulk! Sorry not to be more helpful. Amy

  46. Thank you so much for posting this! My husband and I just used your instructions to do built-in shelves in a library for my daughter. it made the process so much easier. I thought this project would end up taking a while but thanks to your help, it only took a couple days. Thank you so much!! (sorry if this posts in all caps, I’m not trying to shout and my caps lock is not on, it just won’t type anything but all caps.)

    • I am so glad it worked out for you! It really is an easy project, so much easier than starting from scratch and building! The caps lock is a strange blog formatting thing, no worries! Enjoy your new shelves.
      XO,
      Amy

  47. Could you let us know how you secured the trim on the front between each of the bookcases? Love this!

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