Bookshelves Complete

November 7, 2011

Hey all!  Guess how I spent my weekend?  Filling up those bookcases we built a week ago, yippee!  I love books, and I love decorative objects.  This new wall of bookcases allows me to combine the best of both. I’ve heard such great things about the convenience of Kindle and iPad reading, but for me, there’s nothing like a book to touch and smell, and for savoring the words on a printed page.

How best to begin this project?  I had to start at the back. Grasscloth wallpaper would have been major cool, but expensive and time consuming.  Been there, done that.  Wrapping paper or scrapbook paper might have been fun I couldn’t find the right one. Stencils seemed too busy.  One thing I knew, I was going to pack it with a book + collectible combo and I worried with all the stuff, the background would compete.

I finally decided to paint the back of these bookcases a rich teal color, because 1. it’s a color I never get tired of, 2. it showcases all the white accessories, 3. it coordinates with the colors in the window panels in the room and 4. it was just so dang easy. 


I started this adventure Saturday morning, coffee cup in my left hand, paintbrush in the right. Painting the backs was the easy part.  (Tip: use a good angled brush!) The hard part was later in the day when it was dry.  After I put all the shelves back in, I was staring at piles and piles of my favorite books, and deciding where they should all go.  Very daunting.  Worse, I was distracted with the piles of books because I can’t help but crack the spines or peek at the pages I’ve tabbed in the past or flip through to see what I’ve underlined.  Do you do that?  Underline and tab and bookmark your favorite pages?  I wasn’t allowed to when I was little, but I do it all the time now, I can’t stop.

I finally decided just to organize them by category, like at a bookstore or library (wow, original concept!)  It just makes sense to group them that way.  Fiction, nonfiction, reference, design, faith, travel, etc.  I was only able to fit about 75% of my books because it was starting to feel too crowded, but so be it. I’ll either donate the rest or put them back in a closet where most of them lived before.

wall of bookcases cg


This was our blank wall before the built ins. 

kates bookcases before


For the full story of our IKEA Billys to built ins, read this.

kates bookcases during


Here they are all painted and filled with books + favorite things.

centsational girl bookcases after


I played around all weekend following some of the tips from this article, including stacking the books different ways, and hanging artwork on the outside.  I finally settled on what was visually pleasing to me. 

I bought a set of four butterfly prints at an antique faire years ago and they used to hang in the bathroom, but they fit so nicely on display on the bookshelves.  I added texture with my favorite shell ball, some faux coral candlesticks, and a simple oak tree branch. Pops of color come from other collected items like bowls, candles, and glass balls.

bookcase detail cg


Nothing like a few Goodwill finds to help out!  A few pinkish mauve dollar finds were primed and painted to create new bookends.

goodwill vases turned bookends


Some of my mister’s favorite things are on display too, like his mandolin (which he never plays but was a gift from a friend and it’s sculptural and beautiful) and his record player.  Baskets hold little extras like smaller books or travel guides.

white built in bookcases from left cg


Most of the white ceramics I’ve collected over time from flea markets, thrift stores, or in the clearance section of retails stores (like that lattice lantern, a discount Z Gallerie find).

styled bookcase detail cg


Finally, I changed the old boob light on the ceiling that was bugging me. I found this oval drum shade pendant at Lowe’s for 50% off, spray painted the metal parts antique gold, and hung it above the table. I’m still debating whether to paint those chairs and I’m on the hunt for a new rug, maybe sisal.

kates bookshelves and table


If you’re interested in the paint color, it’s a custom mix from my stash of paints.  It’s half ‘Pewter’ and half ‘Venezuelan Sea’, both by Benjamin Moore.  I’ll try to color match it with some of my paint fan decks later today.

** Update: The pendant is the Barcelona by Good Earth Lighting.  Three close color matches to the dark teal paint are: Dutch Boy ‘Turquoise Sea’ (slightly more saturated); Ben Moore Naples Blue (slightly darker); and Ben Moore Affinity Line ‘Fiji’ (closest match).



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185 Responses to “Bookshelves Complete”

  1. Elizabeth H says:

    Just gorgeous. You really know how to “dress” bookshelves.

  2. Shaunna says:

    Oh, Kate, Kate, Kate….this is by far my favorite project of yours to date. I LOVE built ins…and we’ve been working on the exact same project for my mom’s room (who you’ll meet this week!). Cannot wait to get to filling it!! LOVE the teal…LOVE.

  3. Tonya says:

    I ♥ everything about this room. I have design envy. I like the contrast of the white against color on the wall, all the texture and interest from the books and collectibles on the shelves. But I am practically drooling over those curtains. Can you tell me more about that fabric or where to find them?

  4. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Tonya, those are the gardenia paisley panels from PIer One. I doubled them up on the window (two panels on each side for fullness). I found them on sale a few months back for $21 but right now they’re retail price ($30). Also, I pulled out the hem along the bottom to allow for an extra 4 inch drop and suspended them from clip rings which allowed them to go from a standard 84″ to a taller 92″ – here’s the link!


  5. Karen says:

    Ohhhh my….so beautiful. I agree, design envy. As hard as I try I just can’t seem to pull my things together to make it all so cohesive. You really know your style. My problem is, I like too many different types of style. :o( Oh well, I’ll just keep stalking your site and looking at all of it’s beauty. Maybe one day something will rub off.

  6. Deni says:

    Hi Kate! Your built-ins turned out just beautiful, and I loved how you styled them. Your “how to” instructions really make the project seem like it’s do-able, and I’m inspired and encouraged to pull this off myself. I have to ask you what paint color you used to paint all the trim? If I remember correctly the Billy white that I’ve seen is somewhat of a warm white. Thanks so much, and love your blog! Deni

  7. Lindy says:

    I love Venezuelan Sea. We painted ours boys’ beds that color. Mixed with the Pewter is an amazing color. I say paint the chairs!

  8. Kristy Swain says:

    It looks amazing! I love the color and styling.

  9. Dana says:

    Wow. So gorgeous! I absolutely love the paint color you mixed up for the back of the built-in. Do you mind sharing what primer and paint you used for the Goodwill finds that you saved? I’d love to do this with a few pieces I’ve collected, but just haven’t got around to it yet.

  10. Serena says:

    This is truly stunning!!! If you don’t mind, would you be willing to share the paint color that is on the wall? It looks to be a shade of grey…? LOVELY!!!!!

  11. Andrea G says:

    This is seriously gorgeous. I’ve got some bookshelves that are in desperate need of centsational-izing, if you ever make a trip to Texas. :)

  12. Perfect, Kate–just perfect. No one would ever guess the humble beginnings of this wall of gorgeousness!

  13. Tonya says:

    Kate–Thanks for the info on the drapes! Pier 1 here I come! Dadadaduhdunh CHARGE IT!

  14. Laura says:

    FANTASTIC! Love the bookcase, paint selection and styling. I’d paint the chairs….but what color????

  15. Tilara says:

    Kate…this is stunning! I knew this project had a great deal of potential, but OMG this is just amazing! I love ~ love ~love it!!!
    I have been working on a small set of bookcases in my den, and have just finished them, but now I think that I need to paint the background, as you did! You are such a wonderful inspiration to me !! I am so Happy that I found your website!

  16. vEl says:

    So love it!!!!! As always, beautiful arrangement! now I’m feeling braver covering the back of my humongous media set with bookshelves!!!!

  17. Wow! This looks incredible! I love the colour on the back of the bookcase, it just makes everything pop! xo K

  18. Judy says:

    Actually….’stunning’ seems to be the best way to describe your display! I see others used the same word and it’s the first one that came to my mind too. Excellent job! Thanks for sharing it!

  19. Wow! That made a huge difference in the room. I love the color and I love the way you have things displayed. Perfect.

  20. What a fun weekend you had! I love it, you did a great job on the styling. I like the chairs white. I think If you added a cushion to both the chairs and bench under the window it wll bring in some more softness and still add a punch of color that you might be wanting. Great job Kate!

  21. Debbie says:

    A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I love, LOVE teal and it is the perfect complement to your decor. Truly beautiful.

  22. angie lee says:

    hi kate, you are so talented and inspiring. i enjoy your blog so much!
    would you share where you got the bench shown on the bottom right of the last photo? thanks so much!

  23. claire rose says:

    Fabulous job and by the by-who did I see when I opened my two newest Christmas mags-…why, it was you!!! Very exciting, I must say!

  24. Rebecca says:

    You see the baskets with the wide weave you have on your bookshelves? I am looking for a rug like that. I think it would look amazing down on the floor with a flokati smaller accent rug or sheepskin layered/overlapped right where your feet meet the floor in the morning.

    These rugs, however, are either elusive, or only very high end and out of my budget! :( sadness.

  25. Ofelia says:

    WOW!!! WOW!! WOW!! I love the way the bookshelves turned out. I can only wish one day I will have a room like this at my house.

  26. Dee says:

    I love your bookshelves! I’m in the process of filling mine out too….Love HomeGoods for that! Surprising I’ve found some things on No More Rack too…love that site!!

  27. Pam says:

    Absolutely unbelievable. Just gorgeous.

  28. Becky says:

    *sigh* Someday I will have some big, beautiful bookcases to style. Until then, thank you for the great ideas!

  29. Susanne says:

    Love it! Do you mind sharing the wall color?

  30. Alexandra says:

    Wish we saw this post before we did our bookself a year ago!! Looks gorgeous!! You’re so inspiring and have such great taste!!

  31. Jared says:

    I think Emily Henderson would be in love with this!

  32. Betty819 says:

    Love how you have decorated your shelves. We have similar type of bookcases that we’ve had for probably 20 yrs. that were from an O’Sullivan kit, similar to Sauder. They are that pressed wood, laminate and I’ve been dying to paint them white and paint the back of the shelves a bright color or add wallpaper to the back of the shelves. I noticed you spraypainted some vases..I’m finding you creative gals are not afraid of taking risk with spray paint! Can’t wait till Spring to attempt to tackle some projects of my own. Not sure if those bookshelves will take paint since they are laminate, but I think if I prime it with a stain blocker like Zinnzer, the paint may take. DH will probably fight me on this but they don’t owe us anything considering how long we’ve had them. May go to Habitat for Humanity store and look for some more goodies.

  33. […] to add built-ins to the back wall of our living room.  Centsational Girl beat us to the punch! Her Billy Built-Ins are a thing of wonder. We’ll definitely be taking construction (and styling) tips from her […]

  34. Bonnie says:

    Hi Kate, Thanks so much for responding about painting the backs of the shelves! I’m almost done painting our crazy huge room with extremely high ceilings (still trying to figure out how to get to some of those top spots). Hope to put the bookshelves together this weekend. I’ll send you a picture of my before and after!

  35. absolutely divine!

  36. […] unfinished project. Guess Centsational Girl lit a fire under my lazy arse when she posted her super awesome Ikea-hack built-in. So I added trim to the top. Here’s what it looked like when I started (way too contemporary for […]

  37. Love the built-ins! We have a wall about that size in our family room, but I have to fit a large flat-screen in the middle. Ugh! Will have to look at Ikea’s stuff to see if I can mix and match some of their bookcases to make something that will accommodate everything. Thanks for a great tutorial… (I read both articles).

  38. Anita says:

    Hi Kate,
    I’m sure you said this somewhere in your replies but forgive me for asking again. (I have a newborn and I just don’t have time to read through all the comments.) I tried painting the back of the backcase and the paint beads up (using Behr paint and primer all in one). What primer do I have to use? An oil based one? I bought an all purpose primer and that beads up too so I had wipe it all off. Thank you.


  39. CentsationalGirl says:

    Wow Anita I’m surprised it would do that! I used a latex paint by Benjamin Moore in the Ben Formula, no priming, and I had no issues. Wondering if there’s something in the Behr formula that’s reacting with the cardboard …. When in doubt, apply a coat of primer first (Zinsser’s water based formula 1-2-3 in the blue can) should work fine.

  40. LauraElle says:

    I have a question about the switches behind the built ins (visible in the “before” photo)- did you cut out the backs of the bookcases to accommodate for them? Thank you!

  41. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Laura, yes I have cutouts to access the switches!

  42. shannon says:

    My husband is building this this weekend for me. Could you tell the paint color that matches the billy bookcase? I appreciate it and thank you for sharing such a great idea! Blessings…

  43. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Shannon, I wrote about paint colors in the post, but here again are three close matches: the paint on the trim on the bookcases is Valspar’s ‘Dove White’. Valspar’s ‘Cream Delight’ and ‘Ivory Dust’ are also very close matches to the IKEA white.

  44. Amber Lipari says:

    This is gorgeous and inspiring. I lined an entire small room with billy bookcases, including the extender shelves on top to make them taller (I have over 1000 books). Painted mt small room deep warm red, put together 13 bookcases by myself and installed the cool IKEA lights bookcase lights on the tops of the shelves (I’m a handy female). I have the library ladder they sell, too, which is cool. However, I used the warm brown shelves, so I cant get the real built in look you did : ( I think some baskets would look nice on top of your shelves – not they aren’t fabulous as they are!

  45. Amanda says:

    Im working on replicating this…my space almost same…minus one shelf…bookcases assembled and trim tomorrow. Thank you for this awesome post!!!

  46. Julia says:

    This is beautiful. For my money, I’d paint only the curved pieces in the back of the chairs to match the back of the shelves.

  47. Destiny says:

    I found this on pintrest, I just ordered the shelves, can’t wait till they get here to start! I have a dark corner in my living room and this is just what I was looking for to brighten it up. Loved everything can’t wait to copy it!! Thaniks for sharing!

  48. […] then there is this wall of Billy Bookshelves, trimmed by Centsational Girl to look like built-ins. The layering of art, accessories and books is […]

  49. Íris says:

    I love love love your bookcase ! Just what I need. I’ll be going to IKEA next weekend here in Iceland !

  50. Kelly says:

    Kate, I was so inspired to do a similar project, and featured yours on my blog!

  51. Tracey says:

    We did the bookcase bult ins in our basement and I am SOOO excited!! Thanks so much. It looks wonderful and it cost one only about 20% of what professional custom built ins would have cost us. Thanks you so so much!! Tracey

  52. Sarah says:

    This is amazing, as is the post prior explaining how you’ve done this with ikea billy cases! Honestly, I never would have though to paint the inside of those shelves a contrasting colour. I love it. Anyway, was hoping for a little hint as to how you got the lines so neat for the colour a the back, since it seems you did not paint it before assembly. Thanks.

  53. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Sarah, to get a straight line, first make sure you’ve removed all the shelves, then use a good angled 2″ paintbrush and a steady hand, works great!

  54. Amy says:

    Looks great! I’m painting the back of our built-ins BM Fiji and would love to know the wall color you have in the room. I’ve been struggling with trying to find a good gray/green/something color for the walls.

  55. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Amy that’s Benjamon Moore ‘Camouflage’, it’s everywhere in my house!

  56. Kim McClintock says:

    Can you tell me what paint/colour of gold you use to paint the two bookend vases?

  57. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Kim, I’m pretty sure I used Krylon’s ‘Gold Leaf’ it’s a beautiful gold spray paint!

  58. Julee says:

    Finally talked my husband into doing this in our study! Always wanted built ins, but not the price to have them built. It looks amazing! Thanks so much for the awesome inspiration!

  59. Katie says:

    Question for you- what kind of paint did you use to paint the back of the bookcase? When I painted mine it just peeled right off. Did you have to prime it first??

  60. Susie says:

    Love the look–you just used the bookcase backing that came with the bookcase? Would it have been better to paint it first before installation?

  61. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Susie, that’s what we did! We painted the back with Glidden Duo Primer + Paint combo in green lane, let it dry then added it to the back to complete the assembly of hte bookcases. :)

  62. Pamela says:

    Okay, I’m officially stalking your blog! You are the business! I’m hooked!

  63. Misty says:

    I am totally planning to steal…I mean COPY… this idea in my soon-to-be new house! I love to read and have always wanted built-in bookshelves cover an entire wall in my house for my own mini-library! Beautiful work!

  64. Candi says:

    I’m interested in the two chairs at the table. Where did you get them, do you know the manufacturer/designer?

    Thank you.

  65. CentsationalGirl says:

    Found them at a thrift store Candi!

  66. Leigh says:

    My mind is blown! Those shelves look amazing! I can’t wait to have a house so that I can do neat things like this. Love your blog!

  67. Jennifer says:

    Awesome job! What paint/color did you use on the trim pieces to match the color of the book shelves? Did you paint the entire unit or only the trim pieces that you added?

  68. Pippa Buxton says:

    Thanks so, so much for your inspiration. We pulled ours off and are SO happy with the results. Thought you might like to see :)

  69. Laura says:

    Can you tell me the manufacturer of your dining room table or where I could find one that is similar?

  70. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Laura, our pedestal table is a 10 year old Pottery Barn pedestal… the Sumner is a similar version!

  71. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jennifer, we just painted the trim and crown!

  72. Shannon says:

    I love this!! I sooooo want to try it, but I am soooo not the handyman girl! :(((

  73. Katie says:

    I noticed you’re not putting anything on top of the Billys. Is there a reason other than aesthetics? Did you contemplate the Billy extensions? Thanks!

  74. Reagan B says:

    Thanks!! We just completed a nearly identical project but used the Billy height extensions:

  75. Jessica says:

    Where do i find the chairs. I am obsessed with them. Do you have a hack for those too?

  76. CentsationalGirl says:

    No hack sorry Jessica, they were a thrift store find, can you believe it? Wish I had a set of four, sadly I only have two!

  77. Jen says:

    Awesome job!! We are in process of figuring out shelves (7 years in process!). The tv is the biggest obstacle for not doing something like this. What did you do with yours–I noticed it was in the BEFORE pics.

  78. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jen, we moved the TV out of the space but we left the cable connection if we ever want to add a smaller flat screen again.

  79. Gessi says:

    gosh…u’re such a gifted painter, kate.. u’re the perfect example of talent+decorating skills..

  80. Jordan says:

    I am new(ish) stalker… scratch that… susciber and I’m going through all of your older posts and I just have to say I LOVE this one! I am considering doing this around our TV in our family room but I’m just curious if you’re still happy with these after having them for some time now? Do you have any bowing with the sheves? I’ve never even owned a piece of Ikea furniture (our Ikea has only been here a year in Denver) and I don’t know about the quality or longevity of it. Any input would be SO appreciated! Love your blog– thanks for sharing your talent!

  81. CentsationalGirl says:

    No bowing Jordan, ours has a combination of heavy books and decorative objects and they still look great!!

  82. Tritia says:

    Hey there! We did a similiar project the sumer of 2011 and have redirected our attention to the bookshelves. We’re painting the room, so the color behind will have to be changed. My husband thinks we need to fill all the holes that are there to move the shelves. He says it’ll give it a more “built it ” look. What’s your thought on that, as I see you have left them.
    We didn’t use IKEA, because don’t have one here. But, just some wal-mart bookcases, that aren’t too different.

  83. Leslie says:

    I love the whole concept of this project, but the part that made me comment is that we call ’em “boob lights” too!! How can you not? ;)

  84. Kelly says:

    This is amazing! You did a spectacular job on all of it, shelves, painting, decorating. I too have wanted a wall of bookcases forever. We bought our home 6 years ago and I have been contemplating on many, many things and putting a wall to wall bookcase in my living room around my bay window has been an idea. I too have looked in the Ikea book, but with the visual you have given I really think I can make this work. Thank you so very much for your posting and keep up the fabulous work!

  85. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! So creative, and tasteful! Thanks for sharing this!!! =D

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