From Billys To Built-Ins

November 1, 2011

Hey all, hope you had a fun Halloween yesterday!  My mister and I spent the weekend tackling a storage solution we’ve been meaning to get to for some time. Up in our little guest studio above the garage (affectionately nicknamed the ‘Garage Mahal’) we finally built ourselves a wall of bookcases to store books and other collectibles. 

Years ago, we set up a makeshift media center in the space with some small wood bookcases and a coffee table to hold our dinosaur TV.  We finally decided to donate that TV and change the wall to serve a different purpose. I’ve been thinking about IKEA’s Billy bookcases for years, but I was always disappointed with their 11” depth.  In October, IKEA release a 15” deep Billy bookcase which finally sold me on the wall to wall bookcase project I’ve been thinking about for years.  At last, it’s finally finished!

So long old media center . . .

cabinet wall before


. . . hellooooo built in bookcases!

billy built in bookcase wall after


I am in love!  I’ve wanted a wall of built in bookcases for years, people, years!  We finally made it happen for under $400 and in about 7 hours.

We started with four of these 15 inch deep Billy bookcases from IKEA:

15 inch deep billy bookcase



We knew we wanted to reuse the existing baseboard along the front of the bookcase wall, so I carefully cut the existing caulking with a Dremel MultiMax and pried it off. 

dremel multimax cut baseboard


Next, we measured and then mitered the baseboard where the old baseboard piece would fit when set in front of the new cabinets. 

miter baseboard with dremel


The only problem in using the existing baseboard was it was taller than the height of the bottom Billy shelf.  In order for the existing baseboard to sit at the same height, we had to elevate the bookcases by 3/4 inch.  How so?  We simply cut a plywood base with a Skil Saw for the Billys to rest on, perfect!

base of billy on plywood


Once the bookcases were elevated, the baseboard trim fit perfectly in front.

reuse baseboard in front


I had to crack up at the IKEA assembly instructions and the little men they use to guide you through the process.  Yes, thank you IKEA, two are better than one at assembling these Billys!  Once you get the hang of it you can assemble each in about 20 minutes.  I confess I was very surprised at the quality of the bookcases too, each cabinet weighs about 100 pounds and the shelves are all adjustable.       

two people


The spacing between the four cabinets and the walls turned out to be exactly 2 ¼ inches, which the same exact  width of the trim I chose to hid the gaps in between each cabinet and between the cabinet and the wall.  How lucky is that?

three billys 2 inches


At any other width, we would have had to choose different trim or run it through a table saw, but luckily I found the perfect 2 ¼” trim x ¼” trim at Lowes to disguise the gaps to perfection, plus the greater width gives the cabinets even more of a custom look.  We also added crown molding to the top for a finishing touch using the same technique I mentioned here.

The vertical pine trim was easily attached with a nail gun then primed with Zinsser (I always use oil based primer on raw wood.) I used paintable caulk to fill in any gaps between the baseboard, crown, and bookcase edges. Two coats of paint unified the vertical trim, baseboard, and crown.*

brad nailer and primer

The final issue was providing access to the existing outlets on the wall, so to use them anytime in the future, I just notched their location on the back of the cabinets with a box cutter (not shown). 

All four cabinets are reinforced with another long strip of plywood across the top that is the same size as the base piece of plywood.  That plywood top is nailed into the Billy’s frame and then anchored to the studs in the wall with ‘L’ brackets so the entire unit is sturdy and there’s no danger of them falling even if little munchkins should be so bold and try to climb on them. The crown along the top hides both the plywood stabilizer and the brackets from view.

built in billy bookcases


diy built in ikea billy bookcases


Now the real fun begins, how to make them function for us as storage but also look  stylish. I’m thinking I’ll definitely paint the back and play off the blues, greens, and yellow in the window panels. Looking at the room now there’s too much white, but this wood pedestal table will help ground the space and provide dark contrast. 

How do ya like this fun pair of accent chairs I found at a local second hand shop, aren’t they fab?  I love them gloss white but I’m tempted to spray them a bold hue for a fun punch of color like this yellow barstool or this aqua chair.

paint back and maybe chairs


I’ll be working on styling the bookcases later this week (following most of the tips from this article) and hopefully I’ll have something to show you soon.  A blank canvas, how fun!

built in billy bookcases after text


Cost: four 15” deep Billy bookcases at $69 each ($300 with tax), plus plywood, crown molding and trim: $65

Total = $365 

Not a bad price for sturdy wall to wall built-in bookcases completed in a weekend.

* update: many asked about paint colors. The wall color is ‘Camouflage’ by Benjamin Moore and 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. 

** update #2: if you’d like to see how they turned out when styled with books and collectibles, take a peek at this follow up post.


Thanks Apartment Therapy for the feature!!



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264 Responses to “From Billys To Built-Ins”

  1. Bobonne says:

    Before this post I sadly believed that built-in closets were the only off-diy-limits project!
    This is SO great because every self-respecting diy-er needs sturdy storage to cram all those scraps and tools. The circle is full, diy-ing for the love and storage space of diy-ing… Thanks!

  2. Jesyka says:

    Ooohhh, Kate, I’m working on doing the same thing in my living room! Except we are using two 15″ D and two 11″ D. So funny!

  3. Nallel says:

    this look’s fancy… AMAZING!

  4. Sara says:

    Looks fantastic! Did you attach the back of the Billys to the wall or are they sturdy enough on that plywood to stay firmly in place? Been wanting to do this for awhile – thanks for the tutorial.

  5. GawgusThings says:

    I’ve got these Billy nits on my landing at home – they’re fab!

  6. Kristin says:

    Wow! They are fabulous!!!

  7. Wow Jesyka, cannot wait to see your cabinets, great idea to vary the two depths!!


  8. Brandy says:

    I love the curtains in your “Garage Mahal!” It’s is exactly what I’ve been looking for to hang in my home. Can you please tell us where you bought them or which fabric you used to make them?

  9. sophie says:

    what a great idea, looks so professional

  10. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Brandy! I linked to the window panels in the article, they are a fun bright green + blue paisley floral available at Pier One: Mine are doubled up on the window (four panels). They were on sale a few months ago when I bought mine, but it looks like they’re back at their retail price of $30. Here’s the link:


  11. Wow, what an amazing job! Just love this and all your ideas!

  12. Sunday says:

    Awesome, Amazing, I’m so impressed – thank you for giving hope to all of us that can not call the “built-in” man to build for us!! Great job!

  13. Lisa says:

    AWESOME!!! That is all I have to say! (wink)

  14. hamptontoes says:

    One word…FABULOUS!

  15. Ashley says:

    LOVE this!!! Thank you for the idea!! Just curious, I am thinking of doing these with the shorter version of the Billy shelf (42″ H) – would you still add the molding to the top of this?? What do you think?

  16. Susie Harris says:

    Thank you Kate! Letting go stinks…She did make me laugh though. She mentioned that I have a lot to look forward too. A new room to redecorate..ha! She knows me well :) I’m gonna miss her.

  17. Amy says:

    This is absolutely brillant! I would love to incorporate this into my craftroom. You post wonderful instructions too.

  18. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Ashley, that just depends. At a shorter height, they act more like a buffet or console, but I do like the idea of a single finished top. You’d have to find a piece of wood nice enough (plywood often isn’t) and reduce the trim around the edges to just the height of the top piece rather than full crown molding, but it could definitely work!

  19. Scribbler says:

    This makes a fantastic looking unit. We did something similar in our last house with our Techline units. I really hated to leave them, but once they were built in, that was it! I guess it will be off to IKEA soon because I am desperate for some storage. Great idea to reuse the existing baseboard.

  20. Amy W. says:

    I’ve always and forever wanted built in bookcases too (for my home office)! Your bookcases look amazing and repurposing the baseboard is genius Kate! I am inspired! The Dremel MultiMax is officially on my Christmas wish list. :)

  21. Kimberly says:

    Wow wow wow! That looks amazing.

  22. Josh says:

    Wow! Looks awesome. I’m not sure how I found your site but I love it! I’m jealous of everything of course… But your ideas and imagination are just great! Thanks for the inspiration!

  23. DesignFluff says:

    This is so weird! I have the same exact wall color and trim and a whole empty wall that I have been waiting for months to fill in with the same exact Ikea Billy Bookcases! I’m estimating I will need 5 though and still, unfortunately, have a little space left over but not enough for another bookcase. I was hoping to make the built in look as well. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Suzy says:

    That is totally amazing, we are doing the same at the moment – well, slow going, but getting there! We are using Ikea Besta units as hubby has huge collection of vinyl records and we needed the depth which unfortunately the Billy bookcases don’t have. Ours also will reach the ceiling and have some sort of coving put up there to hide the small gap. Now I’ve seen this it might just spur us on, and now I’m tempted with the Dremel MultiMax too!!……thanks

  25. Suzy says:

    I’ve just noticed yours are 15″ deep, these must be new as they didn’t do them that deep when we started our project otherwise I would have chosen the Billy ones. Suzy

  26. Tarsh says:

    Amazing, I have just purchased 4 billy bookcases and just had them placed next to each other in the study. I will be getting my hubby to attempt this project. I can’t believe how great they look.

  27. Janet says:

    Great job! They look custom (and I guess they really are). BTW what color is that on the walls?

  28. Lindy says:

    The shelves look fantastic. What a great idea, using ready made shelves and building them in!

  29. Excellent idea Kate! And your build looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Tilara says:

    Good Morning Kate!! This is fantastic !!!! I am sitting here at my desk, with the wheels turning in my head, trying to figure out where I can do this in my house! You always give such great ideas, and you are such an inspiration! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Happy November !

  31. Yoli says:

    Beautiful job! congrats.

  32. Sharmin says:

    I love it!!! ‘Cant wait to see what you do next!!!

  33. Pat says:

    Love it. Want to do it.

  34. Debbie C says:

    Excellent idea Kate! Thanks for this…I hope to create built-ins in the future!

  35. Amazing Job. You project turned out great! I can’t wait to see the shelves all styled and pretty. When you see projects like this, it makes you love IKEA even more. p.s. I vote for a bright color for the chairs!

  36. Oh my gosh, I’ve been dying to do this but have been slightly intimidated! Yours came out so great that now I MUST try! Just need to choose a room… :)

  37. Becki says:

    Love Billy bookcases! You did a fantastic job and can’t wait to see how you decorate the shelves!

  38. Serena says:

    Yes, please, please, let us know, what paint color do you have there in the room? It’s beautiful! And I’m feeling so inspired by this project!!

  39. Katie says:

    Is it possible to still get your curtains? Or the fabric they were made out of? They would be perfect for my master bedroom!

  40. toni says:

    We are thinking of doing this as well, inspired by this project. However, we wondered if anyone has had any luck in painting Billy bookcases. We would like them to match our current walls. Our experience painting another IKEA product was not successful; the paint would not stick.

  41. Tracy Short says:

    I have wanted to do this for years but haven’t had the extra money. I can handle under $400. What would you do if it will be against a corner on one side but open on the other? Are they flush with the wall behind it and attached? I don’t want to see a gap when you are standing beside it. Maybe add another piece of molding?

  42. Sarah says:

    Where did you get your curtains? I love them a lot and would love to purchase them for my house.

  43. Judy King says:

    Wow! They are quite an improvement….now you have lots of room for decorations! Great job. I spied the curtains from Pier 1! I have them in my Master Bath! Getting ready for that remodel reveal soon! I’m a follower!

  44. super impressed. Love this idea!!

  45. kathleen says:

    Great blog. It was either Ikea Expedit for the depth, or Ana White’s built-from-scratch bookshelves. (which my family raised eyebrows at). So now there is a simpler choice. Thanks Katie for all your great ideas.

  46. Sue says:

    Love built in bookcases and what a great way to get a custom look! We have them in the house we just bought. However, we needed to change out the (very dirty) carpeting and found when we went to rip it out that the bookcases had been assembled on top of the carpeting. This has proven to be a bit of a headache for us, had to disassemble the bottom moulding and cut the carpet to get it out from under as far as we could reach, then have new tacking strips installed. Do it yourself is always an adventure!

  47. Ka says:

    Absolutely AMAZING!!!!! Thank you for the affordable inspiration! We have been pricing built-ins and have yet to find a solution that fits our budget. I can’t wait to share this post w my husband!

  48. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Toni, you can paint any laminate, veneer, or other glossy surface if you use the right primer. I talk about that here: If you use a bonding primer designed for laminate products you’ll be fine!

  49. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Tracy, I didn’t show, but the IKEA Billy has a notch in the bottom to go over most baseboard so that it can be flush with the wall, but you’re also right, any small gaps can be covered up with vertical cove molding

  50. toni says:

    Thanks so much for the advice about priming laminate and glossy surface. We are headed to IKEA!


  51. deveney jensen says:

    these look great, just what i have been wanting to do in my living room. but i’ve got to ask, how did you get each bookcase fro $69?? online the 15” deep is listed as $99 each, which really adds up when you are buying 4. i loved how low cost it was, but fear mine would not be that price at all….

  52. CentsationalGirl says:

    HI Deveney, are we looking at the same bookcase? My link to the IKEA bookcase (and what I paid) was 69.99, here it is!


  53. Samantha says:

    I would have never thought to do this! We moved about 5 months ago and our new bedroom is HUGE! Since we lived in an apartment before, we don’t really have anything to fill the space. We’ve been wanting to do something like this: but the thought of building it all from scratch is daunting! Thanks for the inspiration!

  54. How amazing! Looks like completly custom made! Awesome job!

  55. Jo says:

    They look amazing! So want to try this :) With regard to a shorter version, there’s a fantastic one made by Ashli at Maillardville Manor in her library. She has done both tall and and short versions in the past, both fab.

  56. Naiyaru says:

    Wow what an amazing idea! We cannot really do this in our rental appartement, but Ill save the idea for later! thnx!

  57. Barbara says:

    I love this! Are you going to put a TV back in there? If so how?

  58. CentsationalGirl says:

    Great question Barbara, the answer is no, because we’re getting a smaller flat screen and positioning it on another wall. BUT there is room inside for a flat screen TV that’s no more than 30″ wide, so it actually could work inside the bookcases too!


  59. rose says:

    What a great project! Here’s a tip I’ve collected but have yet to use for painting the insides of bookcases a contrasting color – cheat with painted foam core:

  60. Jenifer says:

    Love these! Trying to determine if we can do the same for some bookcases I got from an office store a while back. For the previous post about price difference it’s probably the finish – the bookcases are $30 less with the white finish than they are in the other finishes (birch, black brown, medium brown).

  61. gugs says:

    Just a question – do you plan on painting all the bookshelves and trim the same colour? Given that the Billy is laminate and not solid wood, I wonder how this doesn’t come off as laminate bookcases with some trim tacked on rather than built ins because of the texture and colour discrepancies between the wood and the laminate?

  62. Megan says:

    Love this! I am attempting to do this as we speak but I am lost! How did you get the molding on the top and bottom? There is a huge gap between the molding and the shelf because the bottom of the shelf is not totally flat.. Know what I mean? Please help me!

  63. Haylee Moore says:

    I would tell you to pick some fun wallpaper and use it as a background on your bookcases instead of painting it. I saw it done on pinterest in a closet – I think it would add just enough color – to make it interesting and eliminate to get rid of some of the white – changing the chair color would be fun, too. I vote for a muted mustard yellow.

  64. Shaina says:

    Just wondering, are the Billy’s 15″ deep or the 15 and 3/8″ the website shows? I really want to use these as I have been dying for IKEA to have something deeper than 11″ but the wall I want to put them on only has 15 1/4″ depth! I might have to break out the tape and start marking off furniture placement!

  65. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Megan! There is a small gap (1/8″ or so) but we filled it with two applications of paintable caulk. You could also use very narrow trim!

  66. Wow Kate, You really “hit it out of the park” again with this fabulous project. Are you still planning on putting your TV on this wall?? Are you going to make a cut out for the outlet?

    Warmly, Michelle

  67. I am totally gonna copy you on these bookcases! I have so many books and unique finds to decorate with and never enough storage. My wheels are turning now in my head as to the perfect spot.



  68. molly says:

    Oh my goodness. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We moved into a new built 6 months ago and there are no built-ins flanking the fireplace. It just looks weird. But in pricing companies to come out and do it I realized there is NO way we can swing it in the near future.

    I never thought about Ikea. This looks VERY easy. I just don’t know how to use them to flank the fireplace. It’s a bit more complicated that way, I imagine.

    I’m still willing to try it though. Guess I’ll be doing some measurements tonight :)

  69. Jennifer says:

    Wow! They look great. What an awesome idea I may just steal it!!! Thanks :)

  70. Kristy Swain says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! We paid a couple thousand for ours! So, this is way cheaper.

  71. Such a great idea!!! It looks SO good :)

  72. spencer says:

    genius. and. perfect.

  73. Angela says:

    I LOVE THIS! Wish my husband was a little handier to help me, and that IKEA made bookcases tall enough for our ceilings!


  74. Kristen says:

    These look fabulous!
    Question: did you install them over the carpet or did you remove it?

  75. CentsationalGirl says:

    Right over the carpet Kristen!

  76. Kristen S says:

    I live in a 100 year old house with mega high ceilings. Ikea makes these great height extensions for the 12″ deep billy, , and you can stack multiple ones. This is what I am using for my home, and am building them up to the ceiling.

  77. CentsationalGirl says:

    Thanks Kristen, yes I’ve heard of those extensions! Not sure if they have them yet for the 15″ deep ones so I’m going to check it out, thanks!

  78. Tasha says:

    I did it! Thank you for your blog and inspiration, I wouldn’t have done it without seeing and reading this. I did mine under the carpet so that we can go hardwood one day. Also, I couldn’t reuse the baseboard bc it wasn’t tall enough so I didn’t even remove – except where the front baseboard of the cabinet had to hit the wall on the right and left corners. I didn’t use the backs of them and painted the wall navy blue. Also, we wired in sconces and hooked them up to a wireless remote switch. We absolutely love it! Thank you!

  79. Tasha says:

    I did it! Thank you for your blog and inspiration, I wouldn’t have done it without seeing and reading this. I did mine under the carpet so that we can go hardwood one day. Also, I couldn’t reuse the baseboard bc it wasn’t tall enough so I didn’t even remove – except where the front baseboard of the cabinet had to hit the wall on the right and left corners. I didn’t use the backs of them and painted the wall navy blue. Also, we wired in sconces and hooked them up to a wireless remote switch. We absolutely love it! Thank you!

  80. Tasha says:

    By the way, I used the 12″ deep Billy’s and installation took one weekend. The majority of our time was spent figuring out our lumber. We needed something wider in between each bookcase so we hac to get 1×3 boards, used the same on the floor for baseboard. got creative with the top crown molding and cut it at an angle in order for it to match up better, since it isn’t an inch thick.

  81. Avigail Barel says:

    Hi there, could you tell me what the paint color match to the white Billy was?

  82. Oh my gosh, this has been a must have on our list for years, and never in my life did it occur to me to do it this way! Thanks a million for this tutorial!

  83. CentsationalGirl says:

    HI Avigail, I listed a few at the end of the post!

  84. Nicole says:

    Thank you…this just might work for our library !

  85. Karen says:

    Thanks so much for this great idea! We started this project in our son’s room this weekend. It’s looking great! :) I’ve got a question about the painting. Did you sand the book case and shelves down before painting? Thanks so much!

  86. cheep3r5 says:

    Use fabric starch to put fabric pieces in the back in various colors. Cut the fabric a little larger as it might shrink a little once it dries. Kinda like this post – And paint the chairs – or dip the legs in paint for contrasting color.

  87. CentsationalGirl says:

    No sanding Karen! I only painted the backs of the bookcases and the trim, not the actual bookcases themselves.

  88. Stephanie says:

    Would you please share where you got your lovely curtains? Thank you!

  89. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Stephanie, those are the Gardenia Paisley panels from Pier One!

  90. regina says:

    hi kate. on the dove white paint, what gloss do you use (flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, etc.).

  91. tonya says:

    Thanks so much for the tutorial – we just finished ours! Love your blog!

  92. Chandy says:

    Wow! I will so show this to my husband! Amazing!

  93. Stephanie says:

    You inspired me to try this in my family room. It is a work in progress. I am even putting lights on the shelves.

  94. I love it! Although I can’t help but wonder about painting the back of the bookcases–I get the appeal, but won’t you be (a) adding a lot of color when you put books and other items on the shelves, and (b) covering over a lot of the painted area with the aforementioned books and other items?

  95. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hello Tragic, you can judge for yourself, a lot of the paint color comes through even with all the books and decorative objects (mostly white and gold) – I think it turned out well, check it out here:

  96. Gigi says:

    The paint color used in this room is beautiful! What is it? :)

  97. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Gigi, that color is Benjamin Moore’s ‘Camouflauge’.

  98. […] concept, but I never felt like the directions were close enough to what I needed. Enter my friend Kate. She gave some more details about the project, and I knew I was […]

  99. Kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing this, neither my husband nor I are very handy around the house, but thanks to your tutorial we muddled through and now we have some lovely built-in Billy bookshelves of our own!

    Ours have doors, which provided its own special challenges, but we prevailed!

    I’m curious if you had any issues getting things to line up with the walls, our walls / floors aren’t even remotely square and it gave us a lot of headaches.

  100. Wow. Had never seen these. Popped over after Chris posted about her “built ins”. Just fantastic. Talk about a huge savings compared to hiring someone for built in bookcases. So impressive.

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