Besta, Billy, & Brass Bookcases

January 16, 2013

Greetings all, thanks for the sweet words on the office upgrades from yesterday!  As promised, here’s more information on the library bookcase unit we put together with IKEA pieces – we added trim, hardware, and lights to customize it for my office.

I know the pink isn’t for everyone, but I was feeling the love this month but I may get a wild hair and paint the back something completely different soon – it happens, it’s just paint!  My point is the unit would look great with the back painted any color you love – or a stencil or wallpaper or fabric, the sky’s the limit!

ikea besta billy bookcase combo


We all know how expensive bookcases are from most retailers, and wall units like this add up quick to $1,000 or more but I didn’t want to pay that much for shelving.  We considered something more like the Billys to built ins project from 2011 but I wanted something that looked more like a freestanding three piece unit.

So I started hunting around on the IKEA website and I realized that some of the Besta pieces could be used and then I realized that three of their pieces added up to the same exact height as a 15” Billy bookcase, and an idea was born to combine them!

besta and billy


So here’s what we used, a Besta underframe + Besta cabinet + Besta shelf unit and we combined the trio with two 15” deep Billy bookcases on each side.

The Besta trio retails for $284, but the weekend we bought them they were having a “family discount” – not sure what that is but we paid $260 for our Besta pieces.  Anyway right now they cost $284 for the three pieces together.  You could save yourself the $50 on the frame by building one yourself but we decided to save time and since it fits the Besta base so perfectly, we bought the underframe.  The 15” deep Billys are $70 each so the cost for the Besta pieces plus two Billys was $424.

First thing you do is assemble all the pieces then place them next to each other.  A caveat when putting these pieces together: I learned after they were assembled that “Besta white” is not “Billy white”.  And here I thought all IKEA pieces were the same white!  Billy white has a slightly more cream undertone, Besta is a brighter white.  We knew we were going to add base to the bottom to disguise the difference but what about the slight color difference?

besta frame and billy base


The solution was to push out the Besta a few inches to give the wider Besta unit more dimension and detract from the subtle color difference.  It worked! Side by side, the color difference is noticeable but when they’re staggered, it’s not.

staggered besta


As it turns out, we actually prefer the look of the Besta pulled out, it gives the entire unit more dimension than if they were all flush to each other.

pulled out besta unit


One you have the units in place, screw them together so that the seams are tight!

Next came the lights.  I really really really  wanted library lights for this piece and unfortunately my favorites were outside my budget. expensive lights

So I kept looking around and settled on these picture lights as a substitute.

46 sub


To add crown molding and lights we needed to add an extra piece of ¾” x 2” trim on top (trim, crown and base all purchased from Lowes).  Before you attach the trim to the top, you have to drill the holes where the lights will go.  In anticipation of the lights, Matt drilled four “mouse holes” with a drill bit but don’t fasten the trim to the bookcases yet, fastening the lights comes first.

drill mouse hole


drill mouse hole with drill bit

Next, secure the picture lights to a small piece of trim screwed into the top of the cabinet – make sure all the wires are pulled down behind the cabinets into one spot together.

picture lights screwed in


Our four lights are all on a power strip which is plugged into the wall behind the unit.  I cut a hole in the back of the bookcase to make room for the power strip and to turn the lights on and off, all we do is flip the switch!  It’s hidden behind one of the decorative boxes so it’s an easy flip each night, and a power strip is ten million times cheaper than hardwiring sconces to a wall.

power strip


At night they cast a glow on all the objects inside which I love – and I’m a big fan of multiple sources of lighting in any space.

working lights


Attach the ¾” x 2” trim to the tops of the bookcases after  the picture lights are fastened – the picture light comes through the mouse hole like you see below.

birch trim to top


Next Matt cut some crown molding and 3 ¼” baseboard with the miter saw for the unit and attached them with our brad nailer.   One note on the base – it doesn’t attach to the metal Besta frame so you need to create a faux frame that’s nailed together to slide in front and disguise the Besta base.  

In hindsight, we should have built a wood base out of 2 x 4s like we did with this window seat project, and attached the baseboard to disguise it.  And we would have saved ourselves $50!  All gaps in the crown and and between the trim were filled with paintable caulking. 

paintable caulk to fill holes


I painted all the crown, trim, and base with Valspar’s ‘Cream Delight’.

painted trim


Finally, for safety, we screwed the unit into the wall studs with the “L” brackets that come with the Billys (we live in earthquake country) plus it’s just a good thing to do with tall furniture and children in the house.

bolt to studs


I love the Besta unit because it provides some hidden storage for office equipment.

hidden office equipment


To finish it off, I added some antique brass pulls to the doors to complement the picture lights.

brass pulls on besta

One final tip – once you have all your shelves in place, you’ll notice there are holes inside the units for where you make the shelf peg adjustments – usually that doesn’t bother me but this unit is seen from an angle when you look into my office so it’s more noticeable.

I filled mine with lightweight spackling to minimize the holes – they don’t completely disappear but they’re far less visible and since it’s lightweight spackling it can be drilled out in the future if I wanted to bump shelves up or down.

use spacking to minimize

That little trick of minimizing the shelf peg holes with spackling looks cleaner than if I’d left them alone.   You can see the difference below.

filled and unfilled

So that’s the story on how IKEA parts turned into this multifunctional unit that gives me storage and lighting at night!

besta and billy with lights

library bookshelves centsational girl


This freestanding unit is really versatile and would fit in anywhere in any space with a long wall, be it a bedroom, office, family room, etc., and with the addition of crown, base, and hardware, it still costs less than $500 (excluding the lights).  Nice!


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112 Responses to “Besta, Billy, & Brass Bookcases”

  1. Sarah says:

    Just want to say that my boyfriend and I just completed our bookshelves hack after reading this post. It looks perfect in our office! We have high ceilings though so we also bought the Billy extenders and a besta one to make ours taller. Thanks for the amazing post, we love our new bookshelf! Wish I had a way to post a picture to share with you. :)

  2. These are wonderful Kate; you were born to do what you do! :)

  3. GENIUS! (I can’t help myself)
    For many years I’ve been thinking about doing built in bookcases but could not fine my way around the high price tag for custom cabinetry.
    Then I found you. WOW!
    I’m totally doing this and I shared you on FB today as well.
    I agree that you are born to do what you are doing.

  4. I want these so bad. they are gorgeous. A custom look for a much less. Now I just need to find a handyman. Thanks for sharring.

  5. Karen Calvert says:

    So fabulous. As always the detail is amazing. What is the color of the raspberry pink paint? Thank you!please let me know when you reply

  6. kirby says:

    come to my house and work this amazing magic! PLEASE. This is amazing!

  7. stacy says:

    Truly fabulous! I’ve had your other Billy bookcase project bookmarked forever. I finally did it in my bedroom over the summer … I still need to add the trim! BUt this project!! This project solves a problem I’ve been looking for an inexpensive solution for — think I could create a custom media wall in my living room using Billy & Besta? The TV being in the middle part.

    You just gave me confidence i could make it fabulous AND in my price range! Thanks

  8. Janet Wright says:

    I know this is late, but I just found it through Pinterest. I had been wanting to do something like this but had no idea how to go about it. I will have just enough room along one wall to do this along with a skinny Billy book case at one end by a bi fold door opening into a closet. I can’t fit in 15 inch units all along the wall but wanted one part to be 15 inches so that I could hide some file boxes in them. I have tried and tried to figure out the best way to do this and was resolved to four Billy bookcases, two in the middle being the 15 inchers and the ones at the end being 12 inches, but because of the closet area and other issues, it would look off center even though it really was centered.

    And I dreaded trying to figure out how to put doors on the bottom only (I haven’t yet found half height doors on their own, although I am sure I just haven’t seen them yet.) This will work really well, especially by putting a full height door on the narrow book case which will blend with the odd closet door to make it appear almost to be a corner unit. I will have room enough for (most of) my craft stuff!! I love that you put in pictures so I can SEE that it will work. Now to go backwards in your blog to see what else you have done that I can copy!!

  9. Josh says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! To anyone thinking this is too difficult, THINK AGAIN! Just follow the instructions and you’ll be happy! I made this for my wife for our 1 year anniversary, and she (and I) couldn’t be happier with the results!

  10. CentsationalGirl says:

    Fantastic Josh!! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Randi Pfeiffer says:

    How did you attach the crown moulding to the top of the bookcases?

  12. Centsational Girl says:

    With trim attached to the top, crown gets nailed to the trim.

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