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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
So I kept looking around and settled on these picture lights as a substitute.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I painted all the crown, trim, and base with Valspar’s ‘Cream Delight’.
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.
I love the Besta unit because it provides some hidden storage for office equipment.
To finish it off, I added some antique brass pulls to the doors to complement the picture lights.
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.
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.
So that’s the story on how IKEA parts turned into this multifunctional unit that gives me storage and lighting at night!
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!