This DIY-lover transformed her IKEA BILLY bookcase into a bespoke built-in library

The entire project cost under $500 – and the result is unrecognizable

BILLY bookcase hack in a living room with white paint and stylish accessories
(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

It's no secret that we love the best IKEA hacks, but out of all the makeovers out there, this ultra-stylish BILLY transformation is one of our favorites. The hack in question is DIY-enthusiast Claire Douglas's (opens in new tab) twist on the IKEA staple – the BILLY (opens in new tab) bookcase. After all, IKEA do some of the best furniture around, including console tables and TV stands.

Claire transformed the iconic unit into a built-in library that stands as the focal point of her living space, and we're taking some serious traditional living room ideas from this elegant makeover. 

'I've always dreamt of having a wall of built-in bookcases but didn't have room in the budget for bespoke carpentry, so like many other home improvers before me, I turned to IKEA for help,' Claire shares. Here, she walks us through the design process. 

a gray chair, wooden floor, and a BILLY bookcase hack in a living room with white paint and stylish accessories

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack – the design process 

Claire (opens in new tab) began the makeover the way every great IKEA hack begins – by constructing the flatpack. After building, she stood the units in position before fixing them to her wall. Claire then created a wooden strip frame and added an MDF sheet to fill the gap between the top of the bookcases and the ceiling. She glued MDF strips over the join to create the illusion of a thicker appearance, and filled the gaps down the sides of the wall.

IKEA BILLY bookcase in a living room with wooden floor before makeover

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

After redesigning the top of the unit, Claire tackled the base by adding a skirting board that would conceal the individual bookcase bases. She then camouflaged the 'flatpack look by filling pre-drilled shelf holes and joining MDF panels with poly filler. After the filler dried, Claire sanded the MDF and filler and added two coats of MDF primer for a sleek finish. 

BILLY bookcase hack in a living room before makeover

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

With the structure complete – the last – and most exciting step – was the styling. 

'I've been picking up cheap ornaments from Facebook marketplace for a while, ready to fill the compartments without breaking the bank. I also painted some vases I already had, to give them a new lease of life,' Claire explains, in the discussion of the finished look. 

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack finished, after the transformation, in a living room with white paint and stylish accessories, and a gray armchair with white cushions and a white coffee table

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

'I cut foliage and greenery from the garden to help fill the gaps and to give a more natural and rustic feel. I've also picked up a few bits from some online shops recently too and paired with some antique books to create an interesting mix of old and new color and texture,' she adds. This stylish BILLY deserves all the antique books we can get our hands on – this book storage idea has changed everything we thought we knew about flatpack bookshelves. 

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack in a living room with white paint and stylish accessories, including books, vases and photo frames

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

The transformation cost $486 / £342, which is only a fraction of the cost of a floor-to-ceiling cabinet for a wall the width of Claire's living room. Book lovers and interior enthusiasts, it's time to celebrate – and get your DIY hats on!

Megan Slack
Megan Slack

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