I’m so excited to reveal the first room of our new house, the library! This is by far our favourite room, my husband comes here every morning before work to drink his coffee, my kids love sitting on the floor and colouring or playing with stickers (or pulling all the magazines off the shelves), and I just love looking at all our pretty, beautiful things that all have such lovely memories. This isn’t the first BILLY Bookcase built-in hack you’re going to find, but it’s the first one with a corner unit! I wanted it to wrap around the whole room, Princess Belle style, so it took a little bit of cleverness to add the corner plus a CD tower to fill the whole wall. We decided against adding a ladder because, well, kids, but maybe that’s something we’ll add in the future!
We do truly love books. And while a lot of the rooms I was inspired by on Pinterest don’t actually have books on their shelves (uh, what?!), this was definitely intended to be a place for books primarily and pretty things secondarily. And I was NOT interested in taking décor advice that all the books should be colour coordinated (huh!?!?) or put on the shelf backwards (are you kidding me!?) or wrapped in brown paper to all be the same colour (eye roll). This is a legit collection of books organized by subject matter and arranged as beautifully as possible!
I have picked up a few tricks on how to arrange and style shelves and I plan on doing a whole post about that one day, so stay tuned! Simple little things like working on diagonals and coordinating metals and textures and colours. Overall, it is a bit crowded with things—definitely not minimalist—but it’s just so special to get up close and look at the dimensions of each shelf and find little hidden treasures! Of course I kept the bottom shelves kid friendly, with their books and games and boxes full of stickers and markers.
And, we built it ourselves! Can you believe that? My husband did such a good job! This was definitely a “me” project that ultimately became a “you” project, but he was willing and able and he really delivered. I did the planning and a lot of the IKEA shelf building, but the cutting, painting, and building (so, the hard parts) were in his capable hands. I did pull off the green painter’s tape, I like to think that was a big contribution!
Here’s exactly how we did it. I promise it isn’t that hard, just a little time consuming to get through all the steps, but definitely worth it. I was still in my first trimester (aka exhausted) and he was working shifts, so we could only work on it when time and babies allowed, but we got it done in matter of weeks. If you could do it without stopping, I’m sure it could be done over a weekend…maybe a long weekend hahah!
step one: remove baseboards, outlets, grills, etc. Well technically there’s a “step zero” which would be to measure your room to determine how many shelves you’ll need, how spaced apart they will be, and how many height extensions you’ll need to get as close to the ceiling as possible. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to remove the baseboards (unless your shelves will cover them) and anything on the wall that will prevent you from anchoring the shelves flush.
step two: build shelves, determine spacing, cut holes for outlets, grilles, etc. We ended up with four regular BILLY Bookcases, three narrow BILLY Bookcases (one becomes the corner unit) and one GNEDBY CD Tower (technically two, see step four), with two height extensions units each to fill to our 9’ ceilings. We placed them against the wall and measured the gaps between them to space them perfectly, then determined exactly where we needed to cut the back panel in order to later reinstall the grille. We decided to just sacrifice some electrical outlets that were covered because we weren’t going to need to plug in much in the finished room.
step three: build height extension units. It took two units per shelf and we anchored them to the shelves as per the IKEA instructions.
step four: DIY height extension for shelves that don’t come with IKEA height extension units. Because the CD tower did not come with an IKEA height extension unit, we had to build our own, and I think we were pretty clever here. We just bought a second CD tower and cut it to the height we needed to add, then anchored it onto the base shelf using two of the unused CD shelves. It worked perfectly.
step five: DIY angled depth extension for corner unit, anchor to wall. I was actually surprised by this particular step! So, on the IKEA website, they have a BILLY Bookcase set that comes with a corner unit and three bookshelves…but NO! It is not technically a corner unit at all, it is just a narrow BILLY Bookcase set at an angle! I was so surprised by this! Years ago, I had a BILLY corner shelf in my dorm room and it was a legit corner shelf, pentagonal in shape, and that’s what I was expecting this to be. But no, it’s just a narrow shelf that comes with brackets to attach it to the other shelves at an angle (which we didn’t bother using). I was kinda annoyed, not gonna lie. Because rather than being able to press it right up against the wall and anchor it, it had to come forward to line up with the other shelves and didn’t reach the wall at all. So, we used 2 x 4” wood cut at an angle to make up the space which we anchored both to the wall and to the shelf. It was a bit tricky because you have to make sure your angles are just right so that it lines up perfectly with the BILLY Bookshelves on both sides, so definitely do this step first before anchoring anything else to the walls.
step six: DIY depth extension for shelves more narrow than BILLY Bookcases, and then anchor all shelves to the wall. So, the GNEDBY CD Tower is not as deep as the BILLY Bookcases, which means that if it’s lined up flush with the other shelves it doesn’t reach the wall. But that’s not a big deal, we just used more 2 x 4” wood anchored both to the wall and to the shelf to make up the space. Once that was done, we just squeezed between each shelf and anchored them to the wall, making sure we kept the required spacing between them.
step seven: DIY anchor points on side walls for attachment of front trim boards. The side walls are not going to have an easy place to attach the front trim boards, so we just used a few more pieces of the 2 x 4” wood to create a mounting surface. We nailed them in at an angle, but I supposed if you have foresight you could do this step BEFORE anchoring and then you’d have room for a hammer to nail in straight. But that’s not a big deal, your call! We were more concerned with getting everything perfectly flush and lined up first.
step eight: Install front, top and bottom trim boards. Then caulk, prime and paint them. We used finishing nails to attach 0.25” plywood to the front of the bookshelves to fill in the gaps. Then we did the same thing to fill in the gaps at the ceiling and the floor. The plywood wasn’t long enough to do it in one big strip so we had to cut a few pieces, but these marks and nails are next covered with caulk so you don’t see any seams. Make sure you caulk over all spaces between the plywood and the bookshelves (the front and the sides). Then we primed and painted the plywood. My husband just took a piece of the IKEA shelf to the store to get a match on the white paint, but here’s exactly what the formula was: Behr, Base 7900, BEHR ALKYD ENAMEL/SATIN, Custom Colour Match, LRNT oz/84th, CL 0/12, EL 0/4 and the scan code was 706518355746. I have decided NOT to cover in the holes on the bookshelves even though I don’t love seeing them. My reason for this is that one day I won’t have to keep all my precious things high out of reach of baby fingers and I may want to rearrange the shelves, and I just don’t want to have to deal with pulling caulking out of those holes.
step nine: reinstall outlets, grilles, etc. Now that everything is set in place, reinstall the outlet covers and grilles you may have removed in step one. Easy.
step ten: decorate! By far the best step!
There you have it, a DIY BILLY Bookcase built-in with a corner unit, how amazing! Please please please let me know in the comments if you use this tutorial to do your own hack, I would love to see how it turned out for you! Any questions, comment below!
BILLY Bookcase: Ikea
Narrow BILLY Bookcase: Ikea
GNEDBY Shelving Unit CD Tower: Ikea