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Billy Bookcase Built-In with Corner Unit DIY: Our Library Reveal

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!

DIY Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit

DIY Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit

DIY Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit Hack

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit Hack

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit Hack

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.

DIY Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit

DIY Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit

DIY Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit

DIY Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit Hack

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit Hack

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit Hack

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit Hack

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!

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

step three: build height extension units.  It took two units per shelf and we anchored them to the shelves as per the IKEA instructions.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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.

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

step ten: decorate!  By far the best step!

Billy Bookcase Built In with Corner Unit DIY

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!

signature

BILLY Bookcase: Ikea

Narrow BILLY Bookcase: Ikea

BILLY Height Extension Unit: Ikea (regular and narrow)

GNEDBY Shelving Unit CD Tower: Ikea

Camera: Olympus O-MD E-M10 Mark II with 14-42mm IIR lens

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31 thoughts on “Billy Bookcase Built-In with Corner Unit DIY: Our Library Reveal

  1. I love this unit. I am going to do something similar in our basement redo. I can’t convince my hubby that IKEA bookshelves are actually strong enough with lots of books on them. What has been your experience? Have they sagged at all? By the way, I LOVE that you haven’t turned the books around or covered them all. The colors love great, especially with the decorative items on display also. I can’t wait to finally have a place for all our books and some family photos too!!

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    1. Sammie, you are so wonderful for saying that, I literally just saw someone on IG (with a bazillion followers for their home decor account) show their bookshelves which were completely uniform and symmetrical, and they ordered white vintage books on eBay to turn backwards so it was all monotone…I was seriously questioning my decorating skills (because it definitely does look good)…but I built the shelves to put my stuff on, I didn’t buy stuff to put on my shelves!! Sounds like you, too! I have NEVER had a problem with IKEA shelves, in fact I have had them filled completely with books without any sagging!

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  2. Thank you for posting such a thorough tutorial with all of the tips, like the paint color, the register treatment. Many do not include such. It look fabulous! Modern and functional! I hope to copy soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. First, I love that you have all of the Tom Swift books on the top shelf – we do, too!
    But second, what did you figure out to plug in that lamp on the desk? I’d love to have a desk facing the middle of the room like that, but I can’t figure out where to plug in a desk lamp without it being a tripping hazard. (I noticed you have the cord wrapped around the base of the lamp).

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    1. Elizabeth, you are amazing!! What an eye for detail! I thought that lamp was up high enough but my 2 year old managed to knock it to the ground and shatter it (gasp). My amazing Mom found a replacement for me which is tucked safely away in the basement for now. When I do plug it in (in 10 years), I will put the cord under the rug as much as I can, and then tape whatever isn’t covered by the rug to the floor–the outlet is not far. I am not above cutting a little hole in the rug to get the cord underneath it if necessary!! I’ve seen fancy houses where the electrical outlet is on the floor.

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  4. Can you provide the dimensions for the trim boards? I don’t have a saw so I’m going to have to give the dimensions straight to Home Depot for cutting.

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      1. I worry that if you get then cut first from Home Depot then out your room together, unless things go exactly as planned (and let’s be honest, they never do!) You might end up with something a tad too long or a tad too short. If I were you, I’d put all your bookcases together and get everything to the trim board step, then measure for yourself and go to the store.

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  5. Excellent tutorial! We’re planning a similar use of these shelves to turn our formal living room into a library/school room since we homeschool. I love your collection on Nancy Drew’s (&Hardy Boys) on the top shelves! I can spot them a mile away!

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    1. Ah, Olivia, that’s a great idea for your homeschool room, I love that! You’ll feel so organized and professional! Oh yes, those book collections are special–I got the Nancy Drews for my first born baby girl, the Hardy Boys for my first baby boy, and I figured my second baby girl can have my original Little House on The Prairie Books (also on the top shelf, just not so noticeable). I’m at a loss of what to get for this upcoming Baby #4, any ideas (we don’t know if it’s a boy or girl yet)?

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  6. Beautiful! I told my husband, books are decor! They are to be seen—in all their different sizes and colors—and enjoyed. In my opinion. Your staging of books and treasures reminds me of my grandmother’s…a magical place. I appreciate the tutorial and paint match information! Regarding painting of the trim: What did you use, brush or roller? Did you prime first? Do you seal it with any top coat? Also, is their a caulk you recommend? I don’t have much experience painting and want it to blend well with the IKEA finish. Thank you in advance!

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    1. I love this comment so much, Elisabeth, thank you! To answer your questions: we used a roller, the wood was pre-primed so we didn’t need to prime it additionally, we did NOT seal with a top coat, I don’t have a caulk to recommend–any should do! As is, it blends perfectly well with the IKEA finish, I have no regrets! Good luck!!

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  7. The front trim, can you share a closeup? I would love to see how the plywood and caulk sit in those corners as I have a similar project coming up in my office. I wasn’t sure if an angel was cut on the plywood to sit in there.

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    1. Hi William! I don’t have any more pictures, but yes, you absolutely cut it on an angle! The piece of trim in front of the corner shelf is cut with an angled saw, and then the corresponding piece of trim on the straight shelves is also cut at an angle so it fits together like a puzzle piece. Good luck with your project!!

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  8. I have a similar setup. I just removed 80% of the books and I am turning room into craft room. Having problems finding storage bins to fit only 10” deep bookcases. Can you tell me where you got your white boxes?

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  9. I am so in awe that this is a DIY project! Yall truly created a stunning library. I might have missed this, but do you mind sharing the dimensions of the room yall built this in? I would LOVE to do this in my office but our spare rooms are fairly small and I always struggle with judging whether projects will eat up too much square footage or if it’ll help the space appear larger. Thank you so much in advance and once again, so impressed with yall!

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    1. Hi Jswalk, I’m so glad you like it, thank you! I didn’t share the square footage of the room and I can’t go measure it for you as we have since moved to a new house, though I can tell you we had 9 foot ceilings. But, you can do a little math on your own to figure it out if you really want to: For one length of the wall it was two regular BILLYs + one narrow BILLY + one GNEDBY CD TOWER + 5 equal sized front trims + half a narrow Billy (at an angle). For the other length of the wall it was two regular BILLYs + one narrow BILLY + 4 equal sized front trims + half a narrow Billy (at an angle). But at the end of the day, it’s the dimensions of your room that will be the determining factor of which size shelves you chose and what size front trim you put between them. You’ll lose the floor space of the depth of a BILLY, but you’ll gain so much vertical shelf space!

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  10. Hi! Love what you’ve done! I have been trying to figure out if I can use the narrow Billy for shoe shelves in each of my closet corners… but I can’t get the math sorted out 🤣 how much horizontal space does that unit end up taking up along the side and back wall? Does that make sense- essentially how long are the 2 sides of the triangle created by the shelf I guess.

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    1. Hi Tricia, hmmm, no, I can’t tell you that measurement as I don’t live there anymore, but also I don’t know how I’d measure it since it’s all installed, anyway. But, here’s my suggestion! Grab some masking tape and “draw” the outline of BILLY bookcases in your space, the dimensions are on the IKEA website. You’ll need to figure out how many shelves you need (narrow vs regular) and what kind of spacing you’d like in between them. You could just do it on a piece of paper, too, but I think having it physically drawn out in your closet will help you to visualize it and determine if you have enough space!

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  11. Hi, love what you did here! I am looking at using the same corner setup for my closet, but having trouble with the math 🤣🙈 can you tell me the length of the 2 sides of the triangle made by the corner shelf? How much space is used up on each wall I guess is what I am trying to figure out. Thanks!

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      1. Thank you! Yes I think I didn’t realize my first question submitted! 🙈 I like the masking tape idea.. I’ve been trying on paper but it’s not working out easily so I think being in the space and “drawing” it would be best. Thank you!

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  12. LOVE this – so beautiful! Do you recall the measurement of the front trim? It looks like 4″ but I’m quite lousy at eyeballing size! Thank you!

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    1. Ok, so, I don’t live there anymore otherwise I would just go measure it for you! But, if you look at that last closeup picture with all the Dr. Seuss books, the front trim is pretty similar to the width of one of those books, which I measure to be 15.7cm or about 6 1/8″. So, your guess of 4″ might be a bit small, maybe closer to 6″…but at the end of the day, you’ll want to just figure out what works for your room and then go to the hardware store and see what they have!

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