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Before and After: A “Buy Nothing” IKEA Bookcase Gets a High-End Look for $70

published Mar 3, 2023
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Black IKEA Billy shelves in a room, before makeover
Credit: Madeline Scalzi

Sometimes you have something very specific in mind for a corner of your home. Maybe you just feel it in your gut that a Scandinavian-inspired chair would be ideal in a bedroom nook, or your entryway couldn’t possibly be complete without the right piece of art on an empty wall. In Madeline Scalzi’s case (@tulipsforthetable), she couldn’t shake the sense that her living room desperately needed the right bookcase. 

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“I had been on the hunt for an IKEA BILLY bookcase to flip for a number of months, so when a neighbor who was moving posted this dark red — nearly perfect condition — one for free in my local Facebook ‘Buy Nothing’ group, I knew it was meant to be,” says Madeline. 

Credit: Madeline Scalzi

She planned to turn it into a replica of the black, white, and glass-faced bookcases she had seen online, which were far outside her budget. “At prices starting at nearly $1,000-plus, I knew there had to be another more affordable option,” says Madeline. So on a very cold, icy January night last year, she bribed her husband and a good friend to carry the IKEA bookcase six long New York City blocks to their apartment. 

Credit: Madeline Scalzi

“I started by removing the shelves, doors, and handles,” Madeline says. “Then I primed everything with two coats of white B-I-N Shellac-Based Interior Primer and Sealer.” She painted the interior and shelves Polar Bear by BEHR and the exterior and doors Limousine Leather by BEHR after, waiting for each coat to dry completely before applying a new one. 

Credit: Madeline Scalzi

“I did not anticipate how many coats of white primer and paint I would need to cover the deep red color of the initial cabinet,” says Madeline. But her efforts were well-rewarded. The bright interior really pops against the dark black exterior, which helps the whole piece hold its own beside an existing wood secretary desk.

Credit: Madeline Scalzi

“Lastly, I added these gorgeous brass handles from Amazon that are surprisingly high quality for the cost,” says Madeline. In all, this high-impact DIY project took a little less than two weekends to do, and cost $70. As soon as it was finished, she kicked her old bookcase to the curb and made that living room corner a showstopper.

Credit: Madeline Scalzi

“I love the way this piece turned out, and for $70 all-in, even better,” says Madeline. “I now have a beautiful place where I can show off my favorite coffee table books and trinkets from our travels.”