15 Brilliant IKEA BILLY Hacks That Prove This Is No Ordinary Bookshelf

published Mar 1, 2024
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White Ikea Billy bookcase with doors on bottom in dining room.

When it comes to bookshelves, few are more iconic than the IKEA BILLY bookcase. IKEA BILLYs have been seen in many, many apartments and homes since 1978 — in fact, IKEA sells one BILLY every five seconds

Because it’s basic (in a good way), the BILLY can satisfy not just avid readers, but also anyone who needs extra storage space in kitchens, entryways, bedrooms, and more. Plus, the BILLY is a great blank slate for creative types and DIYers looking for something a little more custom. IKEA hack, anyone?

Whether you’re looking for a standalone shelf or a built-in library look, you can take inspiration from these 15 brilliant IKEA BILLY hacks if you’re looking to step up your bookcase game.

Credit: Leela Cyd

1. These wavy bookshelves are renter-friendly.

Renter Juliana (@joujee_) gave the two BILLY bookcases in her office wavy MDF fronts to add a little personality, and then she added a curtain to one for some concealed storage. Her MDF pieces are nailed (and caulked) to the BILLY bookcases but not the walls, so the project can come down if she decides to move.

Credit: Julia Cole

2. Daisy and dowel details make this IKEA BILLY charming for a kitchen.

DIYer Julia Cole (@twentylot) uses her IKEA BILLY as stylish kitchen storage, and it was only $120. “I was able to source a like-new BILLY bookcase on Facebook Marketplace,” Cole says. “It came with all the parts, and it didn’t really matter what color it was, as I was planning on painting it a darker color [Sherwin-Williams’ Rock Bottom] anyway.” Cole used 7-foot trim strips to add a pattern to the cabinet’s doors and plywood to add arches to the top glass doors. She finished the project with daisy-shaped knobs.

Credit: Selma Chatto

3. Scalloped tops make a statement (and store plants).

Built-in cabinets and storage are commonly sought after, and using BILLY bookcases to fake the look can be much more budget-friendly. Selma Chatto (@chateauchatto) decided to put BILLY shelving units next to her fireplace and television, imitating a built-in entertainment center. After painting the shelves Rust-Oleum’s Lilac Wine to give them a bright and refreshing look, Chatto added a scallop trim and new brass hardware that she says transform the IKEA pieces from looking big-box to built-in.

Credit: Debra Akins

4. Five BILLYs make a dreamy green library.

It makes sense that BookToker and literary management specialist Debra Kelsey has an enormous book collection. She wanted a shelving unit for her extensive home library that also matched her personality. She removed the baseboards from one wall of her office, added five BILLY bookcases — one in the narrower 16-inch size to perfectly fit in the middle — and painted the entire set an emerald green color. She stores books on the top of her “built-in” unit, too. Talk about bookshelf wealth!

5. Doors and pole wrap add chic hidden storage.

After her IKEA BILLY served Katie Bookser well for four years in its out-of-the-box state, she wanted to add a little more personality to the bookcase for her new office space. Over just one weekend with $300, Bookser used paint (Behr’s Mesa Taupe), pole wrap, doors, and pulls to turn the original white shelving into a beauty — with hidden storage, to boot.

Credit: Dalia E. Aly

6. Two narrow BILLYs get a chic, sideways new life.

DIYer Dalia Aly’s (@dalia.ea) BILLY hack also uses the narrower 16-inch BILLY bookcase — two, in fact — and flips them on their sides. “We needed something that was longer in width than most on a budget,” Aly says. As it turns out, two 79 1/2-inch BILLY bookcases in brown (for the body of the cabinet) and one more creating shelves did the trick.

Credit: Ane Pleym

7. BILLYs add decor to a dining room.

Combining two wide BILLY bookcases and a narrow one, TikTok DIYer Ane Pleym set up shelving next to her dining table. She opted to keep the shelves in their classic white color, but changed the heights of her shelves and spackled over the nail holes for a more contemporary look. Once the shelves were ready to be filled, Ane kept a white and red color scheme throughout, using vases, roses, incense and candles.

8. BILLYs work in the kitchen, too.

Homeowners Sasha Faiz and Andrew Ghose say one of their favorite IKEA hacks in their home in Toronto is using a BILLY bookcase as a dish cupboard in their kitchen. “Its narrow profile made it space-efficient, but also practical and beautiful,” Faiz says. The duo chose glass doors, added mismatched knobs, and added black trim to the top to give it extra grandeur.

9. Two BILLYs become blue beauties.

The periwinkle IKEA BILLYs in DIYers Samantha and Heath Mitchells’ (@rainbowhomereno) home stretch extra tall, in part thanks to IKEA BILLY extender pieces they added, as well as the trim pieces that make it look seamless with the room’s crown molding. The Mitchells painted their BILLYs with Dulux’s Angora Blue.

10. Using BILLYs for home office shelves saved thousands.

DIYer Sage Phillips (@sagephillipshome) took her office space to the next level by adding arches to her IKEA BILLY shelves, and she says going the big-box route saved her about $10,000. (She was quoted $13,000 for custom shelving and spent about $3,000 doing her IKEA BILLY DIY.) For her BILLY hack, she also used the BILLY extenders, and she added plywood arches, trim, caulk, and paint to make everything look continuous and contemporary. Her white paint selection for the BILLY wall is Beyond Paint’s Bright White.

11. Pink BILLYs make a “‘70s Barbie Dreamhouse Den”

Designer Carissa Henderson (@aboldnewhue) went with pink paint and arches for her built-in IKEA BILLY hack in her “’70s Barbie Dreamhouse” den. “I put a lot of my own DIY skills and thought into that room, and it brings me so much joy to see it come to life every day,” Henderson says.

12. Sage green paint plus sconces make an entertainment center.

DIYer and TikToker Bailey Johnson and her partner created a sage green (Sherwin-Williams’ Shade Grown) entertainment center in their home using IKEA BILLYs. The duo calculated how many they needed to get and got to work installing outlets for the TV. After finishing all the tedious electricity work to set up the room, they secured the bookcases to the walls using 2x4s. They used polyboard to close in the entertainment center and connect the tops of the bookcases, then added crown molding to the top of the structure to elevate it. The last step was installing sconces. (Shout out to the new electrical work!)

Credit: Maia

13. Half-sized BILLYs flank a fireplace.

TikToker Maia (@hiyamaiaj) had a vision for bringing more personality to her builder-grade living room with a fireplace flanked by shelving, and two half-sized IKEA BILLYs came to the rescue on the left and right of the fireplace framing. According to Maia, they were huge cost savers. The finished project is a quaint, wistful corner that stores treasured books, and the fireplace makes the entire entertainment center come together to feel like one complete piece.

14. BILLY bookshelves work as doors, too.

DIYer Alexandra Elizabeth (@alexxs1007) doubled up the storage capabilities of her space by concealing a storage closet with cool sliding BILLY bookcases instead of a door. She also went for the custom arch detailing many other DIYers liked and painted two shelving units black. She installed lighting at the top as well. She installed a track rolling mechanism on the wall just above the door space and wheels at the bottom of the BILLYs which help them glide easily along the carpet.

Credit: Sue and Stu

15. BILLY shelving wraps around a corner.

Bookshelves don’t always have to be placed on a straight wall — in fact, the most captivating walls of shelves often accommodate the slope of the ceiling or wrap around a doorframe. TikTokers and DIYers Sue and Stu (@sue.and.stu) used a collection of five BILLY bookcases in a corner of their home to make a more difficult-to-decorate space functional Alternating narrow and wide BILLY shelves gives the unit a custom feel. Although they kept the shelves white to match the rest of the space, each cubby is filled with a color-coordinated rainbow of books, knickknacks, and artworks.