Before and After: A Bare Living Room is Transformed with a Totally Unique IKEA BILLY Bookcase Hack

published Sep 25, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Post Image
Credit: Selma Chatto

Sometimes, older apartments and houses have good bones (moulding, fireplaces, light fixtures, banisters, you name it), but those features fall flat due to poor past design choices. That was the case for Selma Chatto’s house (aka @chateauchatto), especially in the living room. Although one of the walls had a nice marble fireplace with an ornate surround, it felt a bit lackluster in the space — like it needed more oomph.

“Without a focal point in space, the room just looked so long and disjointed,” Selma says. “We moved in a year ago, and this wall was covered by old-fashioned wallpaper, a fire surround that was screaming for an upcycle, and vintage-style wall lights.”

Credit: Selma Chatto

When she first moved in, Selma stripped the wallpaper, and the wall sat bare until recently when Selma got the idea to add “built-in” shelving around the fireplace. “The space is so vast, so I knew this is the only room we could have my dream bookcases,” she says. “I’ve always wanted a full wall of bookcases to display my collection of trinkets, and I knew this was the space to do it with the fire surround in the middle of the wall.”

To get her dream look, Selma (with the help of her husband and father-in-law) used IKEA BILLYs and personalized them for a £585, or about $650 USD, accent wall. “We already had a few bookcases from our old house, so we combined them as well as adding other variations from IKEA to create a seamless design,” she says. “We added the scallop trim at the top to increase the height and create a little jungle up there with foliage.”

Credit: Selma Chatto

Selma says the trim and the new brass hardware are what transform the IKEA pieces from looking big-box to built-in. “We bolted the whole thing together and added a skirting board at the bottom to make it seamless,” she explains. “Building it around the fireplace and wall lights were tricky, but those features break up the design beautifully.”

The only thing she would change about the project — and still might in the future — is making the bookcases even more ornate by adding beaded trim to the scalloped edges, which would also make them taller and closer to the ceiling for a more complete look. But she’s proud of how much storage the new shelves add to the space, “whether it be for toys or photo albums,” she says. “The bookcases also serve the purpose of hiding electricals and wires for the TV.”

Credit: Selma Chatto

The most time-consuming part of the project, Selma recalls, was painting. She went with a pinkish purple chalky finish paint for the bookcases (Rust-Oleum’s Lilac Wine, which is only available in the UK). “It took me ages to choose a color, but as soon as I saw this swatch, I was in love,” Selma says. “It’s so feminine and calming and contrasts beautifully with the plants and flowers.” Selma didn’t want to change too much about the fireplace, so all she did was paint the surround using a dark charcoal color, Frenchic’s Smudge.

In the living room, Selma also updated the flooring, swapped out the overhead light fixture for something more modern, and added picture frame moulding to the walls, all helping to up the charm in the already quite charming room. But her favorite part, of course, is the bookcase wall.

“This is my dream bookcase storage solution,” she says. “I love that it’s DIY and cost less than half we were quoted by a carpenter … I’m proud of getting the color right the first time — it was meant to be! I’m proud of how good my collection of trinkets look. We can be proud we created it, and it’s beautiful.”