Before and After: This Bedroom-Turned-Office Has the Coolest BILLY Bookcase Hack

published Dec 16, 2023
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About this before & after
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Rental Friendly

When it comes to renting, it may seem as though you live with more rules than possibilities — after all, you can’t exactly take a sledgehammer to walls or rip out the flooring. It all can feel pretty limiting, but those rules don’t mean that you can’t customize your home as a renter. For Los Angeles renter Juliana (@joujee), making sure her landlord stayed happy didn’t get in the way of DIYing her way to a personalized home. 

“Every project has to be really renter-friendly, as my management company is not necessarily the friendliest,” Juliana says. “Everything I put up needs to come off as if it never existed, and I try to keep the original blinds, light fixtures, and so on.”

This room was intended as a bedroom, and was originally where Juliana slept — but then she got the idea to change things up, as her light-filled, one-bedroom apartment has high-enough ceilings to accommodate a loft. “Even though the loft is a bit smaller than the actual bedroom, I decided to make it my bedroom and use this room as an office and craft area,” she says. 

Credit: Louise Pappas
Credit: Leela Cyd

Ample square footage allowed for layout flexibility.

Juliana couldn’t change the room’s brown carpeting, and she also had to accommodate the closet that took up one wall of the room. The bright sides? The square footage presented a super-versatile wide rectangle, making it possible to fit two desks and a sofa. “I wanted options to work standing or sitting, space in the center of the room for yoga, and I hoped to take advantage of the old furniture I had. I also wanted all sewing and crafting things within easy reach,” she says. “It was a matter of arranging it all in a cohesive way.”

Credit: Juliana

An IKEA BILLY Hack Creates a “Garage” for Craft Supplies

Juliana developed a plan to create a design-driven closet, also known as her “garage,” by building a fun, wavy feature around two IKEA BILLY bookcases; those bookcases would flank either side of a standing desk (she already had the surface for this component). 

“After some sketching, I went to The Home Depot to look for light and malleable wood materials I could use to make the shapes — that was especially important because I was transporting, cutting, and assembling it all myself,” she says. “I initially wanted to get tall pieces so it all looked seamless, but that plan wouldn’t fit in my car, so I went for smaller two-foot by four-foot pieces that could be assembled.”

Juliana sketched wiggly lines onto her MDF boards, numbered them to avoid confusion, and cut the pieces with a jigsaw. She then attached the pieces to the bookcases using nails and wood glue, and reinforced the side that was going to have a concealing fabric “door” with thicker wood boards. “After all the pieces were up, I used caulk to make them look a little more seamless,” she adds. It took about a week for Juliana to complete the bookshelf project, which she did for three hours a night after work. 

Credit: Leela Cyd

Pops of color (including orange paint) make the workspace fun and energetic.

Now, about that bright orange shade. Juliana fills her home with colors that cultivate specific feelings, from zen in her living room to cozy in her bedroom. Her office needed to give her energy, and she picked multiple swatches from the hardware store before landing on her electric orange. “I picked vivid orange and pink tones, a lot of organic shapes, and greenery to top it all off,” she says. 

“I wanted to make sure the decor was enhancing that bright and airy vibe,” Juliana adds. Once the wiggles were painted, she added a curtain to conceal clutter and filled the shelves with necessities and mostly reused furniture from other spots in her apartment. “I got the couch for less than $1,000 and the rug for less than $200,” she notes. 

As for advice for other renters who want to make their homes feel more personal, here’s what Juliana has to say: “Things don’t need to match, you don’t need to stay attached to a specific style, and, if you live by yourself, the only person who needs to be psyched about your decor is you,” she says. “Let your energy shine through your choices and anyone who visits will notice it.”