Before and After: A 2-Day Project Gives a Blank BILLY Bookcase a Bespoke Textured Treatment — for $300!

published Oct 11, 2022
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About this before & after
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: an empty white bookshelf

The BILLY bookcase is perhaps one of the most recognizable pieces of IKEA furniture, and for good reason: “It’s affordable and one of IKEA’s most popular items,” YouTuber and DIYer Katie Bookser says. “I really like the size of the bookcase and the fact that the shelves can be adjusted to different heights, which makes it fun for shelf styling. It’s fairly lightweight so I can move it myself if I’m rearranging my space, and it can also be anchored to the wall.”

It’s a reliable standby, and therefore very commonplace across houses and apartments and condos and co-ops, but Apartment Therapy has seen several transformations that make the bookcases look unrecognizable.

“Four years after I bought the bookcase, I decided that I really wanted it to have more character, and I wanted to customize it to suit my current style,” Katie says of her big-box find. “I also wanted to make it look more high-end since I am currently planning out an office makeover and I plan to keep the bookcase in that space. As a DIY enthusiast, it felt like the perfect blank canvas to me.”

Katie transformed hers with paint, pole wrap, doors, and pulls. Her project cost about $300 and took two days. “There’s nothing like that instant gratification feeling of completing a project like this over a weekend,” Katie says.

To add more concealed storage, Katie bought doors to fit the cabinet. Before attaching them, she primed them, the shelves, and the body of the bookcase with a shellac-based primer and then painted them tan (Behr’s Mesa Taupe).

“The shellac base primer allows you to skip sanding,” Katie says. “Because the bookcase is laminate, you can’t paint it with regular paint right off the bat.”

Katie wanted to add some texture to the doors to make them stand out a little more, so she used pole wrap. “I measured the front of the door and cut the pole wrap to size using a miter saw, then applied it with construction adhesive. I let it cure overnight, and the next day I attached the doors to the bookcase and added new knobs,” she explains, adding that unique knobs are a great way to make any big-box find your own.

“I love how easy it was to customize the bookcase and how it really transforms my office space,” Katie says. “It looks so much more high-end, and what’s so fun about this project is that anyone can do it. You can paint it any color that you want, and change it up at any time!” Hooray for renter-friendly big box redos!