Billy Bookcase IKEA Hack: How to Create Bespoke Bookcases for Your Living Room

Strap yourselves in as I’m about to take you on a wild IKEA Billy Bookcase hack ride! This has been my most ambitious upcycle yet and there were a few tears and tantrums on the way.

When I was sat in my living room at 9pm on a Saturday night applying the 3rd layer of paint to the bookcases, I certainly questioned my life choices. But I knew I would be so happy when it was complete, I persevered and I’m so happy I did!

IKEA hack. How to create bespoke billy bookcases for your living room pinterest pin

I wrote about our plans for our living renovation here, we put up a stud wall to separate this room from our kitchen diner and this meant the fireplace would no longer be central.

We also had a strange small and high window to the left of the living room that gave us a view of our neighbour’s wall! So, we decided to get our builders to brick up the fireplace and window which meant we could reconfigure our living room so it worked for us.

My husband looking happy that the stud wall is going in!
Our TV sat in the corner, we had a lovely view of our neighbours wall!
The fireplace was no longer central and the radiator just got in the way
Corner next to the stud wall
Removing the radiator, bricking up the window and fireplace
This makes so much more sense as now we have a blank wall to put cabinets, a fireplace and our TV up

However, I still wanted a fireplace! I think a fireplace in the living room is really important, it gives you a central focal point in the room and without one, the room can feel disjointed and empty. It certainly felt that way before I started this project.

The fireplace in our old house. I loved this room

I knew I wanted bookshelves as well, I’ve always loved bespoke and built-in bookcases in the living room so I decided the best thing to do was to create some bookcases around the fireplace. The first thing I needed to do was find a fireplace….

Designing the space

By moving the fireplace into the middle of the room, it meant that we did not have direct access to a flue or chimney. I started researching how we could either reposition the flue or have a fireplace that didn’t need a chimney and this is when I came across Imagin Fires.

Imagin Fires Malvern Bioethanol wood burner
Imagin Fires Faux flue

Imagin Fires are bioethanol fireplaces that require no flue or chimney as they burn biofuels and produce no smoke, soot or ash. You literally just place the fireplace or wood burner where you want it to go and light it up!

I also decided to get a faux flue from Imagin Fires as this would give the impression that it was a real fireplace connected to a chimney without the hassle, mess and cost of connecting it to the chimney. A complete win win!

Malvern Imagin Fires woodburner

With the measurements for the Malvern wood burner from Imagin Fires, I was able to plan the rest of my billy bookcases around it. We originally got some quotes from local builders and nationwide companies to make and fit some bespoke cupboards for us, but when we started getting quotes in ranging from £7000 at the most expensive, down to £3500, I decided that I would attempt to do it myself!

I planned our cabinets and wood burning stove in Sketchup

I had seen plenty of people use IKEA Billy bookcases to create amazing spaces on Instagram and TikTok so, armed with my power tools and paint, I started my DIY plan.

I measured the length of wall where the bookcases were going and started playing around with different sizes of cabinets from IKEA. I wanted them to pretty much fit the space so they looked bespoke. We also wanted to put the TV above the fireplace so I had to make sure there was enough room between the billy bookcases to hang it.

What you will need

Billy Bookcase (40x 28 x 202cm) x 6

Billy Bookcase (40 x 28 x 106cm) x 2

Oxberg door (40 x 97cm) x 8

Zinsser Primer

Paint (I used Valspar Thames Fog)

Natural Oak angled hardwood

A couple boards of MdF

Jig Saw


No More Nails


Oak architrave

Bullnose skirting board

Natural Oak shelf – Wickes

I didn’t need to do much prep work to begin with as the fireplace and window had already been blocked up and the bookcases were going in front of the wall. The first job was to put together all the IKEA billy bookcases and shelves and put them into place. I then secured them to the wall so that they didn’t budge.

Starting to put up the Billy bookcases
Leaving a space in between the two smaller Billy bookcases for the woodburner

The fireplace

Once I was happy with the layout, I measured the final distance between the two smaller Billy bookcases in the middle so I could put in a wood burner hearth. We had a granite worktop left over from when our old kitchen was ripped out and this turned out to be the perfect depth.

I cut it to size, created a wooden frame for it to sit on so the wood burner was elevated slightly and then slotted it into place.

The granite worktop sits nicely on top of a wooden frame
I also used a piece of hardwood we had leftover from our kitchen renovation at the back of the wood burner
To complete the hearth, I bought some worktop edging tape to put round the sides of the wooden frame underneath

I wallpapered inside the Billy bookcases and on the back wall with tile wallpaper I had leftover, to give the impression of a tiled fireplace surround.

However, this is only a temporary measure as the wallpaper will peel off due to the heat from the wood burner. Eventually, I will either add self-adhesive wallpaper like I had in our old kitchen above the hob (I wrote a blog post about his here) or I will use real tiles or brick slips. I didn’t want to tile it straight away as I wanted to be happy with the rest of the room as this will be fiddly and permanent!

Wallpapering behind the wood burner

Once I was happy with how the fireplace surround looked, I put the Malvern Imagin Fires wood burner on top of the old worktop and attached the faux flue. I am so impressed with how real this looks!

Making the Billy Bookcases look bespoke!

I wanted the bookcases to look bespoke and have their own stamp so there were a few things I added.

Oxberg Doors

I began by upcycling the IKEA Oxberg doors. I wanted to add a bit more pattern and texture to the cabinets, so I decided to panel the walls with stripwood. I bought some smooth square edge pine stripwood (L) 2.4m, (W) 25mm, (T)4mm from B&Q and cut it into strips of 900mm. I then stuck each strip onto the doors with No More Nails.

Measuring out the stripwood
Using No More Nails, I glued the stripwood onto the doors

Seamless bookcases

I knew right from the beginning that I wanted the top of my billy bookcases to have curves. I love curve in design, I love how they soften everything and mimic nature.

With the Billy bookcases in place, I bought some MdF from B&Q and measured out the space. I wanted to add a 60mm trim in between where the bookcases joined to hide the join line, so from there I worked out how big the arches needed to be.

Measuring out the curves and trim on the MdF.

Thankfully, I had a pizza base tin that was the perfect measurement, so I drew around this and used a jig saw to cut the MdF to size. I then fixed the MdF to the bookcases using No More Nails and panel pins. 

Adding the MdF curves and trim to the billy bookcases

I took the MdF down to where the shelves met the doors. I was going to take the MdF trim all the way down to the bottom, but it meant drilling in more holes to move the doors so I decided against it, the MdF looks fine stopping just above the doors. I also used MdF on the sides of the bookcases facing in towards the bookcase and added an angled edge to hide the join.

Taking the MdF down to the doors
Adding MdF to the inside of the billy bookcases and cutting them into the coving

Originally, I was going to take down the coving that was sitting behind the bookcases so that the trim would sit flush to the ceiling. Unfortunately, when I started to take the coving away, we realised that the ceiling actually finished where the coving started so it would mean we would be left with a 4-inch gap in the ceiling.

I looked at taking the coving down and putting it back up around the bookcases but this seemed like a lot of effort and a lot of patching up. So, I decided to put up the bookcases with the coving in tact and cut the trim into the coving.

I cut the MdF so it fit snuggly against the coving

I bought a contour gauge from Amazon and by using this tool, I was able to measure the coving shape and cut this out into the architrave.

Using the contour gauge to mimic the shape
Drawing it onto the architrave to cut it out with a jig saw

There was a gap of around 15cm between the bookcases and the wall on either side because I decided to leave the coving intact. I bought some architrave from B&Q, cut the coving contour shape into the top of the architrave and using panel pins, secured it to the MdF on either side.

MdF, architrave and doors all in

To hide the bottom of the bookshelves, I added skirting boards and screwed them directly into the bookshelves. I caulked all the gaps between the architraves and skirting boards and filled in all the shelf holes that weren’t being used, so that the bookshelves were ready to be primed and painted.

I filled in all the holes that weren’t being used with Polyfilla
Caulked the bottom of the skirting board
Added skirting boards to the bottom of the shelves
All ready to be primed and painted

Prime and Paint

With all holes filled in, bookshelves caulked and shelves in, they were ready to be primed and painted. I decided to paint the doors but not the inside of the billy bookcases as the doors would be closed so you wouldn’t see the inside (and they look fine white!)

I knew I needed a really good primer for this upcycle, so I bought some Zinsser Shellac based primer and was really impressed with the results! It only needed one coat and dried pretty much straight away.

Zinsser Shellac based primer

I started by taking the doors off first and painting them so they could dry whilst I painted the rest of the units. 

Priming the doors
Doors and Billy bookcases primed

The main colour

After a few weeks of indecisiveness, I decided to go with Valspar Thames Fog as my main colour. I wanted to go with Valspar Blue Jade (the same colour that I had in my old living room), to begin with but I wanted a fresher and contemporary feel. I was also veering towards a very dark green, like Valspar Ebony Lake, but I decided that perhaps this would be too dark and you wouldn’t be able to see the details of the Billy bookcase hack, like the panelling on the doors.

Thames Fog, Blue Jade and Ebony Lake

I put a poll up on my Instagram stories to see what people preferred out of the 3 colours and the overwhelming response was Thames Fog. Someone said to me, it would be easier to paint over the Thames Fog if I didn’t like it and that is was chose the colour for me! I also had this colour in my bathroom and love it!

Putting the first coat on

Originally, I was going to keep the space in-between the Billy bookcases white, but I decided to take the paint across the whole wall. It needed 3 coats in the end and I am so pleased I went with this colour! 

Once all the paint was dry, I put the doors back on and then added the final touch, the mantelpiece shelf. I bought a Natural Oak Shelf (1800 x 300 x 22mm) from Wickes and cut it to 1700mm so that it fit in between the billy bookcases. It’s a perfect fit depth wise and the oak colour works really well with the green.

The wooden shelf from Wickes

And that’s all there is to it! Hahahaha. The easy part was designing it, I learnt a lot doing this DIY project and once I got my head around it, I actually quite enjoyed doing it. It took me around 4 weeks to complete from start to finish and cost around £650 to create.

The finished result
I love the colour
It also works really well with our pink and jade sofa
It’s now a pleasure to be in this room!

What do you think? 

Large print from Poster Lounge
Ours of shelf faffing

I think the curves work really well
Pretty 🙂

I recently put up the grey wall hanging but still not 100% sure
Tree also from IKEA

Mel x

ikea hack how to create bespoke bookcases for your living room pinterest pin



  1. Rebecca
    22/04/2022 / 8:12 am

    These look great and I’m already eyeing up my Billy’s to see what I can do! Can I ask where you got your grey wall hanging from? I’m looking for one for my bedroom and that looks great.

  2. Vanessa
    02/05/2022 / 2:38 am

    Hi Melanie!
    I just found your site this weekend, and I think I OD’d on it! Lol! Love all the green (& pink), plants and this ikea hack. It’s great! Love your style! You did such a great job! Just subscribed and following.

    • Melanie Boyden
      10/05/2022 / 12:08 pm

      Hi Vanessa. Thank you so much for your lovely message. Blogging can be a bit of a lonely business at times as you don’t get much feedback so this is really appreciated. Thank you 🙂

  3. Judith
    15/07/2022 / 2:28 pm

    Hello there!! Thank you so much for repinning my pin !!! It looks absolutely wonderful doesn’t it? I intend to do this in my dining room in September!! I really like what I see on your blog and your Pinterest page!! So I’m following you now!! Take care in this extreme heat weather warning ⚠️!!

    • Melanie Boyden
      16/07/2022 / 10:52 am

      Hi Judith, no worries! Thanks for the follow 🙂 I’m planning to be down the beach for the foreseeable! Mel x

  4. Tia
    22/07/2022 / 10:43 pm

    Would you be able to do this, with a skirting board already placed. Probably an inch or more.

    • Melanie Boyden
      22/07/2022 / 11:25 pm

      Yes, absolutely! The IKEA Billy bookcases come with a gap at the back which makes it easy to fit around the skirting board

  5. Alexis
    25/07/2022 / 12:10 am

    Hi Melanie! Love this and plan on doing the same. How tall are your ceilings and what we’re the measurements for the height of the MDF arches? Thanks!!

    • Melanie Boyden
      26/07/2022 / 8:56 am

      Hi Alexis, thank you! Our ceilings are 240cm and the arches are 130cm. Mel 🙂

      • 06/09/2022 / 9:57 pm

        I was about to ask the same question about ceiling height because I love your hanging pendant light. My ceilings are the same height but I have flat alabaster lights. I would love something more like what you have, do you find any design issues like visual line obstruction practical issues with tall people?

        • Melanie Boyden
          12/09/2022 / 11:27 am

          We haven’t found it a problem so far. It is low enough that someone tall might knock their head on it, but we have a coffee table under it so they never do! It’s not in the way for anything else though.

  6. Rebecca
    27/07/2022 / 9:39 pm

    Hello! Just found you on Instagram and now reading through your blog. I have just bought my first home which is a new build so really want to add some character. I wondered how many strip wood planks you needed for the doors? I was just trying to work out if it’s doable for me! Thank you x

    • Melanie Boyden
      02/09/2022 / 12:49 pm


      It depends on how many doors you have. We had 6 at 90cm each. I wanted 8 strips per door and the stripwood came in 2.4m strips. So I bought 20 strips.

      Kind regards


  7. Suzanne
    29/07/2022 / 3:19 pm

    Hi Melanie,
    I’ve just found your Instagram page, which led me here as I’m obsessed with this hack!! You are SO incredibly talented!! I plan to tackle this next weekend with my son…
    Can I ask if you think it will look ok with a carpet? Mine’s is fairly new and it would be a huge job to get flooring done now. Many thanks!

    • Melanie Boyden
      13/08/2022 / 9:01 am

      Hi Suzanne, thank you! Yes, it would look just as good with carpet. Good luck with the DIY! Mel 🙂

  8. Sara
    31/08/2022 / 5:00 am

    I love this idea and I want to mimic it with our living room. Problem is we have vaulted ceilings so I don’t think we could go to the top with this idea. Do you think we should try or just create a flat top?

    • Melanie Boyden
      02/09/2022 / 12:44 pm

      I think it would still work. Vaulted ceilings are beautiful! You could always add MdF or plywood from the end of the bookcases to the ceiling to hide the gap?

  9. Marie
    02/09/2022 / 7:32 pm

    Seriously impressive DIY ! I feel super inspired but also certain that my lack of jigsaw mastery combined with my perfectionism would make it impossible for me to enjoy the process…
    Anyway,, thank you so much for the detailed rundown and congratulations, you ought to feel very proud of what you’ve accomplished !!

    • Melanie Boyden
      03/09/2022 / 10:59 am

      Thank you Marie! I often chastise myself for not being a perfectionist, but it does come in handy when I do large-scale projects such as this! 🙂

  10. Nicola
    04/09/2022 / 1:56 pm

    This is truly incredible, just absolutely gorgeous. What a vision you had and managed to execute it! Hats off to you. I’m definitely going to try reeding with the strips of MDF . Do you think that would work just in between a skirting and dado to add some texture to a wall? Also may I ask where the peony art is from please?

    • Melanie Boyden
      12/09/2022 / 11:29 am

      It would definitely work between a skirting and a dado rail, I have done this in our kitchen and it looks fab! The peony artwork is from

  11. Rachel
    09/09/2022 / 11:00 am

    Love this so much and going to give it a go in my home soon. Can I ask how many strips of Stripwood it took for you to make the doors? Thank you!

    • Melanie Boyden
      12/09/2022 / 11:26 am

      I needed 90cm length for each strip wood and 8 pieces for each door. So I needed 7m 20cm of strip wood each for the 6 doors.

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