IKEA Billy bookcase to drawer hack

As a Homeright Brand Ambassador, they oftentimes challenge us to create something new out of something ordinary. This month’s challenge was the take a basic IKEA Billy Bookcase and turn it into something fabulous.

I try really hard on IC not to just make a project for the sake of making a project although I admit, at times it happens.


The only use I could see for this bookshelf in my house would be turning it into a narrow set of drawers for my craft studio (still in progress, but if you want to see my fabulous studio in my old house click here).

Since the shelves only stick out 11″ from the wall it makes a great set of drawers for a hallway or area where you don’t have a ton of walkway.

On top of turning it into a set of drawers, I decided to go a little crazy on the paint/stain colors and knobs and pulls.

But if you have been around here long enough, you know I love color and don’t mind pushing the envelope a little.

Colorful Ikea Billy Bookcase with Drawers


I actually had a ton of scrap oak plywood in my garage from the desk I created for my new office.  

So I was able to use all of those scraps to make the drawers. All I purchased for this was a 1″ x 12″ board and a 1″ x 6″ board for the drawer fronts. 

I have a stash of old and new hardware that I went through to come up with a unique combination of drawers and pulls.

multi colored dresser drawers
multi colored dresser drawers


So here is the basic bookshelf I started with. I went to IKEA to grab two more shelves since the unit only came with 2 shelves.

ikea billy bookcase

I went to the parts department and they happily gave me two more shelves and a new backing plus shelf pins for free. 

Woo-hoo! My lucky day! If your IKEA won’t do that you can purchase new shelves for $10. 

I needed the new backing because I accidentally ripped the one it came with, that is why it is a different color (that was all they had).


I set my shelves to where I wanted them (hole 3, 7, 14 and 21).  Next, I did a whole lot of measuring and cutting. To make it easier for you here are all the measurements of each drawer. The number in parenthesis is how many you need to cut.

I found it easier to cut all the pieces before any assembling took place. Let me tell you our brains (my awesome father-in-law helped me!) were in overdrive with all the math.

turning an ikea bookshelf into a dresser


To assemble the drawers, grab some wood glue and clamps if you have them, along with an air nailer.

Line up the front piece inside your side pieces and glue and nail in place and clamping if necessary.

Add your back piece in the same manner.

The easiest way to add a drawer bottom without any fancy routing or grooves is to just take 3/8″ luan plywood and cut it to your finished drawer size. 

Take your air staples and staple them in place.

ikea billy bookcase hack

Now make your 11 other drawers to the specified measurements.

ikea small billy bookcase


Next, cut your face frames. I used pine for this because I knew it would stain and paint well. 

Set them in place but don’t nail them just yet.

ikea billy bookcase dresser


Sand your drawer fonts so they are ready to be finished. On the drawer fronts, you will paint make sure to prime them first.

I used my Home Right Finish Max paint sprayer to prime. I much prefer a latex primer sprayed on bare wood than using spray primer in the can.

It covers so much better.

home right finish max


Decide which colors you want to paint your drawer fronts. I ended up using mostly spray paint.

I did have some leftover color matched paint from my Billy Bookcase Built-Ins in my family room so the one drawer that is white was foam rolled with that color. 

Below is a chart for the rest of the colored spray paints and stains I used.

Note: Since it is a pine make sure to use a pre-wood conditioner before you stain it for even coverage with no splotchiness.

I find the easiest way to decide on colors is to start with the colors you know you want and then try and piece colors in there to coordinate.

multi colored dresser


As you can see by the picture below the hot pink and the teal blue didn’t make the cut.

I just kept trying different colors until I was satisfied with the look.

multi colored drawers


If you think the colors were hard to choose, try also coordinating knobs and pulls. I have a ton of hardware I have pulled off of old furniture in the past. But also that I have gotten from DLawless Hardware.

Here are the sources for the ones you can purchase (Glass Knobs, Glass Pulls, White Ball Knob, Ornate Cup Pull, Antique English Pull, Sriwlz Pull).

The easiest way to attach the drawer fronts to the drawers themselves is to just attach them through the holes of the knobs and pulls. You may have to purchase new screws to make this happen. 

I drilled the holes into the fronts for the pulls and then lined that up on the drawers (while they were in place) and drilled through to the drawers. 

Then I attached the screws for the pulls or knobs through both the front and the drawers and that is how I attached them to each other. 

Of course, you could always run a few more screws through your drawer into your front to make it more secure.

multi colored drawer

These drawers are cheater drawers since they just slide in without any track. With that in mind, there is a little wiggle room left to right.

So you have to slide them in straight in order for them to close nicely.

ikea hack billy
ikea hack billy bookcase

I can’t tell you how much I love how this turned out. 

When I use this much color I often doubt myself, but after it is done and I stare at it for a few minutes, I am always happy with the results. 

I hope you love it too.

 IKEA Bookcase Challenge

Disclaimer:  This was a compensated opportunity with Home Right.  But all opinions and fabulous ideas are mine 😉

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  1. I love it Beckie – you have given me some great ideas for making use of some of my mismatched hardware.

  2. I would love to make something similar. I just grabbed a small bookshelf from my neighbors garbage pile the other day! Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. This sounds like a great idea for craft supplies, but a lot of the photos are showing up missing right now, especially the one with the drawer measurements. Hope that can be fixed.

  4. Thanks so much for bringing that to my attention. I will look into it right away and let you know when they’re back up.

  5. Hi! Cant see the measurements for the drawer cuts! I want to do this… but suck at the planning bit so was hoping to utilise your hard work… 🙂

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