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I have been hard at work getting my garage all organized before the cold weather begins.  I then moved indoors and got my mudroom in order, which has made such a huge difference for my sanity now that we have some organization.  If you follow me on Instagram you know I took a couple of steps inside now as I have been working on my Family Room. I am dying to get this done as this is the hub of our home.  We will spend a ton of time as a family in this room watching movies, TV shows, wrestling, cuddling, reading books and playing games.  Here was the inspiration picture for this room.

coastal fireplace

This pictures came from an amazing custom house on a lake in Michigan.  You have to check it out.  Get a napkin to catch the drool!  My house is far from custom, lake or amazing at this point.  But I set out to recreate this look in my family room.  However this is the starting point for this so-called makeover. YIKES!

built in cabinets by fireplace

We had painted the walls a beautiful gray (Nantucket Mist by Dutch Boy).  We didn’t finish this wall because we knew we were going to cover it and didn’t want to waste time.  Which is why it looks like a hot mess.

I asked my friend Layla from The Lettered Cottage to work her Photoshop skills to give me an idea of what this would look like in my non-custom, non-lakehouse house.  Check out her post to see what she came up with for me.  After I saw her mock-ups I was so excited to move forward with this project.

Measure the ceiling height and overall width proposed for the bookcase before you begin the work. Perhaps, you can use billy height extension unit at a later stage when you’re thinking of expansion of infrastructure.

My first step was the figure out the built-ins.  I drew up plans and priced out the lumber for the built-ins and they were going to cost me around $750.  While I was willing to spend the month or so it would take me to build them I decided to look into IKEA Billy Bookcases since I have seen so many other bloggers use them as built-ins.  I priced those out and with the door option I wanted it would be $960.  While that is pricey it is only $210 more than what it would cost to me to build it.  Plus it would save me a ton of time and sweat and building doors (which I loathe).  Since I didn’t need custom built-ins for this space I decided to go the IKEA route.

So I reached out to IKEA to see if they wanted to partner with me on this project and they agreed.  So I went to Cincinnati to pick up 4 Billy bookcases ($240), 8 extension units ($160 total) and 16 Oxberg doors $$560).  Since my ceilings are 9.5’ each bookcase has two extenders on the top of them.  This left me 6” from the top of the extension to the ceiling.  Nothing a little molding and crown couldn’t handle.

I know people complain about putting together IKEA furniture.  While words on the directions would be great I can’t help but get a kick out of the pictures.

I love it because of the wood’s natural structure and their compliance to basic norms. Of course, you can customize it and fix it along with kitchen frames, bed frames, and sofas depending on your agenda.

IKEA billy bookcase
ikea billy bookcase directions

After about 3 hours I had all the bookcases assembled.  I tried lots of different options for where to put the doors.

IKEA built-ins

Note: Keep all the leftovers like roundwood, particleboard, woodchips, wood pieces, oak, and beech used in this experiment for other projects.

In the end  I decided to do doors on the top and bottom and leave the middle section open.

ikea built-in shelves

In order to prep the area for the Billy built-ins I took off the baseboards in the back with a utility knife and pry bar and then used my Rockwell Sonic Crafter to cut the baseboard to the left and right where my bookcases would go leaving enough space to also accommodate a baseboard on the front of the bookcases.

Customize the plan according to the enclosed wall and the leftover wall area. Ensure that there’s enough space to stock your favorite items. Never go with the wrong shade. Otherwise, you may be disappointed with the outcome.


Another thing I had to think through was the outlets.  I had two outlets on the wall.  I measured and marked where they went on the cabinets and then I used my Sonic Crafter to cut out the rectangles for the outlet box out of the cardboard back of the bookcases.


Once the area was all prepped I used some SPAX screws to screw the two cabinets on each side to each other.  I just drilled screws through the preexisting holes for the adjustable bookshelves.

attaching bookshelves to wall

To attach the units to the wall required the angle braces that came with the bookcases as well as a stud finder, and some wood shims.  Wood shims, unfortunately are necessary because 99% off the time your walls will not be perfectly square.  I used some leftover paint sticks as spacers/shims in the back and some regular shims to shim up the bottom front of the bookcases.  Once the bookcases were secured to the studs I now could move onto the fireplace makeover.


So I leave you here with assembled Billy Bookcases installed and secured to the wall.  Next up is the Airstone fireplace makeover.  OMG it looks unbelievable!  Click here to read how to we framed out the fireplace.

built-in billy bookcases

I hope the product details were useful to you. From my experience, it has helped me to build a larger storage solution with a durable surface, and visitors have called it a beautiful life.

The only downside lies in its maintenance. You may have to relieve it from moisture by using a damp cloth. As it’s solid wood, you need a clean cloth and a mild cleaner to polish its look and keep it sane. Sometimes, the sawdust or ash or other dust can affect the cleanliness of the bookcase.

Don’t mess with the natural wood look or the side panel. It can hamper the entire look. As a rule of thumb, ensure that there’s scope for extra shelves so you can fix adjustable shelves whenever required.

To retain the fresh look, you may need to varnish the bookcase.

Nevertheless, I’d call this a smart storage solution with ample storage space to store all my books. I’ve then made multiple durable billy units for my friends.

You can customize this project with different colors, but it also depends on the needs of people at home. Some would prefer adjustable shelving lets or stationary shelf. It’s the booklovers choice. A thin wooden sheet on the corners would actually add a better look.

IKEA’s billy bookcase is a result of a responsible wood sourcing process and displays strong design heritage. It’s known for its industry standard. But, there are even smarter ways explored in our DIY billy bookcase to take it to a whole new level.

Let me answer some quick questions to help you understand this bookcase. 

Is IKEA discontinuing the BILLY bookcase?

IKEA’s Billy bookcases aren’t discontinued. In fact, IKEA has revived these bookcases in a more circular look and introduced them to the host of IKEA products.

Are IKEA billy bookcases strong?

IKEA Billy bookcases need to be used in a responsible way as they don’t fit for commercial or heavy-duty use. While it’s a sign of innovation, these bookcases are highly strong for regular use.

What is the weight limit for BILLY bookcase?

66lbs/shelf is the average weight limit for Billy bookcase and these cases are available in different dimensions to fit heavier books or to achieve a better furniture’s look.

How long does it take to assemble IKEA Billy bookcase?

It takes an average of 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to assemble IKEA Billy bookcases. Based on your experience, the duration can vary.

And here are all the posts in this series for easy reference:

Family Room Makeover Part 1: Installing the IKEA Billy Bookcase Built-Ins

Family Room Makeover Part 2: Framing out the Fireplace

Family Room Makeover Part 3: Building a Hollow Rustic Mantel

Family Room Makeover Part 4: AirStone Fireplace Makeover

Family Room Makeover Part 5: Finishing Touches

Family Room Makeover Part 6: Styling the Built-ins

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  1. I am such a dunce! I follow you and Layla, yet I NEVER clued in that you were the “Beckie”!! The teal chairs should have been the giveaway. OF COURSE the inspiration picture is from a custom home in Michigan…sigh. I like your end decision for the placement of the doors. I have seen so many of the Billy’s used and started eyeing my LR area for an update. I had also viewed some gorgeous tile on Overstock, through a blog post, and that got my wheels turning too! I do love the stone look A TON but our LR is very dark so I would probably opt for the white tile I was drooling over. Anywho…love what you are doing. If I had half of your energy I would be on fire! You are just smokin’ lady!

  2. Thank you, Kristen! I am going crazy over how the living room is coming together and can’t wait to get it done! The white tile sounds beautiful for lightening and brightening a darker space. Keep me informed if you do dive in and do it!

  3. i just built cabinets for my fireplace wall….i’m still trying to figure out how to do the lighting in the cabinets. how are you going to approach that?

  4. Just wondering what the width of the wall that the bookcases/fireplace are on. I want to do something like this as well and was wondering how big the space was that you fit the bookcases into with the fireplace. Thanks.

  5. Hi Maria, I am so glad you like this idea. It totally transformed my living room and gave it the focal point that it was majorly lacking. The wall is 17 feet wide, and the fireplace is 80″. I hope that gives you a frame of reference so you can tackle your own space. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  6. You should use pine filler strips to cover the gaps on the ends and where the two cabinets meet. Fill in the top with a pine board and put mdf crown molding on the top. The cabinets would look totally custom for not much more money. I will send you a link on how to do it if you are interested.

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