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Monday, February 17, 2014

Ikea Hack: Built-In Bookcases

Who would think you could jump-start your built-ins using inexpensive Ikea bookcases and and some decorative trim and get this? A beautiful home library! 

About 7 years ago in a previous home, I commissioned a contractor to build floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases along the hallway to house my library. It cost me about $5k in materials and labor. Here's what that looked like:

I opted to paint them myself to save money – and the task was a beast! All those shelves and trim pieces.

This time around, encouraged by the work of AM Dolce Vita and Centsational Girl, I hacked Ikea bookcases for about $800.  Here's the schematic that I drew up for my contractor.

I purchased 7 Billy bookcases and 7 height extensions online at, and they arrived four days later. It took me just a few hours on a Saturday to assemble them. It's an Ikea assembly I've done a dozen or more times since my college days. The first one took about 45 minutes; the last one took just 20 minutes. That's how it goes with Ikea assembly. Once you get it down, you move pretty quickly. Things would have moved even faster if I hadn't left my nail gun at the other house. Grrrr.

I assembled the height extensions as well, but I didn't attach them yet. Henry still has to remove mirrors, and with the height extensions the bookcases could become unwieldy to move around.

While I was at work during the week, Henry removed the mirrored wall, remember that?

He removed the baseboards as well and patched up the wall in preparation. No one will ever see the wall behind the books, but that's the kind of perfectionist Henry is – and exactly why I enjoy working with him.

He built up the box they will rest on, added the bookcases, then the extensions to the top of the bookcases, then trimmed them all out - following my schematic to a T.

What a difference! Even in this unfinished room with cardboard protecting the floors, paint samples spattered on the walls, and debris all around me, I could squint my eyes and just about imagine the final reveal.

When he was finished, he tarped off the room to keep it dust-free, and I was able to start moving in some books and a few pieces of furniture that I have in local storage. 


The finished room today.

See the full House Tour.