In the time it takes you to read this sentence, another IKEA Billy bookcase is made—there’s one produced every three seconds. By the time you read this sentence, another Billy has sold somewhere in the world—that’s estimated at one every five seconds. Since its launch in 1979, the Billy has become an IKEA staple, having sold over 60 million bookcases worldwide—sixty! million!—with countless design-minded folks turning their blank slate of a bookcase into a genius Billy Bookcase hack.
We get why the Billy is so popular. It’s sleek, it’s versatile (since it’s able to be configured in so many ways), and it’s affordable. Depending on the size and color, Billys can cost as low as $49. We also get why people would want to personalize it, creating a “that’s a Billy?!” moment with a coat of paint, some molding, or cabinet doors.
Inspired? Scroll on for 15 oh-so-smart Billy bookcase hacks that’ll have you running to the hardware store.
Hide Your Billys Behind Doors
Wait, this beautiful wall of closets is a Billy bookcase? Sure is. Five of them, in fact. Alice Gaskell of Alice Grace Interiors attached five Billys to her walls, then primed and painted them in Neptune Dove Grey. The final step was to add a timber frame around them with MDF doors, paneling, brass pulls, and molding.
This isn’t a simple hack by any means, but the final result was more than worth it, Gaskell shares. “Our Billy bookcase hack has been one of the best decisions in our house," she says. "It has completely transformed the look and use of this wall.”
Built-In Bookcase on a Budget
Kellie Fundenberger’s Billy bookcase hack is so chic, you’d think it came with the house. Instead, aiming for a built-in bookcase look on a budget, she used these Billys with melamine caps in between and molding on top to give the IKEA favorite a custom look.
“Growing up, I'd always dreamed of a rolling ladder, so this was a dream fulfilled for me,” she says.
Chic Glass Cabinet
First, she gave it a couple coats of Behr Chalk Spray Paint in Miniature Rose. (No sanding or priming necessary, she says, since the texture of the paint sticks really well to IKEA furniture.) Then, she cut long skinny dowels to the height of the lower glass panels of the Oxberg doors, painted them, then glued them onto the glass with Loctite clear instant grab glue. Lastly, using a jigsaw, she cut out two half arch pieces to glue onto the top glass and swapped out the hardware for acrylic and brass pulls.
“Having a small home means we don’t have the luxury of fashion-only pieces,” she says. “They all have to serve a function."
Create Mega Shoe Storage
Lucy Young was working with a tight, shallow space in her Victorian when she created this envy-worthy shoe storage with two side-by-side Billy Bookcases. Two doors, both used frequently, bookend the space, so she couldn’t have anything too deep, but the tall ceilings begged to be utilized. “The Billy bookcases are the perfect depth for this space and two together side by side fit just right into the space,” Young says.
The customizable shelves were key to creating just the perfect fit, and she added an extension unit to the top to maximize the tall ceilings—she uses this for handbag storage.
“It provided us with a cost-effective, fully customizable shoe storage system without having the permanence of built-in cupboards,” Young says. “It ticked all our boxes.”
Create an Open Pantry
No pantry? No problem. Frequent baker Kellie Malberg paired two floor-to-ceiling Billy Bookcases with a cabinet (that she uses as a coffee bar) to act as an “open” butler’s pantry, displaying all of her cake stands and pretty dishware.
“It felt like a crime to hide all of these pretty dishes in a cabinet, so I wanted to find a practical way to display them,” she says. Mission accomplished.
It felt like a crime to hide all of these pretty dishes in a cabinet, so I wanted to find a practical way to display them.
Wall-to-Wall Built-In Illusion
Sarah Unsworth went wall-to-wall with seven Billy Bookcases with Oxberg doors and height extenders, needed to make the most of her high Victorian ceilings. She opted against the back panels though, as she wanted to have the different shade of blue on the wall behind peek through the shelves.
She also built plinths to raise them up onto and then added molding to the top, the bottom, and where they join to give them a more traditional look. To finish, she added vintage-style handles adorned with vibrant tassels (that Unsworth made!) to pop against the blue.
Play With Height and Width
Eunice Choi built this mesmerizing wall by placing five narrow Billy bookcases with the height extension units side by side. She took out shelves here and there to accommodate taller plants, and to create a more neutral look, she placed some books—the ones she’s not reading—backward.
Fool Your Friends Into Thinking Your Cabinet is High-End
High-end, timeless, traditional: that’s what Katie Rode was searching for in a display cabinet for her dining nook. After searching and searching alongside her husband Scott, she came to the conclusion that it’d be best to make the cabinet of their dreams themselves. That’s where the Billy Bookcase came in.
They added legs, primed and painted the bookcase, and attached beadboard to the back. For that upscale look they were going for, they added custom glass panes and hardware.
“By transforming this Billy, we saved ourselves hundreds of dollars,” Rode says. “It’s amazing how pieces of furniture can make a house feel more like a cozy home, and that’s just what this Billy bookcase did for us.”
It’s amazing how pieces of furniture can make a house feel more like a cozy home, and that’s just what this Billy bookcase did for us.
Go Sleek and Symmetrical
So you’re telling us this cabinet piece isn’t from a high-end store? And it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars? Incredible. Take notes from Ada of Nest No. 17’s Billy hack: glass panes, leather pulls, and even shelves all the way across to display a collection of beautiful and neutral accessories. Noted.
Create Colorful Storage
Believe it or not, there are Billy Bookcases tucked behind this scallop-topped cupboard unit. Lara Bezzina had a vision. “I wanted them to be simple and look like a piece of built-in furniture,” she says.
To start, she measured the highest point that she wanted the curve to reach, which was around eight inches taller than the bookcase. To get the perfect curve, she wrapped a piece of string around a pencil and attached the string to the middle point of the top of the doors. Holding the pencil tight at the other end of the string (eight inches from the middle), she drew the semi-circle from side to side.
Bezzina’s carpenter brother used a jigsaw to cut the curve, and they attached soft close hinges to each door. A wash of that bold and beautiful color, Orange Aurora by Little Greene Paint Company, finished the project. Voila!
A Billy Hack Doesn't Have to Be Hard
If you’re not the handiest of people but still want a customized Billy, take inspiration from Beth Laird’s bookcase. To easily make it her own, she added trim to the top and contemporary handles to the cabinet doors from 5mm Paper.
“I love how much more upscale the bookcase looks now,” she says. It’s the perfect spot to display her plants on top and tuck a TV away below.
When in Doubt, Keep It Simple
If the thought of a jigsaw gives you hives, trust that the Billys can look sleek and simple all on their own with creative positioning of shelving. Exhibit A: these beautifully minimalist Billys, whose owner, Helsinki-based Annukka, hasn’t gotten around to painting them yet—and just might not. We think they’re perfect as is.
Build a Mini Library
With just a glance, you could be fooled into thinking this gorgeous green set-up was built-in cabinetry. Nope, just a couple Billys in disguise. Amy Bennett of Abigail Mira Home used two side-by-side floor-to-ceiling Billy Bookcases with extensions to create a mini-library in an underutilized corner of her bedroom.
After testing out several green paints, she finally found the perfect match: Sherwin-Williams Secret Garden. “Now I spend lots of time in this little reading nook I created in less than a weekend,” she says.
Blend Your Billys With Your Wall Color
When you paint your bookcases the same color as your wall, your shelfie styling will become the star, just like in Heather Rosie Olive’s joyful home. If your wall color is this dusty blue—Barking Creek by Valspar—and your dining room décor a melange of pastels, all the better.
Configure a Cute Corner
Here’s a hack for those who hate the hardware store: simply create a corner of Billy Bookcases. Eventually, these Billys will be officially hacked, Rasa T-Brasiene says, but for now, the natural wood coordinates perfectly with the rest of her décor and allows the white ceramics that she showcases to pop.