Transforming a living space – Boring BILLY to a cosy cabinet

When we first moved into our rented apartment, we decided we would just decorate with IKEA furniture and wait until we bought our home before investing in more expensive pieces. I’m a big IKEA fan, so any excuse to pop out there and go shopping was good for me.

We went with the BILLY range for the living room. Mainly to keep costs down and it was the quickest to install.

However, as it turned out, five years later we were still in our apartment and looking at this piece of furniture. It was only supposed to tide us over for a year or so and after five years, everything looked so rental.

Of course, if I knew then what I know now, I would never have bought the colour white. The off-white walls have become more grubby and colourful furniture against them would look much better. But alas!

I needed a change, it was all very boring and very, very white.


When we bought the BILLY bookcase, we didn’t buy the upper section that usually goes over the TV to complete the unit. So we went back to get that. However, when we got there our BILLY version was discontinued so we couldn’t get the section we were looking for.

So we decided to make it ourselves. We bought two white shelves and some nice brackets.

We used a wood connector to attach one of the shelves to the existing bookcase on both ends.

Upper shelf8

And then simply hung the second shelf and brackets underneath to give it a finished TV unit look.

Next, I wanted to add warmth to the bookcase. I wasn’t sure whether to spray paint or to use wallpaper.

At first, I tried spray painting the doors. I wasn’t sure how this would work out nor the colour, so we sprayed the inside of the door to try it out.

Spray paint7

But while it looked fine for the inside of the doors, I didn’t think it would work over a larger surface area. So we decided to spray the inside of all the doors and leave it at that.

Plan B was to use wallpaper. We removed the shelves from the bookcase and started to add the wallpaper. We weren’t sure how it would work, so we just held our breath & hoped for the best. Thankfully, it looked good!


Placing the wallpaper took a little bit of time, as it required lining up each sheet of paper carefully to maintain the pattern.

Finally, a bit of a dust down and we got to put everything back together!



And to finish the look, I wanted to add handles on the doors. I’m fussy about door handles so it took a while to find ones I liked, but eventually I found these lovely ones in Zara Home in Lyon, France.


The final result is a much cosier living room. The wallpaper makes the room feel warmer and its’ colour takes away the boring off-white that is the norm in rental accommodation. The entire unit allows me to display items and books that we love and overall it gives us a much more organised and welcoming living space.


For my first attempt at an IKEA hack, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out! It’s not the living room of my dreams, but it’ll keep us going for a while anyway!

~ Sarah Reynolds