Built-in hack turns BILLY bookcase into a bespoke display cabinet

built in billy bookcase with tv

We wanted to create the perfect playroom/snug for our growing boys, where they could easily find all of their toys and books, but also relax and watch movies together with their friends. But we were quoted over £3,500 for bespoke cabinets.

We couldn’t justify the cost, so decided to try an IKEA hack.

BILLY bookcase built-in hack with Oxberg or custom doors

IKEA items used: 

BILLY bookcase and C-shaped coving for the top
BILLY Bookcase with OXBERG doors (IKEA.com) | C-shaped coving (B&Q)

Other materials used:

  • Spirit level
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 x B&Q heritage C-shaped coving (2m x 94mm) (come in pack of 4)
  • 2.4m length strips of ply/wood x 4 (4.5cm wide) to cover gaps between cabinets
  • 2.4m length strips of ply/wood x 3 (2.5cm wide) to cover front of shelving
  • CT1 to glue strips and alcoving to cabinet
  • Decorators Caulk for edges
  • Sawpack of L-brackets to connect bookcases to walls
  • 2.4 x 10cm mdf for kickboard
  • Zinsser primer 
  • Farrow & Ball Cornforth White paint (colour matched in Tikkurila Helmi10)
  • Yesterhome antique brass door knobs x 6 (3cm wide)

Built-in BILLY bookcase hack for our boys room

1. Measure out the room.  I was extremely lucky, as the room measured just over 240cm wide.  Each bookcase is 80cm, so three bookshelves fitted into the space perfectly, with space for a frame around the edge for a bespoke look.  

2. Place BILLY bookcases side by side. Screw each bookcase to the wall using L-brackets to hold securely in place.

3. Buy ply/wood strips and cut to size (4.5cm wide for between each cabinet and to both sides of the wall, 2.5cm for face of all shelving).  Glue into place using CT1.

Add ply strips to cover the joints

4. Connect MDF cut to size for kick-board.  Ensure doors sit correctly before fitting in place.

5. Check all doors fit correctly, then remove to prime.

6. Cut and glue alcoving into place.

BILLY bookcase built-in hack with open shelving

7. Use decorators caulk around all edges.

8. Prime cabinet and doors in Zinsser 123 primer.

9. 2/3 x top coat of Farrow & Ball Cornforth White, colour matched with Tikkurila Helmi10 (great for hardwearing coverage).

10. Add doors.

Screw in door handles (Yesterhome aged brass mushroom knob 30mm) in centre of frame at circa 20cm from top of door.

BILLY bookcase built-in hack with Oxberg or custom doors

How long and how much did it cost?

We originally used the IKEA OXBERG doors and painted the cabinets dark.  Unfortunately, the paint we used didn’t adhere particularly well to the doors or cabinets, so we decided to start again and buy better quality primer and top coat paint (this really has made a huge difference).  As the doors had seen better days with the old paint and a bit of a bashing from the boys, we asked our local cabinet maker friend to make replacement doors for us.  It took about 3 days, with many other jobs in between.

  • IKEA BILLY Bookcases x 3 (£80 each) – £340
  • Oxberg doors x 6 (£30 each) – £180 (these were perfectly fine – our replacement doors were free, as were through a local cabinet maker friend)
  • Alcoving x 2 (comes in pack of 4) – £46
  • CT1 x 2 (£13 each) – £26
  • Decorators caulk – we had lots leftover 
  • Strips of ply/wood and mdf for kickboard – £50
  • Zinsser 123 primer – £30
  • Tikkurila Helmi 10 paint (2.5l) – £50
  • Door knobs (£8 each) – £48

TOTAL £770

What do you like most about the built-in BILLY bookcase hack?

It has created bundles of storage and a great tidy space for my children to play – at a fraction of the prices we were quoted.  The shelves behind the doors are surprisingly deceptive in terms of how much storage they create – and how big a box you can fit on the shelving.  We have huge boxes of LEGO, train sets, books, arts and crafts, animals and so much more.  The boys can easily find and take out their favourite toys to play with and put them back (sometimes!), as everything has a place.  I also love the open shelves above the doors for styling with their favourite books and toys.  It has made the cabinets a little more playful and fun, so our boys feel like its their own special space to enjoy!

What to pay special attention to?

For this BILLY bookcase hack to look bespoke, it really does need to be painted well, using a good quality primer and hard wearing paint.  We tried to save money here initially and the paint chipped and looked awful very quickly.  This made for more work with us having to start again with better quality paint.

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

If you can find someone to make made to measure replacement doors, it definitely gives a more bespoke look.  We were very lucky to get ours for free, but if we had found a reasonably priced carpenter, I think this is worth the money.  If not, I still think the OXBERG doors look really great.  

Friends and family visiting couldn’t believe it was an Ikea hack, as they really do look like bespoke cabinets.  On my instagram account @justonemorebuild, the feedback has been really lovely, with lots of people asking for more information, so they can create the built-in BILLY bookcase hack in their own homes.

~ by Jodi Peters @justonemorebuild

Jules Yap