Pimp your Billy – a 10 step tutorial

The Hack backdrop, on a personal level…

I deemed my 4 old Billy shelves as:

1. a bit dingy (after years of heavy use)
2. a bit too basic (I bought them a poor student)…
3. a bit boring (being all plain n´ all..)
4. a bit insufficient and inefficient their 202cm height
left wasted 80cm space up to my 280cm ceiling…
What to make of all of this I thought?!
Go to the dump? Buy new bookshelves? Hire a carpenter? ….
No – instead I opted for some Pimping & ScrapHacking Action!
So I hereby present……
– The Brave New Billy!

Follow my 10-step tutorial below for some D.I.Y action!

A 10 step Tutorial – How to pimp-your-Billy!


  • IKEA Billy shelves (preferably 40cm, as 80cm tend to cave in after a while…I used my old Billy 60cm which are unfortunately no longer to be found in the IKEA Billy assortment).
  • IKEA Faktum kitchen cabinets (37cm deep, 70cm high, and in a width that matches your Billy. Ex. If you have two 40cm Billies, opt for a 80cm Faktum). You´ll also need to make your own choice on IKEA Faktum kitchen cabinet doors (I used IKEA Lidingö)
  • IKEA Integral hinges for Faktum
  • IKEA Door knobs, I used IKEA Svep
  • (For me with the 60cm Billy-  Some IKEA Leksvik coat hangers…)

From the hard wear store/lumber yard

  • Beam (to create a bottom base – I used 95mm)
  • Base Board, same dimension of the beam (since the purpose of the board is to cover the beam, I used 95mm).
  • Board of wood or MDF, approx 40 cm wide and the length of the total of the side-by-side Billy Units (to use as top board on top of the IKEA Faktum and under the Billies).
  • Board of wood or MDF, approx 30 cm wide and the height of the Billy (to cover exposed Billy sides).
  • Angle Braces (to fasten Billy to wall, 6pcs for each Billy)
  • Filler plugs
  • Wood trim, about 44mm wide, to cover the vertical mating edges of the Billy Shelves (in Stockholm I found a good choice @ Fredells, Nacka).
  • Wood trim, about 20-21mm wide, to cover the horisontal front ledge of the individual shelves of the Billy bookshelf.
  • Wood sealer
  • White paint (and brushes)
  • Some filler (to fill up the holes in the Leksvik Coat Hangers and for a lite smudge over nail heads after fastening of trim)
  • Some glue
  • Wire nails (to fasten the wood trim)
  • Some scrap pieces of wood (to place between the Billy/Faktum and the wall when fastening)
  • Some doublesided adhesive pads
  • (if you like me will build shelves over a door frame you need to construct a top shelf unit, doing this myself, I needed the following: i.) Board, Approx 30cm Wide×Length, approx the width of your door frame´+5cm ii.) Billy Height Extension units to match the width of your door frame iii.) some scrap pieces of 30cm 28cm wide board and iv.) a top board of 28cm wide×Length, approx the width of your door frame´+5cm.


  • Carpenter´s rule
  • Pencil
  • Circular saw
  • Drill/screw driver
  • Clamps
  • Hammer
  • Nail Center Punch


1. Planning

Take the measurements of the wall where you´ll place your customized Billy´s. Compare to the IKEA Billy assortment. For each Billy unit you plan on using you´ll need a Faktum unit of the same width dimension. Look through the steps presented below and I am sure you´ll get the logics of this hack!

2. Sourcing and visiting the lumber yard

What you need from the lumber yard is wood trim, beam-, and board material. Firstly, you´ll need the vertical trims that will go along the vertical mating edges/outer edges of your Billies  – I used symmetric 44mm (W) trim for this, and in the lumber yard I sawed the material into sticks that were approx 210cm long at the lumberyard (you need at least 202cm as 202cm is the height of the average full height Billy). Secondly, you´ll need trim that will run along the front ledge of the individual shelves in the Billy shelves, for this purpose, I used 20-21mm asymmetric trim. (If you like me, will build shelf unit over a door frame, you´ll also need trim for that!).

I took my long trim sticks home by public transport…This required some logistical creativity..

2. Paint board & wood trims…

Back home, work can begin!

Start by a.) sealing the wood with wood sealer…

…then continue by b.) applying a primer coat and c.) a final coat (I used high gloss white)

Painting the wood trim is a bit tricky. Using the support of 2 trestles helped me a lot (painting the trims lying direct on the ground will not result in pretty looking edges…)

In my case (working with 60cm wide Billys) the painting bit also included painting of 4 Leksvik coat hangers. They will be used in the hack is as trompe-l´oeil drawers, covering slots at the base of the Billy shelves.

3. Chop board

Top Board (that will lie on top of the Faktum Cabinets): Chop the board to a size which is slightly bigger than the Faktum top (that the board will be resting on). Having ledges ”sticking out” approx 3 cm on each side of the structure and in front, creates a balanced feel.

Side board (that will be mounted onto the exposed, outer side of the Billy shelf): Chop the board to a size which is slightly wider than the Billy (which is 28cm). You want the back edge of the board to lay flat against the back fall, and the front edge to lie tight side by side to the front of the exposed Billy side (the wood trim will be fastened to hide the mating edges…).

2. Work your way up…

Build a base structure using the beams. The base should be of a matching proportion of the IKEA Faktum units. This structure will lift the IKEA Faktum from the ground, creating a ”airy” feel to what will be a rather big structure.

2. Mount the IKEA Faktum cabinet and the board

Here you can see the effect of the ledges ”sticking out”. This step includes a.) Mounting the cabinet to the base b.) gluing the board onto the Faktum cabinets (clamps add pressure while drying)  c.) Fastening the cabinet to the wall (I had to use some scrap pieces of wood as a distance between the back of the cabinet and the wall, building approx 3cm).

3. Mounting Billy onto the Faktum

This step includes a.) mounting the Billy on top of the Faktum (with the board in between the two) b.) fastening the Billy to the wall, I used sturdy angle irons (see top left corner of photo below) c.) fitting the side board to between the top of the Faktum unit and the shelf that I installed right on top of my door frame (for the built-in look), as previously mentioned you want the side board to have tight back fit towards the wall and a tight front fit where the edge of the board and the front edge of the exposed Billy side will lay side by side.


4. Creating a snug, customized fit

For my hack, I wanted to use space over the door frame. I did this by following these steps:

a.) I created a base board/shelf using the same width dimension of board used to cover the exposed outer side of the Billy, the length was adjusted to fit the width of the door frame and was made to lie/be supported by the side cover board units (study the picture below and you will see how I did this) b.) On top of the base board I mounted a customized construction which I made out of two old Billy Height extension units I had and some scrap pieces of board.

The height of this construction was determined by the distance from the door frame
to the upper edge of the big Faktum/Billy unit (on the left)….
As you can see from the picture above, the construction needs to be tidied up, seeing all those mating edges is not a pretty sight…And this is where the wood trims come into the hack!

5. Time for prim trims!

Start out with the trims that cover the horisontal front edges of the individual shelves inside the Billys…In doing this, I used a great little tool called a Nail/Centre Punch. That tool makes sure you wont crush the sensitive trim with the blows from your hammer as it provides a intermediary nail.

Continue by mounting the vertical trims…

Final detail adjustments will most likely be necessary!

6. Mount your choice of door to the cabinets

I used IKEA Lidingö doors. As I used 60cm Billys´and consequently 60cm Faktum cabinets, I opted for a 2×30cm door setup for each unit! The screw-free IKEA hinge system means adding doors is done in a couple of minutes!

7. The Leksvik rack hack!

From rack to trompe l´oeil drawer…Mount the racks by following these steps a.) fasten the door knobs b.) fasten a wooden block (approx W:5cm, L:5cm and D:2cm) to the back of the individual rack c.) add some strong double sided adhesive pads and stick the back of the rack to the front of the base of the Billy.

8. Add doorknobs…

9. Add bottom base board for a chic cover up

As you can see in the photo above I covered the beam base structure with base board. There are great many varieties out there, just remember the width of the board should match the height of the base beam structure (I used 95mm in both instances)…When getting corners right (and matching 45∘angels, I used a great tool where pre-made slots make sure I get the angles right. Unfortunately, I don´t really know what the tool is called, but see below for a features photo where the angled slots are visible! Perhaps you will have better luck than me in Googling the answer to that one!

10. Enjoying the Brave New Billies!

So, now, after lots of work, and heavy lifts of all the books back in place…I present the customized Billy Hack! Hope you will do some Billy Hacking of your own and that you found this hack inspiring! For me, the hack felt like an achievement as I resisted the throw-out/buy new temptation…

Instead of tossing my old Billies, I upcycled them! Deemed dingy, boring, insufficient, inefficient… they morphed into something great looking, inspiring, sufficient and efficient! The hack captures the essence of ScrapHacking as the pimping and hacking turned this ”scrap” to something quite wonderful – simply by investing some time, creativity and practical action in the problem solving process!


Hack Outro…

Did you know that IKEA has sold over 41 million Billy bookshelves since the 1979 launch?

If you laid them all out in one long line the line would be over 70.000km long
– that´s actually twice the distance around the equator!

The Billy shelf, designed by Gillis Lundgren, is a modern icon. I find it somehow simultaneously symbolize the democratization of knowledge (access to/ownership of books), the advent of democratic interior design (access to affordable furniture) and social change (access to living space/capita big enough to have bookshelves).

However, although the Billy is highly practical, and although Billy shelves do have a great inherent, symbolic meaning, they also present a sustainability challenge, at both ends of the production/consumption cycle…

IKEA boasts suberb logistic skills, yet inescapably, millions of bookshelves means millions of flatpacks shipped to IKEA stores around the world. On its way to new homes, a typical Billy shelf continue its journey by car or lorry. After some years of dutiful book storage, the journey of a typical Billy will continue…As your typical Billy shelf do not tend to fall into the heirloom category and as they (being cheap to begin with, and living in a era revolutionized by e-books and new media) don´t really have that much of a 2nd hand value, their destiny will be a final voyage to the dump. On its way there, we are yet again faced with the transportation issue, and lastly the recycling challenge. In my (part of the) city, a Billy bookshelf would most probably be burnt and converted into new energy, but in other cities and in other parts of the world, Billys´ might very well up in land fills…

All of this, makes those 41 million Billys´seem a bit intimidating…However, personally I prefer seeking opportunity over dystopic dwelling. As I love new media (and all of its inherent possibilities!) I find it hard to complain about the fact that the Billys´of the world are becoming redundant. Books and Billys´ will be around in our homes for quite some time to come, that´s why we need to get creative, and start realizing the full potential of our Billys´!

I would argue that the best way to achieve this is to start ScrapHacking! /Best of Luck Billy Hacking!

19 Responses to “Pimp your Billy – a 10 step tutorial”
  1. Jenny skriver:

    Wow! This is fabulous! Thank you for such a detailed tutorial. I’m not sure I can manage this on my own, but you’ve confirmed me in my decision to get 40cm Billys, not 80cm. Disappointed to find out that 60cm no longer made, and want to avoid the sagging issue. The question now is whether to add some Faktum to the project.


  2. Linda skriver:

    Found your site from Babble’s Family Style. We have been looking for ways to fit all our books in the basement and this may be JUST the solution. Thanks so much.

    • ScrapHacker.com skriver:

      Hey Linda! You should definitely give it a go! If you do I´d love to hear back and see the result;-)
      Best of luck – you can do it!

  3. Claire skriver:

    I also found this hack on Babble, and it’s just what I need for our old city house (with no storage and high ceilings). We’ve previously used the Billy height extensions, but adding the deeper base cabinets will add a classier look and somewhere to put things away out of sight. I also love the over-the-door shelves. Thanks so much for sharing your great design and also for the detailed, easy to understand instructions. Tack så mycket!

  4. Whittney skriver:

    Your saw guide is called a mitre box!

    • ScrapHacker.com skriver:

      Hey! Thanks! Actually learnt that word a while ago but had forgotten to update the tutorial – Have a great weekend!

  5. Kylie skriver:

    I really love your Billy hack and I am inspired enough to do something similar now at my house. I’d like to say a big thank you for the picture of the entrance to the Slussen subway station. I worked in Stockholm on and off over three years on a project for SL. Seeing the station sign made me smile. I have a Skanstull magnet on my fridge because when in Stockholm I usually stayed at the Clarion at Skanstull. It was nice to see something that is probably so everyday for you, but for me it brought me some great memories. Cheers Kylie, Perth Western Australia

    • ScrapHacker.com skriver:

      Hey Kylie! Greetings from Stockholm and a really beautiful spring day. I do hope you get around to some Billy hacking, or any hacking for that matter;-)

      Hope to keep the ScrapHacker blog fresh with inspiration and also add a bit more local Swedish flavor every now and then, so welcome pop by here or ’Like’ ScrapHacker on Facebook for the latest.

      All the best!
      ps. your comment means the world (literally), thank you for taking the time to write it down ds.

  6. Jeanette skriver:

    What an incredible tutorial and so much detail. I am a new owner of the Billy Bookcase collection, and I agree already, they are a bit plain for my taste. I am going to save this as a favorite so refer back. Right now all we are going to do is stencil the backing with vintage maps, but I feel they need more. Again, kudos on a great blog.

  7. Wow, great job and fabulous tutorial too! I’ve got this linked to my Ikea post as well today, for awesome Ikea hacks!

  8. Melissa skriver:

    This is a great idea for storage for a home office or craft/hobby room. I can’t decide which my spare bedroom is shaping up to be, but this shelf system would be great for it, thanks for the idea! And I can see putting a 2 or 3 column unit in my dining room as a China cabinet if I put the clear Billy doors on. Really nice work and it looks great, congratulations!

  9. Sissi skriver:

    Brilliant hack, we’re planning to give it a try! Am worried about the weight resting on the Faktum cabinets, though, and would just like to ascertain that, indeed, you stood the Billies on top of the Faktums.
    We’re going to use our 80 cm Billies and, likewise, 80 cm Faktums.
    happy scraphacking all around!

    • ScrapHacker.com skriver:

      I made sure to fasten the Billys to the wall and also added the additional board in between the Billys and the Faktums – works fine! Good luck giving it a go! /Filippa

  10. Lilah skriver:

    Love, love Ikea and I LOVE this hack!

    Lilah, Denver Interior Designer

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Scrap Hacker.com  on how to “Billy Hack” and make these shelves. But it seems extremely overwhelming and time consuming.. still.. I love Ikea and would really consider giving this a try (one piece at a time) […]

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