An Under $100 IKEA Bookcase Makeover that Looks Like a Built-In
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The Billy bookcase offers $49 worth of hope and promise that whatever room it dwells in might feel just a tish more interesting. And, if the stars align, it will play a part in organizing all the books and random knick knacks of your life — finally! Yes, those beautiful nooks in the IKEA showroom highlight its sleek and minimal style, but once home among our not-so-sleek and minimal decor, they can look pretty sparse and much like office furniture.
This was my experience (times 3!), so after six months of staring at these sad bookcases, I decided it was time to beef them up with a little ingenious trim.
I’d seen many Billy bookcase hacks online and understood the basics: I’d need trim (lots of it), a miter saw, caulk, and a pneumatic nail gun. The trim and saw I could handle, but the nail gun wasn’t coming to the party. We’re renting, so even though I could probably get away with nailing trim to the bookshelves and not damaging the walls, I needed to be able to easily deconstruct the set of three bookshelves someday when we move.
I gave it some thought, and decided I could probably get away with using (drumroll, please) 3M Command strips! That’s right: I’d get the look of a built-in without the commitment of actually having a built-in.
Step 1: Mock It Up and Make a Plan
Every project starts out as a doodle for me, so I sketched the row of three bookshelves, then measured each section I’d need trim for. I labeled each length on my sketch, then made a checklist for myself when I went shopping. I decided the easiest way to add the trim would be to have a 4-inch wide piece for the top as well as the bottom, and 2-inch wide pieces that would run vertically and cover the area where the two bookshelves adjoined. This seemed super simple to me because I would only need to measure and cut two different lengths.
Step 2: Choose the Trim
As with all my projects, I wanted this to be fast, easy, and inexpensive, so I went in search of the most budget-friendly products I could find in the trim section at the hardware store. I knew I wanted to buy lattice trim for the 2-inch vertical pieces; it’s only 1/4-inch thick and not too spendy at just under $6 for an 8-foot length.
For the top horizontal piece I checked out crown molding but wasn’t excited to pay $5-$8 per linear foot, so I ended up going with a simple primed MDF base molding that cost $1.77/ linear foot. I considered buying the same for the top horizontal piece, but instead chose a primed fiberboard that was a bit lighter in weight. The fiberboard was $2.37/linear foot, but I didn’t want anything too heavy going at the top since I was using temporary methods to hold it in place.
Step 3: Choose the Finishing Method
Of course, for a super finished look on a permanent shelf installation, you’ll want to pull out that pneumatic nail gun and really secure that sucker. However, as I mentioned, I needed this to be temporary, so I ended up buying 3M Command strips. I figured I would need at least 21 strips for the three shelves, if not a few more. I purchased a mix of 3-pound and 6-pound strips, realizing I wouldn’t need anything too heavy duty for the vertical lattice strips, but would definitely need something heavier for the base and top molding.
Step 4: Cut and Install Trim
Using a simple miter saw, I trimmed the top and base molding to size and used a sanding block to knock off any splintered ends for a smoother finish. To install the base, I pressed the command strips together and stuck them on the bookshelf along the bottom, making sure to only place them on the outermost edges that the molding would touch. To make this easier, I held the molding in place and then tipped it forward so I could reach the exact spot the strip needed to go, then I set the molding to the side and removed the stickers from the front of the command strips I’d just pressed to the bookcase.
Once the stickers were off, I pressed the molding in place so it would stick to the open side of the command stickers. It held well, but I decided it was a good idea to err on the excessive side, and popped the molding off again (the front strip stayed on the backside of the molding and the back strip stayed on the bookcase), got out my staple gun, and put a staple through each command strip to really be sure it would stay in place.
Lo and behold, my genius idea to use command strips on the top horizontal molding wasn’t a great idea, and it ended up falling down!
I’m a mom and I obviously think about falling things and safety and kids all the time, so I started brainstorming an alternative- but-still-removable option for securing the top piece to the bookshelf. What I came up with was using the ever versatile L bracket. I bought two 1 1/2-inch corner braces and installed one on the top furthest corner of the bookshelves. I had to take the extensions down to do this, because I only had a clearance of about 3-inches, and needed space to get to the vertical part of the brace to attach the molding.
Before returning the far left shelf extension with the newly attached corner brace, I attached the molding to the brace because there was no way for me to reach it once it was back up. My husband helped me put the left extension piece with the molding attached at one side back in place (he held the molding up on the right side), then I quickly hopped over and put the right extension piece back in place, grabbed my drill, and connected the molding piece to the other corner brace on the far right extension. It worked like a charm, and I only wish I would have been able to add a bracket to the middle extension as well, but it would have been impossible to put three connected extensions with the molding back on top of the bookshelves, so I counted it a win and moved on!
Step 5: Install Vertical Lattice Strips
The vertical lattice strips were the easiest to install. I measured the area between the bottom of the top molding and the top of the bottom molding, added a 1/4-inch and then cut the strips. I wanted to leave a bit of excess so I could tuck the trim under the molding on the top horizontal piece to make it look seamless.
Once the trim was cut perfectly, I added four command strips to the front of the bookshelves where the sides touched, and also to the front of the shelves on the endcaps. Using a level, I started the lattice strips at the bottom, and carefully worked my way up to the top, tucking the tiny bit of excess under the bottom of the top molding piece. I repeated this step until all the front sides were covered, and the bookshelf started looking seamless and more substantial.
The Total Cost of the Project
All in, with our big ol’ Chicago sales tax, this budget project would have cost me $95.21, but cashier Diane hooked me up with a customer satisfaction discount so I saved $10, bringing my total to $85.21! She also told me I was pretty (in the way that only moms can do) and that she liked my sunglasses, so I figure that was worth at least $50 of therapy, bringing my adjusted cost down to $35.21. The Command strips were a big chunk of my budget ($33!), so if you are able to use a nailer that would definitely cut costs.
I’m super happy with how this budget-friendly, renter-friendly, cashier-super-friendly project turned out. I’m so relieved that now when I walk into my house and the first thing I see are my Billy bookcases, they’re no longer the sad skeletons they once were, and I’m no longer ashamed of having purchased them.