Before and After: This Family Room’s IKEA Shelves Look Like Custom Built-Ins, But For a Fraction of the Cost

published Mar 7, 2023
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Before: Dated living room with leather sofas and shades of brown
Credit: Erica Ashe

When Erica and Chris Ashe were house hunting, Erica (@chitownhouse) knew what her dream home looked like, but the problem was, it didn’t really exist in Chicago. “Anything that came sort of close was a ‘new build’ and was easily 30 percent more costly for the same amount of space, and it still was not exactly what I wanted,” she says.

Instead of buying something brand-new, the Ashes bought a 2000 townhome for its location — plopped right in “a little ‘suburb’ in the city,” as Erica writes on her blog. The place had good bones that would allow them to make their mark with renovations that weren’t too over their heads. “I wanted a space that needed renovating but wasn’t a total gut job,” Erica says.

Credit: BHHS Chicago - Isabella De Santis

She and Chris brought this DIY mentality to almost every room in their total townhome transformation, and Erica’s biggest piece of advice is: Don’t discount late-’90s/early-2000s homes when house hunting. “They have so much potential,” Erica says. “In my opinion, they are more worth the bang for your buck than the modern cookie-cutter new builds because you can customize it exactly how you want it and still end up spending less.”

One of Erica’s favorite spaces in her refreshed home is the TV room, a case study in DIY magic. On Erica’s dream home checklist were built-in cabinets for storing odds and ends, and when she got an estimate of $8,000 for custom built-ins, she was crushed — and determined to figure out a solution.

Enter the BILLY bookcase from IKEA, a versatile, extremely hackable piece of furniture that Erica and Chris turned into totally believable built-ins using this tutorial and white paint on the walls.

Erica and Chris bought four 32″ x 80″ BILLY Bookcases, four height extenders, two 32″ x 40″ BILLYs with doors, and eight OXBERG Doors from IKEA, poured a cup of coffee, put on a podcast, and got to work. They assembled all the shelves and drilled holes in the back for entertainment system cords. Then they mounted the shelves to the walls and painted the walls with Behr’s Falling Snow to match.

To make the shelves look seamless with the walls, Erica says you can add a bit of pre-cut wood painted the same color to fill in any extra space in the corners and then seal the gap between wood and the walls.

Credit: Erica Ashe

After mounting the bookcases, it was time to add the doors and hardware. Erica opted for black leather pulls from Etsy that went in with one screw.

From the IKEA products to the paint to the pulls, she and Chris ended up spending $800 on the shelves. “That’s right, we knocked a whole zero off of that estimate,” Erica says. For just 10 percent of the initial estimate, they built an equal parts stylish and storage-packed media room accent wall. How’s that for an IKEA hack?

This post was originally published on Apartment Therapy. Read it there: Before and After: These IKEA Shelves Look Like Custom Built-Ins (for a Fraction of the Cost)