Before & After: This IKEA BILLY is now a sophisticated exhibition space

A designer has created built-in alcove shelves from the iconic flatpack – this is how to get the look

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack
(Image credit: Liz / @prettyprospectcottage)

IKEA’s BILLY may be known as a bookcase, but the famous flatpack is not restricted to hardbacks. Instead, designers worldwide have transformed their units into bespoke furnishings that are unrecognizable from their minimalist roots – and this project is no exception.

This IKEA hack comes courtesy of Liz (@prettyprospectcottage), who used BILLY to create a built-in alcove that stands as an exhibition space in her living room. And while Liz has paid homage to BILLY’s original purpose with a curation of art and poetry books, she has filled the unit with stylish art pieces and accessories to give the space a chic gallery feel. 

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack

(Image credit: Liz / @prettyprospectcottage)

Naturally, this statement piece deserves reproduction – and there is no one better to learn from than the individual behind its design. Here, Liz reveals what you need to know.

IKEA BILLY built-in alcove – Before 

IKEA BILLY lifestyle shot

BILLY styled by IKEA

(Image credit: IKEA)

Liz shares that she had always wanted built-in alcove shelves, but her previous attempts were unsuccessful and didn’t offer the finish she craved. ‘I knew I needed to think outside the box to make it work on a tight budget,’ she says. So, she picked up two slim BILLY bookcases via Facebook Marketplace and started work. 

Firstly, Liz created a raised platform at skirting board height from CLS timber (screwed securely into the back wall) and a piece of MDF. This was for the units to stand upon. ‘I [then] put the bookcases on top and fixed them to the wall with small blocks of CLS timber and metal brackets,’ she adds. 

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack

(Image credit: Liz / @prettyprospectcottage)

To emphasize the ‘built-in’ style, Liz then made a frame surround for the units using molding that matched the paneling details elsewhere in the room. ‘I added a piece of skirting board along the front bottom edge and had a strip of timber cut to fit the gap in the middle,’ she explains. 

‘[Then] I used wood filler to fill all of the shelf adjuster holes and any other gaps and sanded the whole of the bookcases.’  

IKEA BILLY built-in alcove – After  

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack

(Image credit: Liz / @prettyprospectcottage)

Once the units were in place and prepared for painting, Liz chose a color to match her living room walls – to accentuate the bespoke aura further. She finished with a coat of matt varnish before experimenting with different modern decor ideas to find the right accessories for the gallery space. 

Key pieces include the modernist sculpture and the overflow of leaves that add an element of biophilia to the already fashionable space.  

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack

(Image credit: Liz / @prettyprospectcottage)

This IKEA BILLY bookcase hack deserves reproduction in homes (and galleries) globally. Will you see this in your favorite museum? Watch this space.  

Megan Slack
Megan Slack

Megan is a News Writer across Future Plc's Homes titles. She has a background in national newspapers in the UK and has experience in fashion and travel journalism, which she previously practised whilst living in Paris and New York City. Her adoration for these fashion capitals means she particularly loves writing about contemporary styles and trends for Livingetc.