Before & After: This IKEA BILLY hack brings a hint of Scandinavia to a stylish living room

The Swedish classic has had a makeover – this is how an IKEA icon became a built-in focal point

BILLY bookcase hack
(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

The BILLY bookcase is no stranger to a makeover, but this latest transformation is one of the most unrecognizable to date. The project in question comes from designer Claire Douglas who reinvented the BILLY into a bespoke library that will stand as a permanent talking point in her home. 

If you're naturally inspired by this IKEA hack, then fear not. Claire Douglas (opens in new tab) has revealed the steps behind the makeover – so you can recreate this built-in staple in your own home. This is the modern living room idea every BILLY (opens in new tab) deserves. 

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack – before 

IKEA BILLY hack in a living room

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

After picking up and constructing the flatpack, Claire (opens in new tab) experimented with the positions of the units before fixing them to her wall. She then constructed a wooden strip frame and added an MDF sheet to seal the gap between the top of the BILLY and the ceiling.

She then glued MDF strips over the joining to give the illusion of a thicker appearance before filling the gaps down the sides of the wall. In closing the gaps, the designer truly emphasized the bespoke aesthetic – thus creating a 'built-in' unit for a fraction of the price. 

Once the top of the space was complete, Claire began work on the base – adding a skirting board that concealed the individual bookcase bases. She then further camouflaged the unit's flatpack roots by filling the pre-drilled shelf holes and adding MDF panels with poly filler. 

IKEA BILLY hack in a living room

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

She then sanded the MDF and filler and added two coats of MDF primer for an unrecognizable finish. 

IKEA BILLY bookcase hack – after  

IKEA BILLY hack in a living room

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

After completing the bookcase, Claire picked up ornaments from Facebook Marketplace to fill the gaps without a significant investment. 

'I cut foliage and greenery from the garden to help fill the gaps and to give a more natural and rustic feel,' Claire says. 'I've also picked up a few bits from some online shops recently too and paired with some antique books to create an interesting mix of old and new color and texture.'

IKEA BILLY hack in a living room

(Image credit: Claire Douglas)

This is the BILLY bookcase hack we wish we had known about sooner. However, there's still just enough time for a pre-Christmas trip to IKEA…

Megan is a News Writer across Future Plc’s homes titles, including Livingetc and Homes & Gardens. As a News Writer, she often focuses on micro-trends, wellbeing, celebrity-focused pieces, and everything IKEA. 


Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and expansive collection of houseplants.