You wouldn't know it used to be 4 Billy bookcases! A clever IKEA hack totally transformed this dining room

These inspired built-in shelves add a timeless touch to this stylish neutral room

A dining room with arched built-in shelving painted cream
(Image credit: Rachael Young (@firsthouseonfinn))

The IKEA BILLY bookcase is a furniture hacker fave, and for good reason. While there's a lot to love about this iconic flat-pack bookcase even in its simplest form, it's proven itself a versatile staple among the DIY community, especially when it comes to built-ins. 

For bespoke open-shelving with practical storage, the BILLY really is your best friend, and no one knows that better than home renovator Rachael Young (@firsthouseonfinn). Faced with an empty wall and limited storage, she decided to use a budget-friendly IKEA hack to transform her front room. With four BILLY units, a lick of paint, and some MDF, she transformed her bookcases into built-in decorative arches that add a timeless touch to her space. Here's how she did it. 

A dining room with four arched built in shelves made from IKEA Billy bookcases

(Image credit: Rachael Young (@firsthouseonfinn))

Originally an office space, Rachael decided to transform her room as part of the One Room Challenge, hoping it would be a relatively simple project to complete whilst pregnant with her daughter. 'Spoiler alert: It took a lot longer than we anticipated,' she admits. 'We only made it to weeks two and three of the One Room Challenge, but it didn’t stop us from finishing the room.'

Rachael's main goal was to turn the spacious front room into a more functional space. 'The room was previously a workspace that I no longer needed,' she says. 'It also wasn't my style and didn’t flow with the rest of my home.' She decided to keep the desk, add more seating, and create her DIY shelving for extra storage, turning the space into a flexible room that the whole family could use. 

Before she got underway with her project, Rachael carefully planned out a design mock-up to visualize the new space. She wanted the room to have a more cohesive feel with the rest of her home, so she took inspiration from other furniture items. 'I designed the built-ins with arches to play off of the arched cabinet from Magnolia we have in our great room,' she explains. 

A dining room with four arched built in shelves

(Image credit: Rachael Young (@firsthouseonfinn))

When it came to the more physical undertakings of Rachale's IKEA BILLY bookcase hack, her partner Garret stepped in to help out. 'First, we took off all of the molding, crown, and baseboard from the wall,' Rachael explains. 'We had to be extra careful with the crown molding especially because we wanted to reuse it and not have to find a replacement piece.'

After assembling one BILLY bookcase unit, they could gather an idea of the spacing between each set of shelves. 'We had to figure out how many bookcases and how many height extensions we would need for our space,' Rachael explains. 'For our 9-foot ceilings we needed two height extensions per bookcase, so we used a total of four BILLY bookcases, and eight height extensions.'

Between each unit, the couple installed 2x4s which they secured to the bookcases using white trim screws. For a seamless look, they used 1/2 inch MDF for the faces and arches which they measured using semi-circle templates that they cut using a router and circle jig. 'Looking back, we could have used a product that was easier to work with, like plywood, although it is double the price,' says Rachael. 'The MDF tended to tear out instead of cut cleanly.'

A dining room with arched built-in shelving painted cream

(Image credit: Rachael Young (@firsthouseonfinn))

Once the arches were nailed to the bookcases, Rachael and Garrett reattached the crown molding at the top for a truly built-in appearance, applying filler before sanding for a smooth finish. 

Finally, after sanding and a coat of Zinsser's B-I-N primer, it was time to paint. 'I chose the color Cinnamon Sugar by Magnolia, and decided to try a full monochrome look for the first time,' says Rachael. 'We painted the walls, trim, baseboards - everything but the ceiling - in Cinnamon Sugar. This really made the bookcases look like true built-ins!' 

For the finished look, it was just a case of decorating with some black accents. 'I purchased new chairs from Target and lots of new decor to fill the shelves,' says Rachael. 'We also spray painted our old chandelier black so it better matched the room.' The result is an ultra-modern, monochromatic space that still exudes warmth and comfort, perfect for Rachael's family home. 

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Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.