This clever IKEA hack combines two different units for a stylish built-in that looks bespoke, but doesn't cost it

It's hard to believe that the bespoke shelving in this living room is an IKEA hack and not an expensive, custom design

an ikea hack for green built-in cabinets
(Image credit: Romane Giet (@romy_home_design))

You've definitely heard of the IKEA BILLY bookcase, right? And while you may have  also even heard of the HEMNES, what about their long lost cousin, the GERSBY? Wider yet shallower than other bookcases by the Swedish furniture powerhouse, it's hard to believe it could become more functional than it already is.

Yet, we've discovered this clever IKEA hack that pairs the GERSBY with METOD kitchen cabinets for multi-functional built-in shelving that makes the perfect addition to this London living room.  With a coat of sage green paint, some plywood, and a bit of know-how, this IKEA hack adds a contemporary twist to the Art Deco style look of this living room. 

It's all thanks to the work of home renovator Romy Giet (@romy_home_design (opens in new tab)) who shares the DIY upcycling projects she's carried out in her west London flat over on Instagram. Here, she shares how she achieved the bespoke built-in look by fitting two IKEA staples together.

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. A personal fan of the Scandi-inspired interior, her job entails keeping up with everything there is to know about the Swedish powerhouse IKEA. Paired with her insight into the latest home renovation projects, she regularly shares IKEA hacks with readers to inspire their own DIY projects in home design. 

The shelving project in Romy's living room was part of a full refurbishment of her west London flat, set within a historic stucco Georgian building. Prior to the renovation, her floorplan lacked practicality and the room offered little in terms of comfort. 'The sofa was very awkwardly positioned just below the windows blocking the views on the gardens and we had to cross the seating area to access the kitchen – it wasn’t cozy nor practical,' she explains.

Romy knew she wanted shelving that was both practical and stylish so she sought to maximize space in the living space with built-in furnishings, and she was keen to mimic the period features you typically find in historic Georgian buildings. 'The aim of the project was therefore to give the best orientation to the living room and to create an eye-catching feature wall with storage and shelves for books and decorations.' The answer? An IKEA hack.

An empty room prior to renovation

(Image credit: Romane Giet (@romy_home_design))

Before she could make a start on her shelving idea, Romy's first step was to create the alcoves by adding plasterboard in the center of the wall to create an alcove on each side. 'I thrifted a decorative period fireplace to stand in the center of the newly built plasterboards,' she says. 'We made sure that the alcoves were both wide enough for two 23.5 inch wide cabinets.'

For the custom shelving, Romy used four kitchen METOD cabinets (opens in new tab) and four GERSBY bookcases (opens in new tab). 'We chose not to use BILLY bookcases as they don't exist with a 23.5 inch, which we needed.'

A living room with custom shelving in the process of being built, with LED lights in the alcove shelving

(Image credit: Romane Giet (@romy_home_design))

During the renovation, Romy asked her builders to place the bookcases on top of each kitchen cabinet to make her life easier. The space allowed for two full-height cabinets on each side of the fireplace which were simply glued and then screwed together.

'To recreate the period features, we cut MDF boards to frame the cabinets with an arch-shape at the top, inspired by the arch of our cast-iron fireplace,' Romy says. 'We then filled the holes with wood filler, sanded everything and painted the whole newly-created piece with Little Greene Paint.'

A living room with empty arched built-in alcove shelving

(Image credit: Romane Giet (@romy_home_design))

The outside of the cabinets and shelving is painted in Little Green's shade Ambleside (opens in new tab), and Lamp Black (opens in new tab) was used on the inside to create a moody contrast. There are also LED lights within the shelving to brighten up the display and add a little pizzazz. For a similar backlit effect around mirrors, shelves or other furnishings, we love these LED strip lights from Amazon (opens in new tab).

a living room with green arched alcove shelving decorated with books and art work

(Image credit: Romane Giet (@romy_home_design))

The finished project is a real show-stopper. We love how the Art Deco style arched shelves marry so well with the curved design of the statement lighting fixture. Along with the classic style cabinetry, this built-in look gives a traditional look a modern twist for an elevated look that compliments this living room so well. 

'Now we have a feature wall that really stands out with open shelves to display decoration, and plenty of closed storage to store away everything that usually just says on the coffee table,' explains Romy. 'The seating area seems bigger and we do not need to walk through the middle of the living room to access the kitchen anymore, which gives a much cozier feel.'

Romy shows that decorating bookshelves is an art form in itself. A selection of plants, books and artwork show that thoughtfully curated shelves make all the difference, and the finished result is a feast for the eyes, situated around a Samsung The Frame TV, which can be disguised as artwork when not in use. If this were our home, we'd be admiring it for hours!

Lilith Hudson
Junior writer

Lilith Hudson is the Junior Writer on Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news articles for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration that you need in your home. She 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. Lilith now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London (a degree where she could combine both) and has previously worked at the Saturday Times Magazine, ES Magazine, DJ Mag and The Simple Things Magazine.