DIY IKEA Bookcase Built In Shelves

A step-by-step tutorial for how to make professional looking DIY built-in bookshelves using IKEA bookcase sections for vertical storage.

If there is an Olympic event for building an IKEA bookcase, I think we just took home the gold medal. Because we just went all Billy DIY built in shelves crazy up in here!

Built-in bookshelves are the perfect project if you’ve ever needed more storage, wanted a way to customize a living room or playroom, and add a little extra value to your home.

finished IKEA bookcase built in shelves
DIY IKEA Bookcase Built In Shelves with Oxberg Doors in a playroom
DIY built ins using IKEA bookcases

Benefits of Using IKEA Billy Bookcases for Built Ins

Beginner Friendly

If you’re a home improvement novice with beginner-level carpentry skills, this is the perfect project to try since the most challenging part of building bookcases from scratch is already done for you!


Standard height Billy bookcases at IKEA are $89 each (at the time of publishing this post), and I honestly don’t think you could even build a bookcase from scratch for much less than $89 in lumber.

Customizable Options

As an added perk, Billy bookcases come with lots of accessories and customizable options, like Oxberg doors, to configure your built ins however you would like for your room.

For our playroom /media room makeover, we knew we desperately needed storage in this space. Built ins are the BEST answer for that in any kids’ space to fill up with craft supplies and toys.

But paying a contractor to do the job for us was going to be way out of our budget.

DIY IKEA Billy Bookcase Built In Hacks

UPDATE: It has been over 6 years since completing this DIY built in project, and we have since built multiple IKEA hack built ins adapting the same methods in this tutorial. It just works!

Home Office IKEA Built In Shelves With Glass Doors

Full Wall Playroom Built-In Shelves 

completed DIY built in bookshelves with wood blank wall in a playroom

Half Height Playroom Built In Shelves with IKEA Bookcases

IKEA bookshelves in a playroom

DIY IKEA Built In Closet Using Billy Bookcases

Built in shelves are beautiful in living rooms, bedrooms, home offices, playrooms, rec rooms, closets, even dining rooms.

Anywhere you need custom vertical storage is a great opportunity for built ins. They look high end, but they don’t have to cost high end.

Measuring for DIY Built In Shelves

Our playroom is exactly 214″ wide, which is the measurement I used to figure out exactly how many bookcases we would need to buy to end up with around 4 or 5 inches on each side, so if you want to do them yourself, you’ll need to crunch the numbers to decide for the size of your space.

Billy bookcases are available in 31 1/2″ wide and 15 3/4″ wide (round up to the nearest inch when calculating), so divide your wall’s width to calculate how many bookcases will fit.

Allow at least 4″ of space on either side for attaching anchor boards to build the bookcases into the wall.

Building built-in shelving using IKEA bookcase units

How to Make DIY Built In Bookshelves


These are the items we used, but based on your wall’s measurements, the number of items you need of each and their dimensions may vary.

Assembling IKEA Bookcase Sections

After we went on our bookcase building bonanza (say that 5 times fast) using the IKEA instructions, we moved the bookcases around until we found the center of our wall and ended up with 4 inches of space on each side.

Once we were happy with their placement, we used the anchors the came with them to set them on the wall.

IKEA billy bookcases just assembled

Then, we got to making them actual built in shelves.


  1. Make the Sides Appear Flush to the Wall

    We built a box using 2×4 boards and wood screws on the right side of the bookcases since we only had a half wall to secure it to. And we mounted the 2×4 box on the wall.Using 1x6 boards and 2x4 boards to build a box between a bookcase and a wall to make built in

  2. Secure the Bookcase to the Box

    Using the circular saw, we cut a pre-primed 1×6 using the exact measurement of the width between the bookcase and the wall and used finishing nails to secure it to the 2×4 box. We nailed the bookcase to the box too.building a box to fill a gap between a bookcase and a half way to make built ins

  3. Notch the Box for the Baseboard

    When cutting the 1×6, we used a jigsaw to notch out a space for our existing baseboard. We didn’t make it perfect since we knew caulk could fix the gap later.notched out baseboard for built ins

  4. Make the Box Flush

    Then, we measured and cut another piece of 1×6 to sit on top of the 2×4 box we made with the pieces cut to make it flush with the half wall and secured it with more finishing nails.Filling a gap with a constructed box between a bookcase and a wall to make a built in shelf

  5. Hide Gap with Face Board

    We did the same on the left side of the bookcases, only instead of building a box to make a shelf like we did on the half wall, we nailed a 2x4x8 board directly to the wall and nailed up our 1×6 board on top of the 2×4 with some wood glue to make it flush with the bookcase. Then, we ran nails through the side of the bookcase to secure it to the 1×6.securing bookcase to wall to make built in shelves

  6. Secure Bookcases to Boards with Screws

    Once the sides were done, we used wood screws at the base of the bookcases to attach them even more securely to the 1×6 boards.securing face board between wall and bookcase to fill gap making DIY built ins

  7. Secure Bookcases Together

    And we used wood screws at the base of all of the bookcases to secure them to each other at the side of the cabinet.securing IKEA bookcases together to make built ins

  8. Make a Header

    To connect the bookcases to the ceiling and fill in the gaps at the top, we made headers using a 1×2 piece and screwing it into the top of a 1×4 piece the same length of the bookcases’ depth. Adding a header to bookcase to fill gap at ceiling

  9. Cover the Ceiling Gap

    Secure the header to the outside top of the bookcase with finishing nails.Craftsman style header on bookcase to make built ins

  10. Optional: Add Traditional Molding

    We did the same on the front of the header to mimic the Craftsman style molding we have around our windows. If you wanted to do the header step with a more traditional crown molding, you definitely could, but you would need a miter saw to cut the angles.adding a header to look like Craftsman molding on bookcases

  11. Optional: Add Oxberg Doors

    After the top was finished, we went ahead and attached our Oxberg cabinet doors to make the bottom of the bookcases like base cabinets.adding Oxberg doors to bookcases

  12. Attach Baseboard

    Next, we attached our baseboard to the base of the bookcases. We ended up having to shave off a quarter of an inch using our circular saw so that the doors could close, but if you didn’t use doors, you wouldn’t have to worry about that part. (That’s why we added the doors before this step.)Cabinets made using Oxberg doors and Billy bookcases

  13. Shim Any Gaps

    We ended up with some pretty big gaps at the bottom to accommodate for the doors, so we used wood shims between the base of the bookcase and the baseboard.IKEA Bookcase Built Ins

  14. Caulk Gaps and Fill Holes

    Caulk like crazy. Caulk is a carpenter’s best friend, ya know. You can’t even tell there used to be a gap there.
    Optional: You can also add wood filler to the holes on the side of each shelf, but we chose to leave those unfilled in case we ever want to adjust the shelf heights when we fill them with home decor. 
    caulked line on IKEA bookcase built ins

  15. Paint Caulk Lines and Boards to Match IKEA Bookcases

    After the caulk was dry, I painted all of the caulk lines, filler spots, and boards with the semigloss paint. Behr Ultra Pure White is a very close match. It blended perfectly!

Finished DIY built-ins using IKEA bookcases and Oxberg doors

The Finished Built In Shelving

So now we have this wall full of fabulous storage possibilities where Olivia can store all kinds of toys in those bottom cabinets. Ooooh ahhhh.

These shelves are rock solid.

We still have a couple of spots we missed caulking and the stairway/ half wall side still needs to be painted, but other than that, we’re on to the next phase in this playroom.

DIY Built Ins from IKEA Billy Bookcases + One Room Challenge Week 2 | - A step-by-step tutorial for how to make professional looking built in bookshelves using IKEA Billy bookcases for vertical storage.

UPDATE: Want to see the finished room with the final look of the IKEA bookcase built-ins? Check it out here.

finished IKEA bookcase built in shelves
DIY Built Ins from IKEA Billy Bookcases + One Room Challenge Week 2 | - A step-by-step tutorial for how to make professional looking built in bookshelves using IKEA Billy bookcases for vertical storage.

If you’ve ever felt desperate for storage but don’t feel advanced enough in your home improvement skills to take on real cabinetry building, these DIY built ins are such a beginner to intermediate project that add so much great impact to a room.

DIY Built Ins from IKEA Billy Bookcases + One Room Challenge Week 2 | - A step-by-step tutorial for how to make professional looking built in bookshelves using IKEA Billy bookcases for vertical storage.

Yay! Storage for days!

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DIY Built Ins from IKEA Billy Bookcases | A step-by-step tutorial for how to make professional looking built in bookshelves using IKEA Billy bookcases for vertical storage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What paint color matches IKEA white shelves and furniture?

Behr Ultra Pure White is the closest match I have found though for the best match, you can take a shelf or drawer front to any paint store to have color matched.

How do you run power cords and cables through built ins to make it an entertainment center?

Use a hole saw bit on a power drill to cut into the shelves where you need to run cords through. If your cords will be exposed, you can hide them with cord covers.

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  1. I love this so much! Looks like they were always there. you guys did a fantastic job(and definitely deserve a medal for that!). Can’t wait to see how the rest turns out!

      1. Hey there. Mind sharing the total cost (materials) for this project. We’ve been debating something like this for a while. Now that we see it, we’re definitely going to build it. You guys did amazing (and inspiring) work.

    1. I have a major question! What are Oxford doors and where do you purchase them? Your work is amazing and such an inspiration to others. Thank you for sharing all the love you’ve put into your home. 💕

      1. HI, Brenda!! Thank you for following along. I am so glad you enjoy the journey. Oxford doors are textured and with a design. You can get them at home depot or Lowes.