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The IKEA Product That Sells Every 5 Seconds

Plus, the hacks that make it really shine.

July  6, 2020
Photo by A Beautiful Mess

By the time you read this sentence, IKEA has probably sold another one of these to someone, somewhere in the world. And by the time you’ve read this one, they’ve probably sold another.

No, it’s not their ingenious lamp with a built-in speaker or their surprisingly amazing meatballs (though probably those, too). It’s the Billy bookcase, an IKEA design classic. With adjustable shelves and the ability to stack (when properly and safely anchored to the wall), the various bookshelves in the Billy collection have become must-have staples, flying off those super high IKEA shelves since the first version launched in 1979.

But the real reason for this humble bookcase collection’s cult following is its ability to be customized, hacked, and DIYed into something unrecognizable: a chic standalone cabinet, inset shelves beside a fireplace, or luxe-looking, custom built-ins for a fraction of the cost of actual built-ins.

Don’t believe that these simple bookshelves can do anything? Just take a look at these 11 I-can’t-believe-it’s-IKEA transformations.

1. Full-Wall Built-Ins

Are those pricey custom built-ins? Nope, it’s Billys, cleverly disguised. A Beautiful Mess built out one wall of their snug library with the IKEA bookshelves, trimmed the edges with moulding and a bit of lumber, and painted it all the same seafoam color as the rest of the room for a totally built-in look we’d never guess was actually seven Billy units put together.

2. Caned Cabinet

This one wins for charm: With two custom caned doors and a subtle coat of paint, House of Hawkes’ Billy becomes a chic side cabinet that makes a statement in its own right.

3. Custom-Looking Display Shelves

It seems the Billy was made for the awkward empty nooks beside fireplaces. Hacking a couple of built-ins with the bookshelves and some trim—as blogger Place of My Taste did here—is a lot less expensive than building actual built-ins.

4. Office Cabinets with Sliding Doors

As testament to Billy’s popularity the world over, this hack comes from Kristina Steinmetz, the German-born, Canada-based architect/blogger behind Ich Designer, who fitted a wall of Billy shelves with sliding doors made of oriented strand board for good-looking paperwork storage.

5. Wallpapered Shelves

Our favorite part of the romantic built-ins that designer Melanie Lissack hacked in her own sitting area? The charming lights down the center (followed closely by the crackled-gold wallpapered interiors).

6. Clean-Lined Library Shelves

Would you believe this clean-lined wrap-around library is actually Billys lining the walls? It’s true, and spotted on the Instagram feed of Kristina Budchanin.

7. Modern Built-Ins

Proof that Billy built-ins can look super modern: House to Home Interiors built out a bare wall in a new-build house and slotted in a TV, low fireplace, and the bookcases, painted black, for a cozy living room.

8. Floating Shelf Unit

Above: This impressive wall-mounted shelf unit by Malcolm Begg, the blogger behind Design Sixty Nine, floats off of the floor, “creating the illusion of space,” as he writes. And yes, it’s Billy again: four bookcases on top of four drawers, with cornicing on top to polish it off.

9. Simple Painted Shelves

We really like the simplicity of these display shelves by Live Loud Girl. With three Billy bookcases fitted together and painted the same color as the walls, it’s an easy way to make shelves look a little bit custom without tearing apart the entire room.

10. Built-in Library

Use this built-in Billy bookcase library hack—made up of Billys in differing sizes—executed by blogger Southern Revivals as inspiration to create a user-friendly and beautiful office.

11. stylish mudroom

Photo by House Homemade

Last but not least, this floating (!) mudroom storage hack in a modern-eclectic style—complete with wooden crates, woven baskets, and crates with leather pulls, via blogger House Homemade.

What's your favorite IKEA product ever? Tell us in the comments below!

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Vivian K. July 10, 2020
We ordered Billy bookcases for our living room and office and Ikea cancelled order without letting us know until several weeks past the scheduled delivery date. It was extremely difficult to find anyone to talk to about what happened to our order. The only option available on line was to cancel the order! That is what we finally did and we are very displeased about the poor customer service.
Suzanne M. September 6, 2020
The same thing happened to me with a bed frame. No communication and the toll free phone number just played a message “due to high call volume, we can’t answer your call” and hung up. Very unsatisfactory