Bookcase how-to

Yesterday I showed off my first Ikea hack and today I'm providing some more detail on how I went from this:

To this:

The first, obvious step was to buy and assemble three Billy bookcases from Ikea (the website says they're $49, but we picked them up at the Massachusetts Ikea for $39.99 each). I'd been envisioning white shelves against a black background for awhile and armed with some pinspiration, I decided to go for it.

I taped off the inside edges of each bookcase and grabbed a can of black paint I already had on hand (Sico's furniture paint in Grand Piano). But as soon as I put brush to bookshelf, I regretted it.

Sorry for the crappy photo, but the plastic-y backing basically sucked up the paint and there was zero adhesion (as in, the paint wiped right off with a dry cloth). Oops.

I immediately checked out this very helpful laminate painting tutorial from Natty by Design and went out to get some Zinsser primer. An extremely helpful salesperson at Home Hardware (I need to shop there more) recommended Zinsser's oil-based, odorless primer and after a good sanding with some 80-grit sandpaper, it worked like a charm. Once the primer was dry (another bonus - it dried in less than an hour), I went over it lightly with 220-grit sandpaper and followed that with two thin coats of my black paint (I used a foam brush for the edges and a small foam roller for the rest).

So much better than the plain white, right? And it doesn't hurt that it helps disguise our necessary-but-ugly DVD player.

Our house is a little older, so the floors definitely aren't level. Once I had the shelves where I wanted them, I had to play around with some shims until the bookcases were level and flush with the wall (this created a 1/4 - 1/2" gap between the bottom of the bookcase and the floor, which is luckily hidden by the trim). I used clamps to hold the edges of the bookcases together while I attached them permanently with several screws. I just screwed into the exisiting holes for the adjustable shelves, which worked well, just make sure your screws aren't long enough to poke through the other side (in the picture above, you can kind of see the screws in the holes directly below the shelf).

Then it was time to attach the trim. I used chair rail along the top and baseboard along the bottom. The width is entirely up to you, but I knew my baseboard needed to be at least 4 1/4" because of the gap between the bottom of the bookcase and the floor. Adam used a chop saw to cut the trim to size for me and I attached it using 1 1/4" finishing nails, making sure to pre-drill my holes first (it's helpful if you have a second pair of hands for this part, although I did it by myself). With the trim on, I filled my nail holes with wood putty and caulked all of the seams (this step hides a multitude of sins, including less-than-perfect corners).

I also caulked the seams where the edges of the bookcases met (alternatively, you could cover this part with a flat piece of trim). Once the caulk dried, I painted this part along with the trim (I had to prime the edges where the bookcases met, but my trim came pre-primed). I used a sample container of Behr's interior paint in a flat finish (apparently the sample sizes only come in flat), colour matched to Martha Stewart's Talc. I don't think it's an exact match, but as you can see in the pictures below, it's very, very close.

And that's it. The whole project cost around $175, which is significantly less than what we sold our old entertainment stand for. It could of course cost more or less, depending on which materials you already have on hand and the trim you choose (the store we bought it from only sold 8' and 16' lengths, but some places sell it by the foot).

Since these pictures were taken I've been playing around with the styling - the fun part - so expect to see some updates along the way.

Oh, and see that chair in the left-hand corner? It's my next project - stay tuned!


  1. I absolutely love everything about this! Thanks for the great tips on painting laminate, I have a few pieces I've been wanting to paint but did not know how. Your styling is perfect--wish I could have your expertise :) Fabulous job!

    Katie@Little Things Bring Smiles

  2. I love it, they look great. The bit about having a black shelf back to disguise black electronics blew my mind a little bit.

  3. YOU my dear are incredible!! Great project to tackle while preggo! I applaud you :) This is a great how-to, and I seriously love how it turned out!! :)

  4. That looks so great! Not like it came from IKEA at all!

  5. What a crafty little munchkin you are!

  6. Haha, it's crazy what a difference that makes! I was bummed that there was such a large space above the DVD player (I couldn't hang the shelf any higher because there weren't anymore holes), but with the black paint you really don't notice it!

  7. I definitely recommend the Zinsser primer - it made all the difference!

  8. Aw, thank you! I admit that I love to walk into the living room and stare at it :)

  9. Inspire Me HeatherMarch 31, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    Your bookcase is lovely! I like the backing on it, it makes your things really stand out! Beautiful!

  10. charmaine religiosoMarch 31, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    You did a great job! And that chair looks very promising. I can't wait to see what you do. You have a lovely blog. I'm your new follower.


  11. Looks great! I really love the black behind the shelves.

  12. Tiffany {living savvy}April 3, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Great hack! I love adding trim to the bookcases! Makes it look so expensive and finished!

  13. FAB Ikea hack Amelia! Looks super sleek and well put together - would have never have known it was once an Ikea piece!

  14. the cape on the cornerApril 11, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    this looks amazing! and great info about painting the backing, too.

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