Everyone loves an Ikea hack—it’s like the rags to riches story of home renovations. I’ve always been a sucker for them too. I just never had the guts to try one, minus switching out some hardware on a dresser or two. But when we moved into this house, we were presented with a golden opportunity within an eyesore of a room.
Our home office space was filled with old, brown Billy bookshelves. And I mean filled. I’m talking shoved on every wall so that the French doors wouldn’t even open properly filled. Part of me wanted to curb them because they suffocated the room and the shade of brown was outdated. But the other, (better?) part of me knew I wanted to create built-in opportunities throughout this builder grade home, and maybe this was how it started?
Really, it all started with what I figured was an unattainable Pinterest board of inspiration. And an awkward bedroom hallway that served no functional purpose other than to connect the bathroom and the closet. It didn’t fit a dresser or a console table, and my original plan to install the Pax wardrobe system in this space also didn’t work, because they were too deep. Enter the Billy bookcase.
We dragged one up the stairs into the bedroom “just to see what it looked like.” And it was a perfect fit. A true Cinderella moment, haha. I’m joking, but not really. Because as soon as I saw how well the bookcase fit in this hallway space, I knew the dressing space I’d been dreaming of could become a reality. Immediately, I drew up a sketch that involved two skinny (15 inch) Billy Bookcases and one 30-inch bookcase, some cabinet doors, and drawers down the middle. Robert said he thought he could make it happen. And then he did.
I think of the bedroom built-in as our gateway Ikea hack. It gave us the confidence to tackle our office desk build-out a few months later. And then this year, we even purchased brand new Billys (after running out of old ones to reuse) to create an arched cabinet in our living space that provides shelves for décor, tons of toy storage, and even houses our cable and tv power box.
So, after three successful Ikea hacks, I’m here to share what I know. Starting with exactly what you need to get started. This post is more of an “Ikea hack checklist” than a how-to, but the how-to part will follow soon.
What you’ll Need
First, you need Ikea products. The Billy Bookcase is our specialty here, and they come in lots of different sizes and colors. Choose what works best for your project. The extenders are especially helpful. For example, our office ceiling is 9 feet tall, so we used two extenders on the end bookcases to achieve the height we needed.
I also learned to love the Oxberg doors and used them with our arched cabinet. (Ikea sells multiple Billy + Oxford combinations, or you can buy them seperately.) In the office and bedroom, we built the door fronts from scratch because I wanted a thicker shaker trim, (and our trim work meant the Oxbergs didn’t fit exactly right), but honestly, the Oxbergs look just as nice in my opinion. Ikea even sells doors with glass inserts, and it’s easy to customize your look without even having to do that much “hacking.” Definitely shop around Ikea’s site and figure out if their prefab options might work for you.
Although, if you want drawers, then you’ll have to build them yourself. At least if you’re using the Billy Bookcases. (The Pax system has drawer options.) But I should warn you that because the Billy shelves are so shallow (they’re only 11 inches deep), your drawers won’t be super functional. I’m able to fit jewelry, undergarments, pajamas, and some handbags in my dresser drawers. But a sweater or pair of jeans? No way.
Here’s a quick break down of all of the Ikea products used for each of our three projects:
Bedroom dressing area:
- Two 30 inch Billy bookcases
- Four Oxberg doors
Your other must-haves? Trim woodwork. Crown molding. Baseboards. A good primer. (We like Kilz.) The prefab nature of Ikea furniture will make it difficult to paint without a good primer—it will scrape right off otherwise. For the brown Billy’s, we used two coats of primer. A high-quality paint (like Sherwin Williams Emerald line) also ensures a smooth, professional-looking finish. We hand-rolled/painted our projects, but I know others who highly recommend spray painting them. Honestly, I’m sure this is the faster option, too, but I guess we’re stubborn.
As far as power tools? (Don’t worry, I asked Robert to answer this one.) His must-haves are a circular saw and screwdriver. But a table saw, miter saw, and finish nailer save so much time and energy, so if you own them, or have the capacity to purchase or rent them, that will help a lot. The 15-inch bookcases in the office were cut down to size with the circular saw in order to fit on top of the desktop. A circular saw also helps to cut the molding and mill work. The miter saw quickly gives square cuts for the molding and makes crown cuts less stressful. Finally, the only other tool we used was a jigsaw for creating the arch for the arched cabinet. (All tools linked are the ones we own, or closest to the ones we own.)
Finally, the last thing you need is time and patience. (Corny, but true.) We utilized the trial and error method a LOT. We also had the benefit of having so many bookcases on hand to mess around with to see what fit and what did not. Your project will be dependent on your space, your measurements, and your taste. But I hope this gives you a good starting point, and maybe just a little bit of inspiration!
The office is painted Boothbay Gray, Benjamin Moore, reduced to 75% saturation. We used the Massey knobs from Rejuvenation for the drawers (custom-built, DIY). The Desktop is a butcherblock countertop! The canvas pin map is from TripMapWorld. Shop everything here, on my LTK page!
The bedroom hallway dresser built in is painted Accessible Beige, by Sherwin Williams, with the saturation reduced by 25%. It matches the trim throughout the bedroom. I use it mostly as bag, shoe, and jewelry storage! Shop this space here.
The arched cabinet is painted Alabaster, by Sherwin Williams, to match our walls. With all three, we used a semi-gloss finish, trim enamel paint. Behind the doors are a bunch of our son’s toys, our cable box, and a power supply. Styling these shelves has been so fun, too! Shop them here.
My other favorite Ikea Hacks
There are a lot of great Ikea hacks out there. Here are some of my other favorites
EmmaCourtneyHome: Pax hacks: one and two.
LifewithLeeAnne: office built ins.
Ouraesthetic_abode: office built in shelves.
Henrikjunehome: Billys with glass fronts
ChrisLovesJulia: the ultimate Pax hack closet!
That’s it for part one of this Ikea Hack series! Next time, I’ll share more details on how we customized our bookcases to make them look like high-end furniture instead of pre-fab Swedish plywood. And for a how-to tutorial on the dresser built-in, click here.
Pin and save this for future reference! I’ve also shared a ton of details about each individual project on my Instagram page, (and tiktok!) where I’d love if you followed along as we continue to renovate our home!
*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
What material did you use for the vertical paneling at the desk?
Shiplap white board that we purchsed from Lowe’s.
Melissa Rodriguez says
what did you use for the desk component of the office? please help
We painted butcher block for the desk top and built custom cabinets for the drawers with birch plywood and poplar fronts.
Sarah Gonzalez says
Hi. Do you have a step by step at how you added the arch the cabinet? Thank you.
For your office with the Billy bookcases, the edges look thicker. Did you add wood to the sides and shelves to make them thicker? If so, how did you fill the gaps? Wood filler? Thanks!
Added 3/4″ birch plywood to the sides and put a 1.5″ poplar trim for the front.
What is the length of the butchers block? And the length, depth and height of the custom cabinets in the office? Thanks!
What are the measurement for your custom cabinets for your desk and butcher block? Thanks!!