Billy Bookcase, Easy to Assemble

Billy, where have you been all my life?  I’m a latecomer to Billy bookcases but it turns out they have been around for 30+ years.   The factory that produces the Billy bookshelf makes 15 Billys a minute.  That’s 3.1 million a year!  Wow!  After buying three of my own, I can see why they are so popular.   They are sturdy, easy to assemble and reasonably priced.

I shared my small (but growing) office library for Met Monday, HERE.

Home Office for Between Naps on the Porch

Before my Billy bookcases looked like this…

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

They looked like this.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

As I shopped IKEA on the day I purchased the Billy shelves, I was not really looking forward to putting them together.  I won’t go so far as to say I dreaded it…but I was just a tad apprehensive.

Many years ago we bought a very large desk with a hutch from an office store, and it had to be assembled.  It was a complete nightmare, taking hours and hours.  In the end, a crucial part (a door) was missing!  I’m thrilled to share, putting together the Billy shelves was the complete opposite experience.

The first thing you notice are ALL of the instructions are done in pictures…no words.  At first I was a bit worried…okay, a lot worried.  Directions with no words…huh?    I’ll never worry about that again with anything I buy from IKEA.  They have obviously put a lot of thought into how best to create their instructions because they were insanely easy to follow.

IKEA Billy Bookshelves

The first bookshelf took me about an hour and a half to assemble.  I read looked at all the instructions first, counted all the bits and pieces to make sure they were really all there, and went very slowly, checking and double checking each step along the way.

The second and third bookshelves only took about 20 minutes each, if that long.  They are even easy to assemble alone, although I think the directions recommend two folks.  I had no problem putting them together by myself.

I assembled the first Billy shelf in the office.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

That worked great until it was time to slide the back into the bookshelf.  I didn’t have enough room in the office to slide it in from the end and get it lined up well.  That was NOT fun!

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

Here’s how the first lone Billy looked after it was assembled.  I couldn’t resist trying out a few books on the shelves.  The green tape on the wall above is Frog tape.  I finished painting the crown molding earlier in the evening, but just hadn’t gotten around to pulling off the tape.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

Learning from my mistake, I assembled the next shelf in the long hallway outside the office.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

This is what the back looks like right out of the box.  Hard to believe this is going to be the back, isn’t it?

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

And here it is all folded out.  You don’t have to use the back at all.  When I was toying with the idea of buying the Billy shelves, I googled Billy shelves under Google Images and found pics/sites where folks had chosen to leave the shelves open in back.  Once you fill them with books, you would probably never notice they were backless.  Or, you might like the look of a painted wall behind the shelves for contrast.  I decided I definitely wanted my shelves to have a back.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

It was much easier to slide the back in this time.  I had room in the hallway to back up and properly line the back up with the bookcase.  After you insert the back, there are tiny nails that get hammered into the back along the top, middle and bottom to hold it tightly in place.  Super easy…the nails went right in.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

This pic shows all three Billy shelves in the office with one “extension” shelf in place.  (Sorry about the yucky lighting…these pics were taken at night.)   The Billy bookshelves are only $49.99 each.  The extension shelf is $15.00, so the extension shelf does add  a bit to the cost.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

The extension shelf takes the shelves within 2 inches of an eight foot ceiling.  Some folks even attach crown molding to the ceiling or to the top of the shelves to give the appearance the shelves are built in.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

Next, I combed the house for books.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

To begin with I brought in a variety of books, but I ultimately decided to stick with decorating, sewing, crafting, gardening, birding, and art books for the office shelves.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

I only have two minor complaints about the Billy shelf.  The shelves are only 10 1/4 inch deep, which means some design/art books are going to stick off the shelves.  I wish they made a Billy bookcase that was 12 inches deep…that would be perfect.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

My other minor complaint is regarding the spacing of the shelves.  The center shelf is a fixed shelf for stability, so it’s not adjustable.  The other shelves are adjustable but many of my design books were so tall, no matter what spacing configuration I came up with for the shelves, some books were just going to have to lay on the shelf or be shelved on their side.  Right now they are laying down.  As I accumulate more books, I may have to turn them up on their sides, which means they will REALLY stick out.  If you have “normal” books and not a lot of decorating books or larger books, this would probably not be an issue.

The extension shelf is a a bit taller and it will accomodate the taller books.  But, they end up “out of order” if I stick all the tall ones on the very top shelf (extension shelf).  I may eventually do that down the road…but that messes with my OCD gene. πŸ˜‰

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

The Billy bookcase comes with a small package containing tools to anchor them to the wall.  If I had small children in my home, I would definitely do this to avoid an issue, just in case they decided to climb the shelves.  My Billy shelves feel very stable so I’m not worried about them falling forward.  But, I would use the anchoring device if I had little ones in the house.

Overall, I’m thrilled with my Billy shelves.   It’s an amazing amount of book storage for very little expense.

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

I found some wonderful examples on Pinterest showing a few of the other options available in the Billy shelf.   As shown below, you can buy glass doors to add to the Billy bookcases.  I think they look more expensive/higher end with the doors, but the doors do add a fair amount to the cost.  The glass doors are $45 each, so that adds $90 to the cost of each bookcase.  The doors for the top extension shelf are $15, so an additional $30 for each bookcase.  Some folks glass the bookshelf and leave the extension shelf on top open. It appears that’s what they did in this example.

Here’s another pic from Pinterest.  It’s a great example showing how IKEA has designed a Billy shelf for corners so your bookshelves can curve around a corner and keep on going down the adjacent wall.

In this picture from Pinterest, they added the extension shelf to the top, and added paneled doors to the lower half.  That’s great if you have items you’d like to hide from view on the lower shelves.  You can also buy a door that’s half glass and half paneled.  In other words, it’s glass on the top half and a solid panel on the bottom half to hide stuff on the lower shelves.

Total cost for my Billy bookshelves, including the extensions, was only $195.  That’s a lot of storage for not a lot of money.  I think they can be ordered online if you don’t have an IKEA in your area.   So, that’s my Billy Bookcase story.  Hope you found this info to be helpful. πŸ™‚

Tomorrow is Tablescape Thursday…see ya then!

Assembling a Billy Bookcase

*IKEA did not compensate me in any way for this post, nor did they provide any product.  I purchased my bookshelves from my local IKEA in Atlanta, Georgia.  

*If a post is sponsored or a product was provided at no charge, it will be stated in post. Some links may be affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. *

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  1. Very nice. I like it.

  2. black eyed susans kitchen says

    Great post Susan! Over the years we have turned to Ikea for pieces to furnish our kids rooms. They make fantastic smaller cribs. Your book shelves look custom made to the room.

  3. I love your new bookcases, they look great and there is room to grown. What a delight to have so many shelves to fill.

  4. Great Post love the shelving. Did you consider painting or putting wallpaper/fabric on the back shelf??

  5. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Anonymous, I did consider that…I've seen some pics of the shelves done that way. But, I hope to fill them with so many books, the backs won't be visible. The back is really just a heavy cardboard…not sure how it would react to wet paint. Wallpaper might work, especially if it were applied with double stick tape and not glue.

  6. Bully for the Billy! Bravo.

  7. Alison @ The Polohouse says

    We have some of these!
    They are great when you have lots of books and you want a plain basic unit. I had no idea they have a history!

    Your office looks great.

  8. What took you so long to discover Ikea??….Is it not the best place ever….and in a short time you will own more Allen wrenches then you know what to do with….
    We just did a wall of shelves in the library….but got them at the Merchandise Mart….same concept….I have a new post of how my decorating is coming….stop by and tell me what you think….I value your opinion…..just don't comment on "The Kramer"…'s a sore subject.

  9. Susan, I've put some of these together for my classroom years ago. Totally forgot about these. Had no idea of their history.
    I'm envious of all these shelves and you wonderful workspace room. Looks terrific!

  10. Lynne (lynnesgiftsfromtheheart) says

    These are fantastic looking. I just emailed all of this to my daughter, her and I both are always looking for shelving for our beloved books.. hugs ~lynne~

  11. Wow you did a great job and all by yourself? You are a trooper! I always rely on my husband for help! I like seeing some books laying down, it adds visual interest! You sure worked hard bringing all those books in too! Great job!

  12. I wondered in your earlier post how you had gotten such a good fit to your ceiling. Now I know! It was neat to see pictures with the door options. Personally, I like the shelves open with books; they seem less usable with glass doors–and more formal. I like how you have arranged your books with some on their sides because of size. I always like to see the spines so I put my bigger books on lying down spines outward. Beautiful job! Thanks for showing and telling.

  13. Oh, gosh, Susan..these look fantastic in your new office. You amaze me all the time about putting things together by yourself. You are a little workhorse…and you always do such a fabulous job.
    xoxo bj

  14. Oh Susan, THANKS for showing me these Billy Bookcases with the glass doors. I will be using these should I move, thus avoiding the high cost of custom book shelving. And in this economy, I am not above sourcing from Ikea. I wonder if the shelves eventually warp from the weight of yards of books.

  15. And enough room to open the door and still have the kitty steps in place. What a huge wall and huge difference. What fun you will have with those. Oh I can't wait for the holidays!

  16. Looks good girl !
    And yes Billy has been around forever.
    I have two of the smaller ones for some of my china.

    My local Ikea one hour away was built in 1967 so there has been
    several trips that way.
    And might be one more this week.
    Seems like there is always stuff one needs from the big store.

    Welcome to visit my blog.

  17. Do the units need to be anchored to the wall?

  18. Susan, this has added a big impact to your space for such a small price. I'm in love with Billy too, I used eight Billy shelves including the corner one in my dish room. I actually need to go back to IKEA (a two hour drive) and pick up at least another two shelving units. Thanks for sharing your project.

  19. Michele Smith says

    Looks great! Love the shelves.
    I've never been to an Ikea, the closest one here is more than 3 hours away I believe. I always thought it was too modern for my tastes…but I've been proved different from many other blogs. πŸ™‚

    Have a great day!

  20. These really look Fantastic, Susan! I loved seeing all the options, too. Thanks for explaining so thoroughly what can be done with them. I'm walking around the house, trying to think of where I can install some.

    Wouldn't these be wonderful for storing our plate/candlestick/stemware collections, too? 10 1/4 inches deep would allow all but my biggest chargers to fit in them.

    Ohhhhh, my husband is REALLY gonna be mad at you now!!!!!!! *tee-hee*


  21. Mary @ Redo 101 says

    You are just pulling it all together! Love the look you've created with your books, and the clock is an awesome focal point!

  22. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Sheryl, the Billy bookcase does come with the things you need to anchor it to the wall. I didn't do that with mine and they feel really stable. BUT, if I had little ones in my home, I would definitely do that, just in case they tried to climb the shelves one day. Great question. I'll add that info to the post.

  23. Our Joint Mission says

    I am loving your blog, I am so glad I found you! I would really enjoy being added to Pinterest. Thanks you!!!

  24. Hi Susan,
    some Billy shelfes live since ages in my home. In former times the Billy shelf came without any doors. I am amazed how many nice options Billy shelfes have today. They are really so versatile. I use mine to seperate a room part for using as walk-in closet. I love your new working room.
    Best greetings, Johanna

  25. Kelsie From Our Country Home says

    These are great…I do have to say I am a HUGE fan of your office…One day I hope to add a wrap around desk like yours to mine….I have often wondered how I am going to balance the office/sewing room and still have it look good…well you are my hero lady…thank you for sharing all your great work.

    Blessings Kelsie

  26. I've seen where people have added crown and base molding to them. I think that would look nice on yours as well.

  27. I love, love, love your blog and Ikea..
    A suggestion for papering the back of the shelves….scrapbook paper using REMOVABLE double-sided tape (I get this from the office supply store). The paper comes in an array of patterns and solids and I'm sure you will find a creative way to use it as a backdrop for your display shelves! Looking forward to your future posts.

  28. When you live in an old house with nothing level, then bolting it to the wall is a very good thing to do.

  29. I agree with the others who have said how amazing you are to do all you do by yourself. I think the bookshelves were the perfect addition to the room. I have never bought from Ikea but I have heard complaints about encouraging the use of fiberboard products that seem somewhat disposable – any thoughts? I guess I would prefer mahogany ones, but…! These blend into any decor. But mine would be freestanding on a wall – not touching either side – so i too am worried about them falling forward and/or warping. Can you please tell us more about the anchoring system if we decided to use that? Thank you. Jane

  30. Susan, you did an INCREDIBLE job with those shelves. I could never, ever do that. You are SO TALENTED. Great job. Susan

  31. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Jane, it's my understanding these hold up so well, I don't know why you'd ever want to recycle them. Many of the folks I've talked to have had their Billy shelves 15-20 years and have even passed them down to their kids. I like mahogany for some rooms…but definitely would not want that in this office. I'll look for one of the anchor packages that came with the shelves and open it…or I'll see if the directions show how to attach. I didn't look at that closely since they felt so sturdy and I don't have little ones around.

  32. You are so smart and talented. Good for you putting together the Billy shelves. They look great in your room.

  33. KUDOS!!! If you're "worried" about the "cardboard back"…I've wallpapered the back using "double back sticky tape" and I've also used "VELCRO" which works well. I like change so save the panels (stored in back of the bookcase.) franki

  34. You bookcases look wonderful in your office. I know you are going to enjoy every little shelf. I am so impressed with the fact that you assembled these all by your little self. Talk about a determined woman… are so talented !!
    Hugs & Smiles,
    Katherine S.

  35. On Crooked Creek says

    Amazing!!! I understand what you mean…not having written instructions! For your concern about the width….had you thought of placing a book or two across the back and letting it "stand alone"? Sometimes in public libraries or book stores they will do this so you can see the entire front of a book. Just an idea I used to draw interest to the Children's library , especially when reveiving new books! This look far more luxurious that the economical amount you paid for them. Goes to show what one can find if doing a bit of research!

  36. ~Tablescapes By Diane~ says

    Hi lovely lady.
    You did a Beautiful job on your Office Susan. I would love to have one like this..
    I hope you have a great week.
    XXOO Diane

  37. I had mine a long time. They do start to sag after a bit from heavy books. I periodically removed the books and flipped the shelves over.
    You did a great job, Susan.

  38. Curtains In My Tree says

    Those would look so good across a complete wall in my home office

    I can not put anything together. I learned to sew by show and tell from my Grandmother when I was in 3rd grade I was putting in sleeves and zippers. Today I cannnot figure out a pattern with several pieces( I am from the show me state) LOL

    Your new sewing room, office, studio is just devine


  39. I don't think you could even come close to purchasing the materials needed to make those shelves to make them for that kind of money! Great deal! I like them!

  40. Those Billy bookcases are amazing. Our friends bought several units about 35 years ago when they lived in Europe. When they moved here, they went to IKEA in Atlanta soon after the store opened three or so years ago. They were able to buy the doors, and they fit, even all those years later. It amazed me then and I still wonder: What other store still has the same exact style/size after 35 years?

  41. What a fabulous post! I love that you added the pinterest photos as well. Thanks for doing this!

  42. You've done a great job assembling your bookshelves, you could try mixing the books up a little more so it doesn't look so uniform. Some books on each shelf with either some stacked between or ornaments between them. All on the same (left) side of each shelf makes it look like a pattern which I'm sure you weren't trying to create. New to pinterest and glad to have found your blog.

  43. Your room looks great! Can you tell me the paint colour on your walls? Love it….

  44. Hello… I’ve just bought my first flat pack bookcases (2021) – the 40cm Billy bookcases, plus extensions.

    I see that you already had your bookcases up before adding the extensions. Was it easy to add the extensions to the tops of the bookcases? I don’t think I could stand them up if I added the extensions first.

    Also, did you have help to stand them up once assembled? I can’t even lift the pack, so I don’t know how I’m going to assemble them on my own. Thank you. Yours look terrific.

    • Since I was assembling them by myself, I opened up the box in the back of my SUV and carried up each piece of the bookcase individually. There was no way I could lift the pack either…way too heavy. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember having any trouble standing the bookcases up after each was assembled. If you’re standing them up in a carpeted room, that would probably be a little bit easier than on smooth, slippery hardwood floors. Also, it would be easy to scratch the hardwood flooring. So just be sure to use a blanket or something underneath if you’re putting them together on hardwood floors. The extensions, once assembled, aren’t too heavy to lift up to place on top of each bookshelf. Just be careful if you’re standing on a ladder that you don’t fall. I don’t remember having any problem adding those to the top of each unit after the bookcases were built. Don’t let these shelves intimidate you, I remember them being very easy to assemble and actually kinda fun. πŸ™‚ Hope this helps.

      • Hello again, Susan. Thank you so much for answering me. I’ve been feeling so intimidated by them, because I couldn’t lift the pack. They were delivered over a week ago, and have been on my back verandah ever since, with me occasionally looking at them, and then walking away…

        I really want to try, though, so thank you for your encouragement. I’m not terribly strong anymore, so I hope I can do it. A friend and her husband helped their daughter with hers, but I don’t have anyone to help me. She said to just take my time. If I could do it, it would feel like such an accomplishment… πŸ™‚

        • I’m not very strong either so I totally get it. The pieces themselves aren’t very heavy. The instructions were really good. Just take your time. Also, if you happen to assemble anything incorrectly, it’s really easy to take it back apart, so don’t worry. The first one will take a little longer since it will be your first time assembling it, then the next two will go faster. I really enjoyed the process. Ikea gives such great instructions that it’s actually pretty fun to put their furniture together. Let me know how it turns out. If I can do it, I know you can! πŸ™‚

          • Oh, thank you, Susan! I’m going to try one pack. I made some space, and it doesn’t matter if the pieces of one sit there for days – I can take my time. I think if I could do it, I’d feel so proud of myself.

            Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement. I’ll let you know if/when I do it. I’m definitely going to try, so I hope I can…

        • Cindy, just open up one of the boxes and bring in each piece individually. If it’s too much to assemble all three in one day, just do one per day. You’ll get a little workout since there’s some bending and stooping, etc… Just have fun with it!

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