IKEA Hemnes Bookcase Review & Sharing Its One Design Flaw

Welcome to the 677th Metamorphosis Monday! Hope you had an awesome weekend! We had a mini-snow storm on Sunday. It was short-lived but pretty while it was coming down. Did you see any snow in your area over the weekend?


In a previous post a few months back, I mentioned the bowing issue I was having with the Ikea Billy bookshelves in my home office. Two lovely BNOTP readers suggested I look into the Ikea Hemnes bookcase which is made of solid wood. That was right around the time I was turning the guest room into a dual-purpose space for storing my smallish handbag collection. That has worked out great since the guest room is so rarely used and when visiting, family almost always prefers the queen-size sleeper sofa in the upstairs bonus room over the full-size bed in the guest room.

Hemnes Bookshelf, Pros and Cons


The other addition I made to the guest room was this Hemnes bookcase for storing fashion-themed or fashion-related books. (If you missed that previous post, you’ll find it here: A New Bookcase (and Bookcase/Picture Light) for the Guest Room.)  Today I thought I’d share a bit more about how the Hemnes has worked out and a few things to be aware of if you are interested in adding this bookcase to a room in your home.

Hemnes Bookshelf, Pros & Cons


First off, I really like this bookcase and I’m very glad I purchased it for the guest room. I have not seen any bowing at all with the shelves, even the ones that are holding my heavy collection of “Catwalk” books. (If you love fashion design, you’ll find that collection available here: Catwalk Books.)

Hemnes Bookshelf Review


I’ve had so much fun decorating these shelves with fashion-related pieces like this little Mary Frances bag purchased many, many years ago.

Mary Frances Vintage Style Bag


I love this wee bag for special evenings out. It’s truly a Mary Poppins bag and holds a lot more than you would imagine.

Sweet Mary Frances Bag


Hemnes Bookcase and Its One Design Flaw

If you are thinking of purchasing a Hemnes bookcase, there’s really only been one design flaw that I’ve noticed with the Hemnes–and that’s the way the sides of the bookcase actually block or hide whatever book is placed on the far left or far right of a shelf. Unless the book is a really wide book, it can end up completely hidden or lost behind the front edge of the sidewall of the bookcase. (Dear Paris: The Paris Letters Collection is available here: Dear Paris: TheParis Letter Collection.)

Hemnes Bookshelf Construction


Even if it’s a wide book, like say one of the Catwalk books seen below, if the shelf was full of books, you would have to remove a book from the shelf and slide all the other books over to be able to pull out whatever book was stuck behind the sidewall.

Hemnes Bookshelf Design Hides Book


To deal with that issue, I filled that spot on each end of the shelves with books I rarely read, knowing that once they were in place behind the sidewall, I would most likely forget about them and never access or read them again. So though you can’t see it, there’s a “filler” book hidden behind the front edge of the Hemnes sidewall to the left of both of the Louis Vuitton books on the shelves in the photo below.

Catwalk Book Collection for Fashion-themed Bookshelf


Last night, as I was going through my photos for this post, I was thinking again about how I wish Ikea had provided 12 “filler” blocks made out of heavy cardboard (or something) to fill in that spot behind the sidewalls of the bookshelf. Then I remembered some square, cardboard thingies that had come inside the box of an item I ordered recently. (I’ll be sharing that item soon in a future post.) These cardboard pieces are almost perfect as filler for that empty spot behind the sidewall of the Hemnes. Though just slightly narrower than I need, I was able to remove three of the filler books I had been using and replace them with these cardboard pieces last night.


The only other odd issue I’ve had with the Hemnes was the surface of one shelf felt as if it had missed a second sanding. Often when you paint wood, it raises the grain. When that happens, you normally go back and knock the grain back down with a second light sanding, followed by another coat of paint. Most of the painted shelves of this Hemnes bookshelf felt nice and smooth, but there was one that had a very rough surface–so rough I would never want to pull the bottom edge of a heavy book across it while removing it from the shelf. I think that would damage the book very quickly. I’m guessing that particular shelf just didn’t get sanded down well enough at some point in the construction process.

Hemnes Bookshelf Review


Ironically, when I was assembling the bookcase, that shelf had ended up in the spot where I was storing my big, heavy Catwalk books. Arggh.

Catwalk Book Collection for Fashion-themed Bookshelf


So I ended up moving that shelf to the top of the bookcase where I’m storing much lighter, less-often-read books. The books on the top shelf are small enough, when I take them off the shelf, I can easily lift them up to remove them instead of just pulling them across the shelf. I could attempt to sand that shelf down some in the future, but then it would probably need painting again and you can’t use regular paint for painting bookshelves or the books will stick to the paint. So I’ll probably just leave it alone. It’s fine for now since the books I’m storing on that shelf are so light.

Hemnes Bookshelf Review


I have really enjoyed having this bookshelf here in the guest room and wouldn’t hesitate to buy another Hemnes in the future. Hopefully, Ikea will come up with a solution for the “hidden-book” issue in future designs. Do you have a Hemnes bookcase in your home? If so, how have you dealt with the sidewall issue blocking the book you store on the far left or right of the bookcase?

Hemnes Bookshelf, Pros & Cons


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  1. Your bookcase looks great, love the vintage purse! Thanks Susan, and glad the snow wasn’t too bad…

  2. Linda M Buchanan says

    Are you going to cover your cardboard “fillers” with paper or fabric? Can’t the fillers be seen?

  3. Snowflake281 says

    Over the last few days I completed assembling 2 Hemnes bookcases & I purchased them based on the fact that some of your followers stated that the shelves were made of solid wood. I needed to have shelves that were sturdy enough to hold at least 20 of my husband’s stamp albums, which are pretty heavy. I won’t have a problem with them getting lost behind the framework because these albums are about 4” wide but I did come across a few gliches during the assembly process. I have yet to put together these DIY pieces of furniture, & I have done quite a few in my lifetime, without running into a problem. I did find a video on Youtube that was very helpful, but even the guy in the video pointed out some potential errors in the kit. In any case they’re done & hopefully today my husband & I can load them up!

    • I know what you mean. I remembered running into one quirk when assembling mine that I mentioned in my previous post where I first shared the bookcase. It’s been a while, but if I remember correctly, the photos in the instructions weren’t the best when it came to adding one of the bottom support pieces and I managed to turn it the wrong way which meant the bottom shelf wouldn’t install properly. I had to take the bookcase back apart to correct that. Fortunately, it only took about 20 minutes to unassemble it, correct the issue, and reassemble it. Hopefully, once you place all the albums on the shelf, you won’t have to move them over each time you wish to get whatever album ends up partially blocked by the side piece. The best part is loading them up! 🙂

  4. You are a problem solver personified! I mean that in the BEST way! Love your solution. Could that shelf roughness issue be solved by flipping it over? You probably already looked at that but thought I’d ask anyway. Wonderful collection of books.

    • Thanks, Toni! No, if I’m remembering correctly, I think there are holes that fit over the support on the underneath of each shelf, so they have to go in just one way. Thanks for that suggestion, though!

  5. Susan I love your bookcase full of fashion! I’m so glad the Hemnes worked out for you, and thanks for the tips. I didn’t know you shouldn’t use regular paint for bookshelves – I guess all mine are stained rather than painted – so I never noticed. What paint would you recommend?

    Thanks as always for hosting this party – can’t wait to dive in!

    • Yeah, I learned that about paint the hard way. I had my childhood collection of Nancy Drew books stored on a wood ledge that’s in my back staircase and when I removed them to put them in a secretary recently, they were all stuck down to the paint.
      Back when I got a quote for adding bookcases to the upstairs living room/bonus room, I remember the owner of that company giving me the quote made a point to mention that they use special paint for painting bookcases. I just don’t remember now what kind it was. Just don’t use interior trim paint. I bet Benjamin Moore could tell us the kind to use. I just searched and it looks like BM makes a special paint designed just for cabinets, maybe that would work. I def wouldn’t use oil-based paint since it can yellow badly with time. Another person who would know is Architect, Patrick Ahearn. He always knows great paints for every situation. He has an Instagram page that I love following.

  6. Emily Martin says

    I have been known to flip bookcases upside down if short on head space, such as in a closet. That way I don’t waste open space on the bottom and have more useable space on top.
    Could always put some finials on to make it look like that is how it is supposed to be.
    Maybe that would solve your rough shelf problem if the undersides are all smooth.

  7. This isn’t really molding, it’s part of the side of the bookcase. My Ikea Billy bookcases in the office don’t have this issue. Jean, how did you deal with the dead space–did you place a narrow, rarely-read book there or place a really fat book in that spot and shift all the other books on that shelf over when you wanted to pull it off the shelf to read it?

  8. I did not know about bookshelf paint. My old Yield House bookcases are stained and they have the same problem with books getting lost on the side edge. The shelves are also very deep so not truly bookshelves and require so much dusting. Using a swifter duster helps and Murphy’s Oil and a damp rag. I wish I had ordered cabinet doors with glass inserts. Your posts are always so informative!

    • I really do like the IKEA Oxberg cabinets I have on the other side of the guest room. The glass doors really make a difference, so I know what you mean Kathleen.

  9. Sandra D, Jol_Il says

    I installed some wood shelves along the top of the kitchen, the window trim helps brace them. I used regular paint I used on the walls and knew the cookbooks, knick-knacks, etc would stick so I put a slick shelf liner on top. I trimmed it so it sits about 1/4 inch from the front edge of the wood. You can’t see the shelf liner and I know it will stick to the paint but my books, etc are safe. That might be an option. You might think about adhering some scrapbook paper on the side of the cardboard pieces you use as fillers. You can’t see them but more than likely they are not acid free and might do some damage over time to the covers on your book where they touch. Scrapbook paper (comes as large as 12 in square) is supposed to be acide free. Available at most big box craft stores. Better to be cautious.

    • So smart to use the shelf liner! I could def put shelf liner on that top shelf and it wouldn’t be visible. I may try lightly sanding it to see if I can smooth it out a bit without taking off too much paint.
      Thanks for those tips! Good advice!

  10. We had a few inches in SW Missouri, it is pretty, but won’t last long. Thanks for having us over to party. Have a great week!

    • Thanks, Debra! I’m glad ours is/was short-lived. I always feel trapped when it snows here since no one knows how to drive in it and the county doesn’t have the equipment needed to clear it off the roads.

  11. I would love to find a bookcase in an estate sale. Because I purged so many furniture items when we downsized in 2019, I have focused on estate finds to round out furnishings in our new home (sharing!). Those bookcases you have are really nice! You could persuade me to buy one or two of those!
    We got about 6″ of snow over a layer of sleet. I spent 2 hrs shoveling the driveway and cleaning off transplanted boxwoods in hopes of no damage! That is definitely on job I didn’t miss while in the condo!

    • Wow, what a workout you got! Yes, that is one advantage to living in a condo. I hope you dont’ have to deal with that again this winter, Rita. I think if I lived where it regularly snowed, I’d have to hire a company to come help me out. lol

  12. I bought the narrower version of this bookshelf and I had the same problem. I used those basic library/office plain flat metal bookends to stop the books before disappearing.
    As for the rough shelf, I’d contact customer service. And if they wouldn’t replace the self, I’d cover it with white Contact shelf paper.

    • That’s a great idea, Anne! I should look for something like that on Amazon. I wonder if they thought about that dead space that you can’t really use when they were designing the shelf. There must be a better way to design it.

  13. Love the vintage lace evening purse on your bookshelf. Any source for that?

  14. Why not use Styrofoam that comes in various thicknesses in packaging? Might be able to buy some at Lowes etc. would not need to put much in just enough to stop a book from sinking behind the trim lip. It’s white too.

  15. Hi Susan, You always have such fun ‘dilemmas’! I worked in retail for years…and yes, for styling vignettes, etc., flat packing styrofoam pieces were used for everything: risers, backers, spacers. And we would wrap them in decorative paper, usually, if seen. Other than that, I would go to Good Will and get some books the width you need and add a paper book cover. I would totally pick up a color of a favorite book, so if it peeked out a bit, it would just be a similar color. I think if I covered the books in white, it would look like a gap at the edges, if that makes sense. Good luck! BTW, we got 5 inches of beautiful fluffy snow!

    • That’s a good point about the gap. These brown packing thingies that I’m using are petty good since they are a little skinnier than the gap, so you don’t really see them. It was tricky finding books the exact correct size to fit when I was using books from my office library. It really is a strange dilemma! Enjoy that pretty snow, Rosie! Ours is pretty much gone now.

  16. We had snow, then sleet, then rain, then snow, then more sleet. 8″total with that layer of SHOOSH underneath.

    I was going to suggest a layer of clear finish varnish over the rough shelf, but I love the reader’s idea of shelf paper.

    Thanks for the update on the bookshelf. This was a very inspirational project!

    • Thanks, Gail! It was such an unexpected problem, just wanted to make sure other knew about it. I still like the bookshelf a lot though. Yikes, that makes for dangerous roads! What funny snow to layer so many different things. I think our roads will be in great shape this afternoon since the temps are going to be rising. So glad about that!

  17. Hi Susan! You’re the best and I just love seeing what you’re up too. I love that precious little purse! The shelf does look great in your bedroom. Thanks for hosting your party and I’m glad I can join you today.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 🙂

  18. Yikes, that sounds kinda dangerous. I wanted to run out yesterday to the grocery store to pick up an ingredient I forgot during my last trip so I could make soup, but I just didn’t trust the roads…decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I think this afternoon will be better since the temps are rising. I hope your roads have improved Deb!

  19. Krispen M Lam says

    I work in a library, and what you did is one way I solve this problem. I also use old fashioned metal bookends since they are designed to stand out from a wall. Here is an example: https://www.target.com/p/juvale-12-pack-heavy-duty-book-ends-book-stoppers-white-metal-bookends-book-holders-for-shelves/-/A-81836944#lnk=sametab

    To fill the gap between books and the back wall I use a cut pool noodle. This keeps books from sliding backwards against the wall.

  20. I love the way you styled your bookcases. I never knew about the paint tip…good to know! I spotted your Tiffany box on the shelf and remembered I had one,too. I brought it out and put it on top of my cabin in my craft room Looks good. Someday I want to share photos of my New craft room with you. Will wait for a sunny day to get good photos.

    • Thanks, Sheri! I can’t remember what came in that box now, probably a mug. I love the shape of it, it’s got that nice square “present” shape. lol Yes, gotta display those pretty boxes! They make my heart beat just a little faster when I see them! I would love to see photos, Sheri!

  21. Franki Parde says

    YOU are a wealth of ideas!! Luv the cardboard place holders! Listen, can you put “tiles” on that top shelf so books can slide over them…I did that with a shelf by my kitchen sink…I got decorative since my tiles “showed” but… We got just over 3 inches THIS storm unlike the 8 inches the week previously. With temps in the mid 40’s most of it has melted…whew! This weekend’s forecast…”maybe it will/maybe it won’t”…. franki

    • Thanks for that suggestion, Franki! If I start storing books I use a lot on that shelf, that would be a great idea. For now, I rarely pull those books off to read them since they are mostly novels I’ve already read.
      Wow, I hope you see some warm weather this week! It’s beautiful here…not really warm but sunny so I’ll take that! Hope you are seeing sunshine!

  22. I would guess the shelves are made that way for stability and you could use metal bookends.

    • I’m sure you’re right…probably does make them more stable. Yes, a reader mentioned about the metal bookends and I looked and those may just do the trick. They appear to push the books out just the right distance from the sides.

  23. Hi Susan, I love your fashion themed bookshelf, it’s wonderful! I have a question about the storage units for your collection of handbags. Are they in any direct light? And if not what is your opinion about not storing them in the dust bags? I do love the look and I few like one would get more use out of them when seen, but I’m worried about storing my bags behind glass. I would love opinion as I’m sure you have researched it. Thanks!!

    • No, they are along a wall that doesn’t face the windows, the windows are to one side. Also, I have plantation shutters in the windows so that limits the light a little, but even if I didn’t have those in windows, I don’t think there would be any problem since none of the light coming in through the windows directly shines on the bags.
      I would rarely rotate the bags I wear if they were tucked away in dust bags. So having them out makes it very easy to change out my bag, even on a daily basis. Plus, I can’t even explain how much joy I get just seeing them visible behind the glass doors. I love going in that room and just staring at them. They make my heart super happy. lol
      One thing I really like about these cabinets is how the doors don’t meet in the center–there’s a gap that lets air flow in and around the bags. I wouldn’t want them stored where they were in an airtight cabinet. That’s why dust bags are always fabric so that the bags can breathe.
      I’ve seen others bag lovers on YouTube store their bags like this and I’ve never heard of any issues. Mine are doing great, thus far, no issues at all.
      There are a few YouTubers whose channels I occasionally watch and one in particular…her handbag storage makes me a nervous wreck. She has an extensive collection and they are all out on open shelving and there’s a huge window nearby. Many of her bags face right into the window and others are really close to the window. She gets a lot of questions about that but says they are fine. Maybe she only keeps the blinds or shades up on that window when she’s filming a video. I would never store my bags as she does. Also, I like having doors because very little dust ever makes its way in. I may need to dust once a year and there’s hardly any when I do, yet my bags can breathe easily because of the gap. I’ll take a photo of the gap for you so you can see what I mean. In the meantime, here’s a post showing the cabinets and you can where they are in relation to the windows. https://betweennapsontheporch.net/the-painting-arrived-i-found-the-perfect-place-for-it/

      • You can see the gap here. It may be possible to adjust the doors to reduce the size of the gap but I’ve left it this way since it doesn’t bother me and allows air to flow in and around the bags. Also, I store my bags with organizers/inserts inside or air paper to make sure they are fully supported. I don’t overstuff them though because that’s not good for them. I really love this system for storing them.

    • Debora, here’s a fun video from a YouTuber sharing how she stores her bags in her handbag cabinet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpzMhSMgJM0&ab_channel=AmeliaRose%27sCloset

    • Debora, since you asked about handbag storage, I’ve been paying even more attention to just how much light comes in through the windows in the room where I store my bags in glass-front cabinets. Even though the sunlight doesn’t shine directly on those cabinets, I’ve started tilting the louvers of the shutters in the window closest to the bags just to make sure that the filtered light that’s entering the room isn’t strong enough to cause any fading. So thanks for asking that question–I’d rather be safe than sorry!

  24. Janet Sullivan says

    Hi Susan. This is Janet Sullivan. My husband and I got a quote for bookshelves for a small office in our home. It was way more than we wanted to spend. We don’t want anything fancy. Just white shelves to store books. (Adjustable would be nice.). Do you think maybe 3 Hemnes bookshelves lined up next to each other would work? Maybe screw the sides together so there wouldn’t be a gap? I want shelves 8 feet in length total and 6 1/2 feet tall. Appreciate your opinion. Janet.

    • I just checked the measurements and the Hemnes bookcase is 35-3/8 wide by 77-1/2 tall, so 3 would be almost 9 feet across placed side by side.
      Once you assemble each one, you could place them side by side, but those sidewalls that hide the books on the ends will still be there. I don’t see how you could assemble them any other way than how they are designed. They are very sturdy bookcases, which I really love. I think they look really nice, too.
      Also, make sure they are deep enough for your needs. The diagram shows they are 13-1/3 inches deep. You can see the Hemnes here:

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