{How To} Customize an IKEA Bookcase

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Ikea will always have a special place in my heart.  I’ll never forget the first time I set foot in one;  I had just moved to Seattle to start college and I needed to fill my apartment for less than $1,000. The big blue and yellow sign on the side of the highway will forever set my heart aflutter.

Now that I’m a “grownup” I try to use Ikea more sparingly in my spaces — not because I don’t appreciate the simplicity in design, but rather because I try to find new and interesting pieces that everyone hasn’t seen a hundred times.  (If you feel the need to send me hate mail please use the submission form on the top right of this page.)  That said, sometimes Ikea is your only option. That’s when I like to get a little creative with wrapping paper.

Do you remember those two nooks on either side of my fireplace?  (If you look closely you might find a fur-baby in this photo…)

If I owned this apartment then I would probably have custom built-in shelving and lower cabinets put in these nooks.  But since I only rent and I’m on a tight budget, I have to figure out how to get that look from a store-bought bookcase.  Naturally, I think of the Ikea Billy system first.  Lucky for me it fits PERFECTLY within the spaces!  Not even an inch to spare.  Hooray! Throw a couple of those half glass/half wood doors on them and I have hidden storage on the bottom half, open display on the top.

Now comes the tricky part though…  I don’t want them to look like the Ikea Billy bookcase.  So I decide to customize the back with a little wrapping paper.  This is a VERY easy DIY project that is much faster than putting the actual bookcases together!

Tools you’ll need:

  • Wrapping paper
  • An adhesive (I used a spray adhesive but you could also use a glue stick or rubber cement)
  • Scissors or a wrapping paper cutter

Now you’re ready to get started!  I chose a faux bois paper from Paper Source because it was neutral but still added interest.  Since the bookcases would be flanking the focal point of my living room (the fireplace and our wedding portrait) I didn’t want a bright pattern on my bookcases to compete with that.

  • Put the whole bookcase together EXCEPT sliding in the back panel.  Leave that out and lay it out flat on some newspapers or a tarp.
  • If possible, leave heavy books on the back panel overnight.  The weight of the books will flatten out the panel, making it so much easier for you to apply the paper.

  • Lay the paper out where you want it.  Take care to line up the seams and match up the pattern (if there is one).  Extra credit: Measuring out where the shelves will be and hiding your seams behind shelves!
  • Holding the paper in place with one hand, lift up part of the paper and apply adhesive.  I find it works best to put the glue on the panel from the center and work my way out.  I wrapped the extra paper around the edges but you could cut yours to fit if you prefer.
  • Once the glue is dry just slide the panel into the bookcase!  Follow the rest of the Ikea instructions to finish putting the bookcase together and, voila!  You don’t have a humdrum Ikea bookcase anymore!

Wasn’t that easy?  It’s the perfect project to try out this weekend.  Tomorrow’s post will feature lots of juicy inspiration photos to help give you more ideas of how to apply this look in your own spaces!

More photos of my new bookcases to come once we actually get around to organizing things on the shelves!

16 thoughts on “{How To} Customize an IKEA Bookcase

  1. interiorapartment says:

    amazing idea to give a mass produced product some individual style! I am not a fan of Ikea in its raw state but it is a cheap and simple way to get a piece of furniture and with ideas like yours its good to know you don’t have to accept them in the raw state… Ill will be passing this idea on to friends! X Cat

  2. Jeni Johnson says:

    Good Work and fits nicely! I’m in total agreement about Ikea. I still love the store and also am very particular about what I buy there. On my blogging central post the new gold metal tray table on a white metal stand is a must have and Im going back to get another one!

  3. Sarah says:

    I love that faux bois paper. It seriously does not look like a Billy bookcase anymore! Also, how exciting is it when you measure a space and it’s like they planned for you to use the piece of furniture you had in mind?

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