Livin’ La Vida Living Room: Billy

Ever see something done so easily online and then attempt to do it yourself to not have it go so easily?  We did with our new friend, Billy.

Billy, the ever versatile bookcase system from IKEA, was to be the key feature in the living room as two built-ins on either side of our living room.  On Ikea Hackers, it looked so easy.


Billy drove us insane and not for the reasons you would think.

Billy does not want to be painted.

Seriously, he repels paint.  But before we get into that, let’s go over how to turn Billy into built-ins.

What you will need:

  • 2 Billy Bookcases
  • 2 Billy extender pieces
  • Nail gun
  • 2 wood nails (2″ long)
  • 8′ of 10″ x 1″ wood
  • Plywood
  • Primer
  • Wall paint
  • Orbital Sander
  • Sanding Block
  • A hate of IKEA

1. Go to IKEA hungry and find out that if you spend $100 or more, your meal is free.

2. Be annoyed you only got one breakfast (Greg).


3. Get lost in IKEA.

4. Find the Billy system.

5. Pick up an fillable Advent calendar for Hazel.

6. Put everything into the Prius


7. Build the bookcases.


8. Sand them.


9. Attempt to paint the backing.

10. Fail.  Google solutions.

11. Flip cardboard over and paint the other side.  Success!!

12. Prime Billy.

13. Resand with a power sander because the paint is still repelling off.

14. Start cursing IKEA

15. Start cursing IKEA more when you can’t get the backing in.

16. Start rethinking this whole process and project.

17. Tape wood to the backing to keep it flat as you slide it in.  Success!!!


Side note: Before we installed Billy, we removed the baseboards (which I will cover in our next post).

18. Place Billy where you want him.

19. Measure the space between the top of Billy and the ceiling.  You need to make sure your crown molding can be mailed to the top of Billy.

20. We failed.

21.  Run to Lowe’s and pick up a 10″x 1″ plank to install at the base.  Have Lowe’s cut it to length since you get two free cuts.

22.  Nail gun it to the base.


23.  Make some gun sounds for fun with the nail gun while Greg moves the bookcase.

Side note: Put the safety on before doing this.

24. Screw into the wall.


25. Repeat step 17- 24 for the second bookcase.


26. Realize you hate how the cardboard looks.

27. Convince yourself for two days it looks fine.

28. Go buy plywood to install because you hate the cardboard.

29. Have Lowe’s cut it.  Go home and recut it because Greg let me measure it.

30. Prime and paint.


31. Nail gun in.

32. Be happy that you made the change.


Now this is not every step with Billy, I’m going to cover the trim, baseboard, and crown molding next.  We went into this thinking Billy was going to be easy like Rizzo from Grease.

He’s more of a Sandy.

My biggest problem was the backing and the coating on the bookcases.  We originally thought that we could paint the wall and attach Billy to the wall, forgoing the cardboard but there is a gap between the wall and where the backing slides in.  Next time we try painting anything from IKEA, I’m going to try a deglazer before priming/painting.  I found we had to sand them down pretty far before paint would stick.  The worst items to paint (as in I had to resand several times) were the bookcase frame and the cabinet doors.

Cabinet doors?

Yes, we have cabinet doors but I will talk about them in a “It’s the little things” post.  They are also the reason we only have plywood backing on the top shelves.

Next up– playing with wood!


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