Thursday, June 4, 2015

DIY summer school // IKEA hack built-in bookcases

Good morning and welcome to the first day of DIY Summer School!

Those of you who've been tracking with me for a while remember my home office project, the one where I finally got a grown-up space to work from home. This office has been a lifesaver! And one of my big Blog Bucket List posts that I always intended to write and never did was about how we actually built the DIY Ikea Hack bookcase wall. 

Since today's theme is "Ikea-Hack," I've finally got the excuse to share. Here is how we did our DIY Built-In IKEA-Hack Bookcases!!! 


We used the Borgsjo Bookcase in white from Ikea for this project. The bookcase is 29-1/2" wide. 5 bookcases fit on our 12'11" wall. I measured, measured again, and even sketched a to-scale rendering to make sure we would like the finished look using this size of bookcase. 

Note your ceiling height at this point as well. Ours are only 8' and these bookcases, which are on the shorter side at 71-1/4"H, fit it well. If you are working with taller ceilings, you may consider choosing a taller bookcase.


If you're getting 5 cabinets, like we did, here is your list:


Construction: (Sorry, from here on out, I don't have exact quantities!)

2 x 4's - around 25-30
drywall - around 3 sheets


In Between Bookcases (to fill the tiny gap): LP Building Products Crystal White 8' Lattice, 1-1/8" x 1/8"


(3) IKEA Ranarp Wall/ Clamp Spotlight (Sconces for above bookcases)

Note: We hardwired these. I told you I'd write a post about how. I tried, I really did. Every time Ryan tried to explain it to me in terms I could relay to you, well, let's just say I don't have good spacial reasoning skills. So, just know, it can be done, and I can't tell you how. 


The short version is you don't have to do this, but we cut out our floor, started with no drywall behind the bookcases, and wired for electrical outlets that would be in the bottoms of the bookcases. 

I’m going to assume you already have a wall you’re building these up against. (We didn’t, which is why you see through the studs in the pictures- that was a new wall as we were building the frame of the room at the same time).

You will want to at least remove the baseboard on your wall so everything can fit flush against it. 

IF you want to wire the cabinets for electricity (we put outlets in three of the bottom cabinets to plug in things like my laminator, pencil sharpener and electronic devices, and added three sconces above the bookcases), you should remove most of the drywall so you can get electricity in it. (I'm not going to counsel you here on how to wire stuff up - my official position is that you should hire an electrician for the parts of this project that could electrocute you). 

The reason we cut out the floor is that we might replace the flooring someday, and Ryan said we should do it this way to make that an easier process down the road. You can choose to believe him or not!

But yeah, at this point you are committed, and you are straight up destroying your house!

Using the circular saw always makes Ryan happy...


These cabinets aren’t very tall, so you’ll want to lift them off the ground so they look taller and fill the wall space a little better. You also need something sturdy to drill them into so they don't move around. So the base is key.

Build two long skinny rectangles from 2 x 4’s that will run along the edge where your floor was cut out (another good reason to cut out your floor- guideline!) A nail gun is the fastest way to assemble these. Set them in place end-to-end and running from one wall to the other, and check that they fit. If they do, nail in a series of short 2 x 4’s running down the length of the cages. The smaller 2 x 4’s should be placed inside the rectangle frames. 

Then, screw a long 2 x 4 to the studs of your wall. The cage you just built will support the front of the bookcases, and the suspended 2 x 4 will support the back of them. (I know you have no idea what I'm saying. Just look at the pictures for a bit and hopefully it will make sense)!

Check everything with a level. Use shims to level it out if needed. Once it's all good, screw the cage to the floor.


Set bookcase cabinets on top (unpainted and without doors on them) and position them all in a row next to each other (sides touching with no space in between) on the base. Make sure the row is in the exact center of the wall, with the same amount of space on either side at the outside edges.

You'll also want to make sure you place your cabinets so they are protruding out from the cages about an inch. Drywall (which will be going around the bookcases on all sides) will be ½” and the trim will go on top of that. You want everything to line up when you’re done, but err on the side of the bookcase sticking out further than the trim. If it doesn’t look right, you can always add a second layer of drywall or wood trim, but you can’t push the bookcase back into the wall further. Make sense?


Remember to cut holes in the bottom backs of the bookcases for access to your electrical outlets if you are installing those.

Now you have three ways to attach the bookcases to the wall. 1) We had an open wall behind them, so we found places to screw into studs from behind where you’d never see the screws. Yay for open walls. 2) If you are building into an existing wall/ drywall, you can screw in the most inconspicuous places you can find and then patch the holes with Fluff and paint over them. Or, option 3), and one that my contractor neighbor recommends, is gluing them. He swears Liquid Nails would be all you’ll ever need to hold those suckers in place. Take them out one at a time, put glue on the bottom and put it back in place. In hindsight, my husband says he would have used method #3 instead of the screws. You run no risk of damaging or splintering the wood and they aren’t going anywhere.


Somewhere during that gluing/ attaching process and before you move on, you'll want to stop and take a good long look at how everything is lining up. Make sure all the cabinets are PERFECTLY level and flush and plumb and perfect. This is an installation with lots of vertical and horizontal lines and you’ll want them all to be square at the end or it will drive you nuts forever. Use shims, and be as OCD as possible.


Build a cage for above the bookcases. Same construction method as the base. It needs to be a very tight fit- touching the ceiling and touching the bookcases when you’re done- so measure well and shim accordingly. Make it snug.

Install the cage at the top of the cabinets by setting it on top and screwing it into the ceiling. Then run a bead of Liquid Nails in between the cage and the bookcases to bond them together. Make sure the cage is perfectly level. Check and check again, use shims. Take care to make sure the front of it is level (not slanting diagonally back or anything but standing up straight and plumb).

Wire it up for electricity if you're planning to do so. 

Styling the still-under-construction bookcases with pink peonies and DIY artwork is optional.


Build mini cages on the sides. This is so you have something to secure the drywall to. We recessed the drywall on the sides but in hindsight I wish we hadn’t. You can suit yourself, but just check the depth of these cages. When it’s all said and done, you’ll have dry wall on top of them and then trim on top of that, so make sure they aren’t protruding too far.

Use screws to attach the side cages to the top and bottom cages and the outside walls.


Anywhere that you installed a cage (top, bottom, sides) will receive drywall over it. Remember to cut holes in the drywall for your sconces if you're doing them. We used a professional drywaller for this step because drywall scares us, and it’s sooooo hard to mud and tape without showing seams. It is not a huge investment of time for such small and few pieces of drywall, so for us it was well worth having someone come in for this step. 

This is where it starts to take shape and gets really exciting!


We started with the piece that rests just on top of the bookcases. Who knows why. You have 6 areas to add trim:

- Crown along ceiling
- Casing along top of bookcase
- Base cap just under bookcase
- Baseboard along floor
- Cove in a "picture frame" formation on sides
- Lattice pieces to fill skinny gaps between bookcases


This is the part of the project where the excitement wears off and the tedious stuff left makes you want to cry. You have to caulk ev-er-y-thing. The bad news is, caulking is nooooo fun. The good news is, caulking is magic. MAGIC. You won't believe how wonderful your bookcases will look when you're done. Don't forget to fill all the nail holes in the trim.


Paint! You're almost there! Prime everything with Zinsser primer and then paint it with a semi-gloss white. All trim, drywall, bookcases (don’t forget to paint the doors, the insides, the shelves, everything) will get the same color. This is a huge time commitment and giant pain in the butt. 

True confessions: You know that drywall guy we hired? We had him do all the painting for us too. While we were out of town. Best thing ever!! This part is a ton of work and by the time you’re done building these cabinets, you’re so burned out, you're missing thumbprints because of all the caulk, and the thought of painting just puts you over the edge. If your budget can at all swing it, have it done for you and have someone paint your toes while you’re at it. You deserve it! (Make sure not to let your painter paint over your shelf holes- you’ll need them to put shelves in). Having this done will save you at least 10 hours of work, and you'll get to come home from vacation to this:


Once everything is painted and pretty (and dry, heh), start putting in your shelves. It’s easiest to do this while your doors are off. Be prepared that you’ll scuff all that new paint when you’re doing this, and touch ups will be necessary. If you already know what will be going in the cabinets, you can space the lower shelves to accommodate it. For the top, where there are glass doors, space the shelves perfectly evenly so they create a uniform look. You’ll see them through the doors!


Put the doors on. The IKEA instructions will tell you how to install them and how to level them. Leveling them is key. Install new knobs.


You get to enjoy your new cabinets! Revel in the fact that you’re done! Sleep! Style them with pretty stuff! Post them to Instagram as if they appeared like magic in your house! Feel yourself regaining sanity as you can see your floors and organize your paperwork once again! Tell yourself if was all worth it! (It was).  


OK, well, let's just be clear, this is going to be a ball park. I always start a project with a budget number in mind, but as second and third and seventh Home Depot trips happen for just the right kind of screws, and as weeks turn into months, I start to lose track. So I'm sure some savvy math blog police will want me to disclose that this is an estimate from a very poor memory and not an exact account of the costs. And I'm absolutely certain I'm forgetting something. Normally I'd count on Ryan to read this and tell me what it is, but since we're on page 40 or something of this post, he's surely asleep on his desk drooling all over his keyboard by now.

Bookcases: 5 x $120 = $600
Hardware: 20 x $2 = $40
Trim: 52 linear ft x $3 = $156
Trim: (9) 8' pieces x $2 = $18
Paint: $150
2 x 4's: 30 x $2 = $60
Caulk, screws, odds & ends: $100
Drywall: 3 x $8 = $24

What am I forgetting?


Drywall & paint labor: $600


The reason this is important is the "Was it worth it?" question. I didn't know until I had a recent conversation with a contractor to price out an installation of built-in cabinets that was smaller and much less elaborate than this one, and the quote came back at $5000. So, yep, we decided it was worth it.

As for time frame, it took us about 5 months. But to be fair, we were doing construction on the whole room, not just the bookcases, AND you were pre-warned that our projects move slower than a 5-year-old making a Happy Meal decision.

In case you'd like to see how the bookcases turned out all dressed up, you can see the complete office tour here!

For more DIY & decor inspiration, follow Avery Street Design on Bloglovin'!

And now, off to see what the other teachers of DIY Summer School have up their Ikea-hacking sleeves. I must thank Beth of designPost for hosting this Series and for giving me the kick I needed to finally make good on my promise to share this tutorial. (I think we can all see why I needed a kick- that was ridiculously long!) Thanks Beth!

Kevin, Thou Swell

And hey, one more thing. Bloggers, do you have an Ikea Hack project to share? Link it up below yo! Tag 'em on Instagram with #DIYSummerSchool too. See you for the next class...June 18th for something from the thrift store!

{p.s. I'm sharing this post with House of Hipsters at Found & Foraged}


  1. OMG, you guys got busy!!! This is fabulous!!!! It seriously looks like a custom made bookcase wall. You guys should be so proud! Even though a project like this scares the %^&* out of me, I'm really inspired to give these bookcases a try one day! xoxox

    1. Thanks Claire!! Yeah, without a husband who's willing to break out the power tools, I could never do something like this on my own!

  2. Ok, I so want to do this! It looks amazing. And I love, love, love your new website! Are you using WP? So gorgeous!

    1. Thank you Pam!!! The Laura Design Co. website is Squarespace- I wish I had started THIS blog on there from the beginning- it's so easy to build!

  3. This is so advance for me and impossible since I live in a stupid rental but MAN, is it AWESOME!!!! I'm obsessed!

    1. Haha Lindsey, thanks! What, your landlord wouldn't appreciate you sawing out floors?! :)

  4. This is amazing Laura!! I love those sconces and I really want some built-ins in our upstairs so I may just bookmark this for later!

    1. Thanks Beth!! And thanks for hosting the series!

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you Summer! And I'm pleased to report they're staying organized! (Although now that the school year is over they need a good healthy purge...) :)

  6. This is so brilliant, I'm super impressed by the level of this hack... The result looks incredible!

    1. Thanks so much Kevin! And I'm still in love with your cute Ikea bowls!

  7. This is so helpful! My hubby and I put Billy bookcases around our mantel and we love the look. We're trying to make them into built-ins, but got stuck on what kind of trim to use to fill in all the gaps. We will for sure refer back to this! It looks gorgeous!

    1. I'm so glad it was helpful Lauren! If you do the bookcases, send me pictures!! I'd love to see! Built-ins around a fireplace are always so gorgeous.

  8. Eek this is absolutely brilliant I was planning an entire glass cabinet wall to display my goodies in the kitchen and I bought the doors at ikea on a massive sale for $5 each! I couldn't believe my luck. And this is almost exactly what I want but I think I want to be able to take it with me if we have to move. (This is like my baby I have been planning it for months!)(bit sad I know) I was tossing up between buying bookcases and getting Joel to build it, but now you have convinced me bookcases are the way to go! Our house is being built so Joel will be busy with landscaping so I may just do it myself! Prove my super duper hidden builder (she must be in there somewhere) so thank you for giving me the confidence with the design I had, yours looks truly beautiful! I bet you are chuffed to pieces. Oh and the little thing that was niggling you that you forgot in the cost was the cost of the doors? Sometimes when I am doing a post I can read it a thousand times and not get that niggling something, finally after an hour of proofreading Joel glances over and triumphantly points to the mistake like the Flash. Devastating. Lol.
    Thanks again

    1. This is one of the best comments of all time and totally had me laughing out loud! Eek, the pressure!!! I hope my instructions serve you well, and you MUST send me pictures (and you'll figure out quickly what info I'm missing as you go along!!) You can post the addendum with your additional tips. :) :) As for the doors, I did go back and check and the price of $120 per bookcase includes the doors (I know, crazy cheap) because the base bookcase unit is only $65 on its own. So the niggling feeling remains! Wishing you the best of luck!!

    2. I think you forgot the sconces in the price breakdown. I love those Ranarp lights! I used them in our office. I want to put them in ALL THE PLACES!! I love that you hardwired them! Project looks fantastic! Definitely bookmarking for another day or another home!

  9. Have you considered applying to be a newspaper writer? Extremely wonderful writing!

  10. Great looking site and congrats on the new blog. I’m adding it to my reading list.

  11. One last question, I’ve noticed on a few other blogs/reviews that a lot of people get the tools free from the manufacturer to review. Will you tell me how I too can participate in that? Brian

  12. Hi Laura, This looks awesome. One of the best DIY built-ins that I've seen. But I would have a concern about the finish. I understand the hope to get everything the same color, which is why I'm considering building units out of ply or 1X, and unpainted wood cabinets for the base. I would be really worried about painting over brand new, finished cabinets and shelving units. How did that go for you (or, your painter)? Thanks!

    1. Hi & thanks so much! I did have a painter do these cabinets, so I am not sure if he had to sand first. He primed with Zinsser primer and it's been my experience that Zinsser sticks to anything. He then painted over them with Sherwin Williams Pro Classic. We have had no problems with the paint whatsoever. Still looks great. The caulking does need some touch up now, thanks to the extreme temperature swings in Chicago! Good luck!!

    2. Thank you! I'm still undecided whether or not I'm going to start with a pre-made IKEA units or build from scratch out of ply. But, I appreciate your response and feel more comfortable since you've had good luck with the paint. Thanks.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Fantastic job! Out of curiosity, what's behind the built-in cabinets? A walk-in closet? A pantry for the kitchen?

    1. Thanks so much! The narrow channel behind these bookcases is now a boarded up hollowed out shell we affectionately refer to as the "panic room." We hope to use it to enlarge the mudroom someday and put a powder room on our main floor. It's been on the wish list for years though, so who knows if it will ever happen!

  15. Hey,

    I have a tip for this job: It is better to talk to a contractor and see which home projects would add value to your home before making a decision.

  16. I don’t have carpets anymore but the curtains and furniture need vacuuming fairly often and we have two dogs in the house. They shed on everything and track grass and dirt in the house and on the furniture. I would love to have one of these for that.

  17. I have an intention of making a built-in bookcase like this, but mine must be smaller, so this is quite useful for me to learn from you, Thanks Laura for sharing! You bookcase is cool.

  18. Professional writers within their fields of expertise join our academic team to help students with essay and papers. Click term paper writing service to find more!

  19. Just as the iPhone was launched, online hackers around Northern The united states began to dig into what creates this mark. The key reason why was to open up the phone so that you was missing to sign-up with AT&T but with any service provider that reinforced the technological innovation. But could there me more dubious factors to compromise the iPhone? crossword puzzle help

  20. What did you do with the space behind the bookcase? Looks like quite a lot of room back there. Closet?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogging tips