March 21st, 2013

Semi-DIY Shelves

The look of built-in bookcases is appealing in every home, not only for the valuable storage they provide, but also as an opportunity for display. Some talented people possess the DIY skills to build their own DIY shelves, but the easier way to go about it is with a semi-custom approach.

Start with basic but sturdy bookcases from affordable retailers and customize them to suit your needs or style. This alternative way to go about incorporating DIY shelves into your home lets you avoid the sweat and hard work that goes into building them entirely yourself from scratch. I’ve embraced the “semi DIY” philosophy to building shelving units in several ways over the years, but I always start with affordable, easy-to-assemble shelving from IKEA, like the Billy bookcases.

First, we measured our walls and discovered that with some clever spacing in between, four Billy bookcases could become a wall of built-ins. We added trim to the bottoms with leftover baseboard and added crown molding to the top. We covered the gaps between the bookcases with trim, and in a weekend had a row of semi DIY shelves to suit our space (read the full how-to instructions in this detailed project article).

billys to built ins

We applied the same idea—this time for a kid’s playroom—several months later using a narrow version of the Billy shelf in the middle, and painting the backs of the bookcases a fun shade of vivid ‘Green Lane’ by Glidden. The bookcases now provide a place for kids to store games, books, and small toys. (See the full details on this shelving unit here.)

billys in playroom

When I was in need of a bookcase and storage unit for my home office, I came up with the idea to combine two Billy bookcases with a Besta base cabinet and shelving unit from IKEA to provide some closed storage for hiding office supplies. Adding bookcase lights up above helped customize the look even further, and provide a warm glow in the evening that spotlights the collectibles and books inside. To avoid the “wall of white” look and add a fresh dose of color, we painted the backs with Glidden’s ‘Canterbury Lane’—a fun shade of raspberry pink.

billy plus besta

If you prefer a look that is freestanding and more open, consider IKEA’s Vittsjo shelving unit. It comes in black, but can be spray-painted any fun color you can imagine: yellow, blue, silver, green…the sky’s the limit! I chose to spray paint them bright white and then replace the shelves with stained wood for a rich contrast. These semi-custom DIY shelves now fit our study perfectly and house the kids’ reading material, games, and flat screen television for watching movies.

ikea vittsjo

Semi DIY shelves and bookcases are a weekend project that will give you the storage you desire for your living spaces. When you consider these examples as a way to customize assembly-ready shelving units in a stylish way, remember it doesn’t stop at paint! Lining the backs with fabric or wallpaper are two other ways to up the style factor on your semi DIY shelves.

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