Ikea Billy Bookshelf Makeover

Time to dust off the ol’ blog. Like it’s been YEARS you guys. Anyways, here’s a project I recently worked on that I thought might inspire you to maybe change up something that wasn’t quite working out for you, into something that you kind of love.

If you’re like me, you like to make do with what you have furniture-wise. Saving your hard earned money for experiences and family vacations over new stuff. We love to up-cycle vintage furniture and breathe new life into boring things. PLUS it makes your decor and furniture unique to YOU and let’s be honest- is far more interesting.
One day in our forever home, we will likely spring for built-ins, but for now- giving these 10 year old Ikea Billy bookshelves an easy makeover, made the most sense.

Before I tell you how I changed these:


To these:



I should first tell you that although this is TOTALLY within your skill set to do (and very affordable- excellent) it IS time consuming (if you want to do a good job that won’t make your eye twitch, even more so). So make sure you put your patience cap securely on and give yourself a few days to get through it- or project burn out WILL happen I promise!!


So without further delay, here’s what you need:


-Old/first house/no longer in style Billy bookcase (or any other display cabinet you have).

– 1 can of BIN Zinsser Shellac-Based Primer- trust me on this- it’s actually the priciest part of your project apart from paint, but if you’re working with MDF or anything with a finish or a darker wood, you need this primer. The backs of MANY Ikea bookshelves are thin and have a slippery finish on them- unless you want your paint to chip off, you need this Shellac-based primer to create a surface by which the paint can quickly adhere to. Purchase this at any local hardware store like Home Depot, Lowes, or Rona.

-Paint colours of your choice. I used:


Fresh Mist by Valspar ( I got this at Lowe’s)

And for those looking for an Ikea White match, I used Writing Paper by Behr


I decided on a two tone- again more work, but I think had a greater impact. I LOVE Behr paints from Home Depot but also have been really impressed with Valspar paints from Lowe’s. You can get away with using a couple er…a few sample pots, but for this project I found that for less trips to the store (when you realize you run out) and to have extra for future touch-ups, just grab a quart.


-A poly or diamond glaze varnish or spray to seal the paint. If you decided to chalk paint vs using acrylic or enamel paint- you could use wax. Since I used acrylic paint- I use this spray varnish: which does not yellow over time unlike some other sealants. I chose a semi-gloss finish, but it’s entirely up to you.

– New hardware. The EASIEST way to change the look of your bookshelf/dressers/cabinets is to simply change the knobs and pulls. You could go to an antique store/Antropologie/thrift shop- or good ol’ Amazon. I used these (for now) even though I do feel that some hand painted knobs are in my future.

-Painter’s tape- if that’s your style. If you have good brushes and take your time, it’s not really necessary, but DO protect your floors with drop cloth, or stick a couple sheets of printer paper between your floor/carpet and the base.




*Also remember to do this project in a well ventilated area- now I wasn’t about to disassemble and move all of my furniture, so I just made sure to open up ALL the windows and take breaks as necessary.


First, wipe down all surfaces. This is also when you would sand down any bumpy surfaces (unless you decide to go the chalk paint route and in that case, embrace the imperfections).


Give a coat of the BIN primer to all surfaces you want to paint- again this is ESSENTIAL for lots of Ikea furniture if you’re going with a non chalk paint finish- then again, does primer EVER hurt? The answer is no. And it WILL make your life much easier.


Once that’s sufficiently dry- 30 mins max (shellac primer dries lightening fast) you can start painting. Use a small brush for the details/edges near glass (no, I personally do not often bother with tape, but if you do, then have at er’).

Depending on the original stain of the furniture you are painting over and if you used primer or not (please I hope you did) will determine how many coats. For me painting over a black/brown finish to a parchment white/turquoise it only took 2 coats.

Once you’ve sufficiently painted the project and did your touch ups (do this now because it’s a beast of a time suck, and NO you will not go back ever again to do them, so get it done now) it’s time to spray/paint your glaze/finishing coat.





Okay, you’re going to want to put all your stuff back in your shelves as soon as the paint dries, I get it, you’re excited. BUT do NOT do THIS.

Wait at least 2-3 days, if not a week. You really want the layers and varnish to set. Nothing like some heavy books and DVDS to really ding the heck out of fresh paint.


NOW DECORATE! (Also an excellent time to purge and donate/sell those extra books/media/nicknacks – I mean are you really going to read those Twilight books again?! 😉

(Because somehow, whether we secretly loved Edward or not, we had a copy of this).



Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried to give some blah furniture a face lift before/make do with what you have vs buying new and if you were happy with the results!


Happy painting!!


Stay Happy,


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