Haaaaaaave you met Billy?

Note: some readers just pointed out that some of the links in here weren’t working previously.  They should all be fixed now.  Thanks for reading!

I think most of us have met Billy at some point in our lives—Billy the bookcase, that is. I know that this ubiquitous inexpensive IKEA bookcase has been around for forever, and I’ve been through a few in my life. In my grad school apartment I had a wall of two Billys that I used for books as well as a little wine bar area. And we’ve used some of Billy’s cousins, the Benno CD towers, in tight spaces to help house some of DH’s massive CD collection (you can read more about our creative approaches to media collecting here, here, and the newest one here). We added some to the nursery closet back in the day when we were really tight on space, and it worked great:

Nursery Closet with Benno towers

We even added a Billy to our condo’s living room to help squeeze some additional storage into our tiny 2-bedroom abode after we added a third member to our family

"new" ikea office chair

Billy then made his first appearance at our new house in our upstairs “everything room” (office, guest room, playroom).   We added four Billys (two regular and two narrow ones) to flank the walls on either side of the large window up there to utilize some of the only full-height wall space in the room and give the room some much needed storage space.


We’d still like to eventually add some trim and make them look more substantial and built-in, but that’s probably something we won’t tackle for a while still since we have lots of of other more pressing projects! But that’s the thing about Billy—he’s easy inexpensive and easy to put together, and he comes in a variety of finishes, but he’s rather plain. For some design styles the bookcases are a perfect fit, but for someone like me who loves the look of built-ins, crown molding trim and the like, sometimes Billy can leave me feeling a bit cold.

That might be why it has taken me so long to post about the other Billys that have popped up in our home. (It could also be that I forgot…). Anyway, long story short, last summer when we were still settling into our new house I was struck by how little wall space there was for bookshelves in our place. So many of the walls in our house are taken up by windows or doors that there is very little space for bookshelves at all. We figured out that the only place to fit them in our main living space was in this spot between the living room window and our front door.  I snapped this photos shortly after we moved in last summer and you can pretty easily see the spot I’m talking about:


I had originally wanted to re-create something similar to what we had had in our condo, with a big wall of Liatorp bookcases that mimicked the look of built-ins:

living room staged 1

But at the time we were feeling rather poor, and I was really wanting to try something new. I had seen a friend do a beautiful wall of Billy’s in her place using the black-brown bookcases and something really smart: she left the backs off so that the bookshelves felt more open and the wall color could show, which makes them much less dark feeling.   The space we had to work with wasn’t huge, but we were a able to do a combination of the regular and narrow shelves and came up with a nice arrangement:


Eight months later and not a whole lot has changed, although as you can see in this photo I snapped the other day that a lot has changed around the bookshelves:

living room billy bookcases

I still need to do some arranging with the shelves, but you can at least see how the fit into the room. I really like how they fit the space between the windows and door well, and I like not having the backs on.  But I’m still not sure if I’ve been converted to loving the dark brown bookshelves. They look nice, but sometimes I find myself wondering “what if they were white built-ins instead…” So we’ll have to see. For now they work and look pretty nice so we’re happy with them but I reserve the right to change my mind down the road!



One thought on “Haaaaaaave you met Billy?

  1. Pingback: First Quarter Review – 2014 | the2bedroomblues

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