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I am a tiny bit obsessed with built-ins. I think they add a nice combination of charm and storage, which is a win-win in my book. Unfortunately because my tipsy old house is just so old (seriously, 150+ years old), it has avoided both charm and storage, a problem I’ve been tackling with each and every project I complete.
On our main floor, there really isn’t a great place for true built ins. But I knew that I needed to do something to bring a little more visual interest to our living room, which looked like this just a few months ago. It was just…sad.
I loved the West Elm Modern Buffet that we had brought from our previous home, but it made much more sense in our former 1960s home than in our current 1840s home. And, quite honestly, we needed more storage and we needed a set up with a smaller footprint to help maximize a small room.
Here’s a view from the other angle so you can see the size of room we’re working with. This is our main living space so we have to be really careful about how we’re using the space (and please excuse the poor quality pictures – little did I know I would end up sharing these with the blogging world).
While I usually enjoy the challenges of building furniture, I decided to go the ready-made route because I was anxious to pull this room together and I did not have access to my garage to build anything for about three months this spring/summer because we were getting a new roof and new siding.
I read tutorial after tutorial on using IKEA’s BILLY bookcases for faux built-ins. One of my favorite tutorials, which I used as a bit of a guide, was from Bless’er House.
So, I mapped out a plan based on the size of my wall:
And then I went shopping!
I also picked up a couple of 16″ x 42″ Billy Bookcases and two extra Oxberg doors to use for another project. The Billy bookcases are surprisingly solid – those suckers are heavy! Once everything was loaded in, my car started screaming at me about low tire pressure as soon as I pulled out of the IKEA parking lot!
I got to work on installing the bookcases early one morning when I didn’t have to work and the kids were all at daycare. As far as IKEA furniture goes, assembly was incredibly easy once I got everything unpacked. Within a few hours I had everything assembled, but it was installation that took the majority of the time.
In case you couldn’t tell earlier, the name “tipsy old house” is not a stretch. Nothing in this house is square, walls slope in different directions, and the floors on the main floor are very warped. So not only is the corner where I was putting the built-ins incredibly off kilter, the floor was warped, which made it challenging to install anything. Especially cabinets.
To deal with the “tipsy old house” issues, I had to do a few modifications.
The bookcases are not flush with the wall along the righthand side. I had anticipated putting something into place similar to what Bless’er House did, attaching a board to the wall and then placing trim in front, giving off a built-in illusion and masking the slanted wall. Unfortunately the wall was just too challenging to work with, so I just moved the cabinets as close to the wall as I could.
To then deal with the warped floor, I attached a long board to the bottom of the cabinets to create a more even footing. Because I was working on this project solo, I cut the board into two pieces and attached one board to half of the cabinets, attached with screws, raised the cabinets up to standing, and then repeated with the other half.
Everything still wobbled precariously, so I used shims underneath the footing to help the unit to sit evenly. Once everything was set, I used screws to secure the individual bookcases to one another (using the pre-drilled holes for the shelves), and anchored everything to the wall.
To cover up the mounted board and endless amount of shims, I attached trim to the base of the unit.
And with that, they are done! Not bad for a day’s worth of work.
And of course, I found the perfect spot for sharing my mantra-of-the-moment, which may or may not often revolve around caffeinated beverages.
These are not exactly the built-ins of my dreams, as that would require the perfect little nook in which I would nestle in some hand-crafted cabinets and shelves. But I am thrilled with the end result. These cabinets fit perfectly in our space, give us some great open and hidden storage, and really pulls the room together.
Have you found any fantastic uses for BILLY bookcases?