IKEA’S BILLY bookcase turns 40… and I hacked it to celebrate!


IKEA’S BILLY bookcase turns 40… and I hacked it to celebrate!

IKEA Billy bookcase hack

The team and I were pretty excited when IKEA UAE asked us to participate in a campaign to celebrate 40 years of the iconic BILLY bookcase. It’s pretty amazing to think of how this bookcase (in its various forms) has stood the test of time, and of all the homes it must’ve graced and the countless ways it’s been styled during those four decades.

Growing up in South Africa, we had no IKEA, so it wasn’t something I was familiar with – or that I knew I was missing out on. You can imagine the level of my excitement when I moved to London after university and discovered the beast of furniture retail. Safe to say, it was love at first sight – particularly on the budget I was working with back in the late nineties! Flat packed furniture was not something I was familiar with at all. I had literally never seen anything like it. Having always been a DIY lover at heart, I remember the sheer novelty of it all – the excitement of the assembly process and the sense of achievement once it was done. One of my more memorable purchases was, of course, a BILLY bookcase. That little beauty took on a life of it’s own in many variations of paint colours over the years – it even relocated with me from London to Dubai. I eventually got rid of it after a house move and major clear out and was sad to see it go.

So, when IKEA delivered a new one to my door last week, I was excited to have this little classic back in our home. They sent products from the BILLY range to handful of interior stylists, bloggers and social media influencers, etc. with the intention of showcasing the different was in which people style and use their BILLY’S – because let’s face it, it’s always fascinating to have a look at how people can give the same piece of furniture a different look and feel. I mean, just take a look at what the lovely Live Louw Girl did.

As I’d said on an Instagram post last week, initial thoughts for my BILLY was to hack it, because that’s what I do. But then, I looked at it in all it’s original, iconic glory and decided not to mess with a winning formula. So I left it as is and styled it really simply in my living room, using some books and a few favourite accessories.

IKEA Billy bookcase hack

And whilst I really loved the result, I had a nagging itch to do something a little more spectacular with it – particularly since I planned on leaving it where it is in my living room.

Enter my new favourite IKEA hack! Also known as BILLY 2.0

I have been after a cane or rattan cabinet for soooo long. I fell in love with IKEA’S STOCKHOLM 2017 cabinet when it was released as a limited edition two years, but alas, I missed the boat and never secured one. Truth be told, I’ve been searching for a similarly affordable alternative ever since, but without success. And then this BILLY arrived in my home and I thought, hang on a minute! This could be it. That thought was immediately followed by an epic search for a small quantity of cane webbing – and on the second day of scouring what felt like the entire world, I was united with a roll that was in the garage of a dear friend. Thank you universe… and Leanne.

Eager to get this show on the road, but with a crazy project schedule and zero time for my own DIY project, I called on our trusty carpenter and briefed him on my plan for custom doors to fit my BILLY bookcase. Easy, he said (his standard reply to any design brief we give him)! And before I knew it, this beauty took shape. It involved two custom doors and a paint job, and I could not be happier with the result!

IKEA Billy bookcase hack
IKEA Billy bookcase hack
IKEA Billy bookcase hack
IKEA Billy bookcase hack
IKEA Billy bookcase hack

I styled it in two different spots to play around with the look, but it’s taking pride of place in the living room and is offering so much storage for bits and pieces that were being stored in all sorts of random places before – mostly my excessive collection of glass vases, candles, some of my bulkier serve-ware and table lines.

I’m dying to know what you think?

And before you go, IKEA UAE are eager to see how everyone styles and uses their BILLY, so if you fancy winning an IKEA voucher to the value of AED 350, share a picture of your BILLY style on Instagram using the hashtag #shelfie and tag @ikeauae in the post – this will get you entered in the competition. The winner will be announced mid April on the @ikeauae Instagram page. Best of luck!

Kathryn Hawkes

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  • Mary Stewart 10/03/2019 at 11:27 PM

    OMG! I think I stopped breathing for a second when I saw your bookcase! I have three of these in my office/craft room. I love them but I cringe at all the craft supplies that “greet” me every time I step into that room. I’m so doing this. I’d love to know what color you painted it. I live in Missouri City, Texas USA. That’s about 20 minutes from Houston, Texas. So I realize you may not be able to give me an exact name for the paint used if it is not something like a Sherwin Williams or Behr brand from Home Depot or another brand we use here in the USA. But a general color range would be great. Thank you so much for posting this. I’m inspired, subscribed to your blog and on Amazon looking for the cane! Have a BLESSED day!

    • Kathryn Hawkes 26/04/2019 at 3:23 PM

      hello Mary, I feel like I replied to this message already, but I am seeing it as a ‘new’ comment so replying again just in case you missed the first one. The colour I used was from a brand called JOTUN and it’s called Soothing Beige. I hope that is helpful and good luck with your DIY ; )
      regards, Kath

  • Gemma 05/03/2019 at 1:21 PM

    Love this SO much! Like you I missed the IKEA Stockholm cabinet boat, I adore the HK living cabinet you posted a while ago but I can’t afford it and this hack is genius. Any ideas where I could find some cane webbing though? I don’t have a friend called Leanne unfortunately! Did you prime the Billy before painting? If so can you share what primer you used. Thank you

  • Camille de B 04/03/2019 at 9:58 PM

    Well done Kat. It looks lovely. What paint did you use to cover it?? Was it sprayed on??
    So often I contemplate the idea of repainting some IKEA furniture that deserve a second chance!

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    Hi, I’m Kathryn

    House of Hawkes is a boutique interior design studio based in Dubai. This website is where it all started and remains a creative space for my love of design and decor, and for sharing awesome everyday things. More about me & the team

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