IKEA Billy Bookcase Makeover

I have not one, but two IKEA Billy bookcases that need to be transformed so they coordinate with the new color scheme I am doing my studioffice in.   They are 20 years old –a true testament that they are indeed a classic IKEA item that you can use by itself or in many combinations.   IKEA makes glass doors, solid doors, lights, and extenders so that you can customize this classic bookshelf in many different ways.

I customize mine by using fabric covered cardboard inserts that can be easily changed almost instantly giving them a brand new look.  You can do this bookcase makeover on any bookshelf, cabinet, or china closet to add a permanent or temporary change.

Bookshelf Decorating Ideas

 I moved everything out of the one on the right so I could begin to change the fabric.

Home Office Decorating with Billy Bookshelves from IKEA


The 18 year old fabric is going bye-bye.  I used it in the decorating book I wrote. One of the projects was to show how easy it was to change the bookcases for the seasons. This fabric was used for the summer look.  It, too is a classic and still looks good even after all these years.

I used cardboard from large appliance boxes to make the fabric covered inserts.  Once the shelves were set, I measured the width and height above each shelf and cut the cardboard to size.  I marked the back of each piece of cardboard with – top middle, bottom, etc.  If I have to remove them, I won’t have to guess where they go when I put them back on.



I removed the old fabric and added the new fabric which is actually a flat sheet.

You may remember how I used the fitted sheet as a window treatment in this post – In An Instant No-Sew Window Treatment.

How to make shelf backdrops using fabric

I cut white fabric to the same size to use as a liner for the sheet which is slightly transparent.  Without the liner – the brown cardboard would make the white – look off white.  When I made these backdrops the dollar store didn’t sell white foam board.  I have lots of white fabric and instead of buying and cutting all new boards it was easier to just make a white fabric liner. The color of the cardboard only matters with thin see-through fabrics.

Cut the fabric about 5 inches longer and wider than the size of the cardboard so you can wrap the excess to the back and secure with packing tape.  It is as easy as wrapping a gift box.

How to make shelf backdrops with fabric

Once the fabric is secured onto the cardboard – place into the shelf.   As you can see I had a little help.


 I didn’t worry about matching the pattern, since I know there will be stuff on each shelf to hide anything that is not lined up.

How to make fabric backdrops for book shelves


Fabric, like paint is the easiest and most inexpensive way to transform just about anything.  My Billy has a brand new look and it only took about an hour of my time.  Now I have to do its buddy on the other side of the room.

Decorating a Billy Bookcase

IKEA used to sell lights for Billy. I have one on each of mine. They add the perfect mood light at night.  This is a view from the side – from the front you hardly notice it.  I checked the IKEA website, but I couldn’t find the lights.

They are just one more way that you can customize a Billy bookshelf or any bookshelf you may have.

IKEA Billy Bookcase light


  1. says

    Omg, what a clever and easy way to make a change. It’s so easy, I can’t begin to tell you why I wouldn’t have thought if it myself. Thanks for sharing, I just may have to use this idea some day.

  2. says

    What a wonderful and easy idea! I don’t have a Billy but I have a lovely bookcase that I adore and I’m definitely going to dress her up like you did with Billy! Can’t wait to go look at fabrics. I’m redoing my bedroom in Teal and Brown or Blue and Brown, depending on which bed set I can find in my price range.

  3. says

    By the way, I love your blog. I lurk and don’t leave comments…shame on me, but I love your post with the fitted sheet window treatments! Definitely going to do that as well!

  4. Sarah says

    There are some ugly book cases here on the base that could use this simple touch up. I have some Afghan scarves I bought at the bazaar I can use for this. You know, I bet with some hot glue and interfacing you could make these reversable. Great job, thank you for the idea!

  5. says

    They look great! I did the same thing to my niece’s baby nursery but we bought black and white wrapping paper on sale after Christmas cover them backs. I love the piece between to 2 shelves, so pretty!

  6. says

    Diane, very nice work! Everything than can be modified/changed/varied are my favourites, since I do tend to change my mind quite often. I especially love the fabric choise. Sadly, I have not found any similarto buy from here Finland or from Ebay in Europe.

  7. says

    I love this project, Diane! Probably because I did it the same exact way as you when I did my kitchen cabinet that has glass doors, when we moved into our new place. All I had available {that wasn’t packed up} was cardboard boxes and shipping tape! I also love this project because it is easily removable and you could change it out for holidays or just when you grow tired of the fabric you’ve used. Nice update for your bookcases. I think the new pattern is a classic, too.

  8. says

    Oh my goodness, cardboard inserts, what a fabulous idea! I’ll definitely be trying this out for myself. I love your blog, you never cease to amaze!

  9. says

    Hi, Diane

    I just love what you did with the bookshelf. I am going to do this to my Billy bookcase. Have a great weekend.


  10. says

    Well, you’ve now just given me an afternoon project, as we also have one, but the big hulk of bookshelf is hidden away in a bedroom, but its desperately needed in the family room. Thank you for saving my family room from one more eye sore! Great post!

  11. says

    That looks so good!! I have an old book case I was going to throw away but I might revive it now! I love the black line design in the back! I think I have a project for the weekend now :)

  12. pam clark says

    thanks so much for the inspiration! I’ve wanted to put fabric or paper in the back of my shelves, but didn’t want to make it permanent… such a clever solution!!!!

    • says

      Hi Pam – I have covered the cardboard with both gift wrap and wallpaper in my china cabinet. So many options and they all work equally well.

  13. Denise says

    Gorgeous! I don’t know why someone as talented as you doesn’t have her own magazine, her own show or her own something! You are talented, talented, TALENTED!

    Cutting cardboard inserts is genius and I will be blatantly copying this idea!

  14. says

    What a fantastic makeover, Diane! :) I love seeing that you have kitty-helpers, too! I can’t get through a single project without mine assisting or supervising. (And I can’t manage to take more than a few photos without one getting involved, too!)

  15. says

    The cardboard is genius. I will be doing this for sure. I have wanted to add fabric to the back of our bookshelves, but didn’t want to adhere it directly. Thanks for the inspiration.

  16. Nicole says

    Awesome idea! I have been wanting to update my Billy bookcases but didn’t want to do anything permanent. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Conniek20 says

    I’m so glad you published this, Diane. I had seen it long ago (longer than I am willing to admit) but had completely forgotten about it. I am about to purchase the Billy bookcases to redo my office so the timing is perfect. Now I can add a little “oomph” easily.

    • says

      Hi Priscilla – I don’t think I answered your question yet – sorry for the delay. I found the sheets at Ross. Not sure if you have them in your area. It is like TJ Maxx or Marshalls

  18. says

    Great idea, thanks for taking the time to put this together and in a way that us not so handy people can follow. I love working with sheets, so much fabric and patterns. I once did a bedroom wall with them and it turned out great.

  19. Donna Lee says

    I will be following your blog, just a few things I’ve seen just loving the easy tricks of changing. My shelves will get a make over with the backs after Christmas. Thanks

  20. Laura Franklin says

    Yes, I have done this a lot. You can also use wall paper or scrapbook paper on smaller things like wall shelf’s so your nick nacks pop

  21. Elizabeth says

    Oh my goodness! this is genius! I’m about to buy Billy bookcases myself (decorating home office YAY!) and I was under the assumption I had to cover the whole back, but this is way more awesome! Great work!

  22. Tina Harms says

    Great idea. I was getting ready to modge podge my daughters bookshelf but like this idea better because it is easy to change out.


  1. […] put at back of bookcase instead of painting or wallpaper. Could change out as often as you wanted. For further instructions click here. Share this:TwitterFacebookTumblrPinterestStumbleUponLinkedInEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  2. […] Revamp an old bookcase with some wallpaper, fabric, or old maps. Adding a small hanging light fixture or even a desk lamp makes for an interesting display (just drill a hole in the top or side for the cord and plug to slip through). Purchasing furniture at Goodwill will save you so much money and you won’t have to put it together! {inmyownstyle} […]

  3. […] taller, the better. Roll the color directly onto the furniture or use cardboard panels and paint or wrap them in fabric to insert in the back of the shelves. The upside of using cardboard is that it’s temporary, […]

  4. […] have an IKEA Billy Bookcase on either side of the crafts cabinet. I added the pattern to the back using sheets and […]

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