IKEA Billy Bookcase Makeover

An easy way to make over and style the shelves on an IKEA Billy bookcase using fabric and cardboard. No paint or power tools needed!

Home Office Decorating with Billy Bookshelves from IKEA

I have not one, but two IKEA Billy bookcases that I want to style with more color to coordinate with the new color scheme I am using in my studiofficecraft room.

The bookcases 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.

sheets were used to make these shelf backdrops

I customize my IKEA Billy bookcases by adding fabric covered cardboard inserts. These backdrops can be easily changed with fabric, bed sheets, gift wrap or wallpaper almost instantly giving the bookshelf decor a brand new look.

This bookcase decor idea can be done on more than just bookcases. They can be made and used on open kitchen cabinet shelfs or in a china closet to add a pop of color or pattern.

How to Makeover a Billy Bookcase With Fabric

How to make shelf backdrops using fabric

I used the same fitted sheet as I did to make this window treatment – In An Instant No-Sew Window Treatment.

supplies needed:

  • Cardboard from large appliance boxes or dollar store foam boards
  • Fabric, bed sheets, wallpaper or gift wrap
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Packaging or duct tape
  • Measuring tape
  • Optional – white fabric to use as a liner

1. Once you have the shelves spaced as you like. Measure the width and height in the back section of each shelf and use these measurements to cut the cardboard to size.

3. Mark the back of each piece of cardboard with numbers or top middle, bottom, etc. This way if you have to remove them, you won’t have to guess what shelf they will fit on.

4. If cardboard that you are using is from a cardboard box and it has printing on it or your fabric is sheer, you can use white fabric cut 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.

How to make shelf backdrops with fabric

5. To cover the cardboard, use the same technique you would use as if you were wrapping a gift box.

Cut the fabric about 5 inches longer and wider than the size of the cut section of cardboard so you can wrap the excess to the back and secure with packing tape. 


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

How to make fabric backdrops for book shelves.

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

Billy Bookcase Makeover – AFTER

Bookshelf Decorating Ideas

Fabric, like paint is the easiest and most inexpensive way to transform just about anything. 

My IKEA Billy bookcases have a brand new look and it only took about an hour of my time. 

IKEA Billy Bookcase Lighting Idea

Decorating a Billy Bookcase

IKEA used to sell lights for Billy bookcases. I have one on each of mine. They add the perfect mood light at night.

IKEA Billy Bookcase light

This is a view of the lights from the side – from the front you hardly notice the fixture.  I checked the IKEA website, but they no longer make these.

Accent lights are just one more way that you can customize a Billy bookcase or any bookshelf you may have. You can find other Billy bookcase lighting ideas on the IKEA site.

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  1. Thanks for your last post. I actually have that on my arm.
    I’ve had a small white dot for years.
    Last year I noticed my are tanned very strandge. It was blotchy tan and pinkish.
    Now I know. Thank you so much for that post.
    God Bless

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Donna – Happy to know that my post has helped you. I hope it does not spread over time. XO

  2. I’m absolutely loving your clever ideas on your blog, making me want to do lots of interior changes. Do you have a makeover for slip covers to cover sofas & armchairs please, I’m in U.K. & haven’t seen any here. Love your house.
    Thanks, Sylvia x

  3. This post just made my night. I have a tall black bookshelf in the living room that I do not want to paint, but that needs something. I was going to wallpaper the back panels, but this idea seems a lot easier and less expensive. Cannot wait to try it :) .

    1. Tara Elmegreen says:

      I agree! I was all set to decoupage….this is great! Easier to put paper on cardboard!!!

  4. I am really pleased to read this weblog posts which carries
    plenty of valuable information, thanks for providing these
    kinds of data.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. This is such a great idea to spruce up any bookshelf, and very inexpensive!! LOVE IT! :)

  11. Priscilla says:

    What a great transformation! Where did you get your graphic sheets?

    1. Diane Henkler 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

      1. Priscilla says:

        Thanks so much for getting back to me on the sheets. You are very creative!

  12. 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.

  13. Audrey @ Primera Interiors says:

    Great! Diane, that’s an easy and creative idea. :) You know what bookcase makeover has always been a problem for me. I will surely implement it soon. Thanks for sharing such amazing idea. :)

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

  15. Where did you get the BILLY-Light? I can’t find it on their website.

  16. Michelleocm says:

    What a brilliant idea!

  17. Jenna, SAS Interiors says:

    This is a great idea Diane and something that I’ve had in mind to do for a while! I hope to get around to it very soon. Looks beautiful.
    xo Jenna

  18. 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.

  19. Holly Lefevre says:

    These look great! I need some Billy bookcases and I need to do this to them!

  20. Mrs. Handyverger 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!)

  21. 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!

  22. 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!!!!

    1. 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.

  23. So awesome!! I’ve been thinking about getting some of these bookcases….and I think now I may be sold!!

  24. GREAT idea, Diane!! So easy and cheap! :)

    xoxo laurie

  25. Melissa, The Happier Homemaker says:

    Love it! That sheet pattern is perfection! Great minds think alike ;)

  26. window innovations 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 :)

  27. Carrie @ The Internet Made Me Do It 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!

  28. 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.


  29. A Lived in Home says:

    What a gorgeous shelf! The fabric makes it so beautiful!

  30. Mandy Mo. 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!

  31. Shelley @ Calypso In The Country says:

    So pretty! Whenever I see a great makeover on those Billy bookcases, I want to run out and buy one! Gotta love Ikea!

  32. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions 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.

  33. 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.

  34. Laura @Ms Smartie Pants 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!

  35. 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!

  36. 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!

  37. 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.

  38. Really nice IDEA . . . IKEA GAL!

  39. 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.

  40. That is beautiful, what a great idea!