before and after

before and after: amber’s bookshelves

by Grace Bonney

d*s reader amber blakesley turned in this great project for the d*s diy contest. though it didn’t fake the final round, i thought it was way too beautiful to go un-celebrated. using simple tools, orla kiely wallpaper and a variety of ikea billy bookcase components, amber created these gorgeous bookshelves designed to hold books, objects and amber’s new sewing machine. i love that she thought to add billy doors to the bottom of the shelves, as a way to hide the things she didn’t want to see every day. amber was kind enough to include full instructions with her submissions so i’ve included them below. thanks to amber for her wonderful projects and congrats on a beautiful finished project.

Amber’s Billy Bookshelves

items required
3 billy bookcases $59 ea.
3 extenders $25 ea.
6 billy byom doors $35 ea.

2 rolls wallpaper $80 ea. (I bought an Orla Kiley pattern I loved, you could do this for much cheaper, but I’m a sucker for good design)
1 quart tub wallpaper primer $15
1 quart tub wallpaper paste $15
small roller $3
sponge $2
smoothing tool $5

1-2 helpers.
time required: Saturday afternoon

Grand Total $652

1. Built the bookshelves
2. Built the extender units
3. Wallpaper the flat back pieces of the bookcases that are included. Making sure to match up the pattern across all three units. The backs that Ikea gives you are cardboard, not real wood. I would suggest you have real pressed wood cut to fit the backs of the bookshelves. I was already knee deep in constructing bookshelves when I found this out, so I went ahead and used the cardboard backs and it all worked out just fine.
4. Install doors.

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  • the sewing machine stored in the bookcase! of course! great idea, now I just have to find a place for all those Disney VHS tapes…

  • i love this, i’ve been looking for a hutch like this for my room, but i already have a billy bookcase!!! i cant wait to attempt this.

  • Amber, of course this is you! Wow, looks gorgeous! I’d expect nothing less from such a great designer as yourself.

    Love it!

  • Ooh! Lovely! I have dreamed of white wooden bookshelves – built in – for years. May never be able to afford them, but this shows I can get a similar look for less!

    Well done!

  • I love this–I’ve been thinking about whether I could retroactively do this to the 15′ wall of Billy bookcases in our dining room, and this certainly does make me think harder about it. But what a pain to do it now that they’re finished and in place and filled. Agh.

    I have a question about those cardboard backs. On my old Billy the back was in two solid sheets, one for the bottom half and one for the top. For the new ones we bought, the backings were the full length but were tri-folded. Now that they’re in place you can still see where the folds were, and it makes them look way cheaper (argh). Does anyone know what I’m talking about? I have tried to fill the shelves efficiently enough to cover the backing but there are some shelves where I just can’t.

  • Wish this one had made it to the DIY contest! The projects that made it are fabulous, but this is my favorite.

  • Thanks for a terrific idea–they’re beautiful, Amber! One question about the wallpaper, though–were the bookshelves narrow enough for one roll width of paper, or did you need to add a little extra paper on the sides? Thanks!

  • I was super inspired by this, and decided to do it on my own new Billy bookcases – to stunning results! I did link back to this post because it was SO phenomenal! Thank you so much for posting! You can check out my results here: