Library Room Makeover with IKEA Bookcases

Library Room Makeover with IKEA Bookcases

This was our front room in our home for the past few years. This exact set-up was right at home in our very tiny Philadelphia living room, where we used to live. But here? It just got lost in this room.

Library Room - before picture, overflowing bookshelves dwarfed by the room!

We love to read, and our bookshelves began holding stacks of books in front of more books. It became impossible to keep our books organized.

Crowded bookshelves meant no longer easily keeping book genres together.
Not to mention that this gorgeous, antique, German shortwave radio — given to us by my husband’s late father — needed a much better home. And it didn’t need books piled on top of it either!
antique German shortwave radio

Our Pottery Barn couch looked a bit lost against the longest wall.

Pottery Barn couch

And across the room were more bookshelves with more piles and stacks of books. Notice the shelves are unfinished wood. I never got around to finishing them as I didn’t want to deal with the piles of books!

more crowded bookshelves

It was time for a solution. Luckily we moved just an hour away from Philly, so it was an easy trip to the Philadelphia IKEA.

Just look at that blue sky! Cue the sounds of heavenly choirs singing, because any trip to IKEA is fun!

IKEA Philadelphia

We weren’t even in the store for 10 minutes before we came upon this room display of Billy bookcases configured for a home library. Exactly what we wanted and needed!

IKEA Store Display of Billy Bookcases for Library

We loved everything about it: the mix of wide shelves, corner shelves and regular shelves; the glass doors; the halogen lamps overhead; and the L-shape of the bookcases. The brown-black color was perfect! Time to shop!

IKEA Billy bookcases in Brown-Black Color plus halogen lamps

When you’re married to a software engineer, you don’t simply measure and order a room full of IKEA Billy Bookcases. You wait patiently while your husband maps and measures different ideas out in his software.

Measuring and mapping out the room, the way a software engineer does!

It was not easy being patient, but the measuring and planning is the most important step if you want to get it right the first time!

We placed our order for the Billy bookcases online, and began emptying out our soon-to-be Library Room.

After moving a wall outlet to accommodate the new lighting, my husband put the bookcases together over several evenings.

Time to start filling up the IKEA Billy bookcases with... books!
I collected the corrugated cardboard packaging to save for future craft projects. I’m kind of a hoarder like that.
Love keeping the IKEA corrugated cardboard packaging for craft projects!
The hardest part of the entire project for us? Deciding which shelves would hold which genres of books!
(Helpful hint: Don’t worry about it too much because you’ll end up moving things around for awhile!)
Library Makeover almost done!

Quick story: I remember reading about a “bookcase challenge” that was held at last year’s Haven Conference for DIY/Home bloggers. Each team was provided with decorative accessories to style a bookcase. I was excited to see styling with books. You know, in bookcases? Instead I saw bookshelves styled with everything but books.

I definitely would have lost that design contest because my first question would have been, “Where are the books?”  

Needless to say, we do have meaningful decorative accessories among our books, including special vintage pieces like the heavy ship bookend docked with all of my seafaring books!

meaningful bookcase accessories and bookends, including vintage lovelies!

Library Room Makeover:

Library Room Makeover with IKEA Bookcases

The couch:

We moved the couch across the room to the window, which looks much better.

Pottery Barn couch with IKEA pillows

The cats:

Our cats, Aliza and Lulu, are very happy with this new arrangement!

Aliza and Lulu enjoying the sun patches!

This photo was taken the first time Aliza saw her reflection in the bookcase glass. She stayed like that for about 45 minutes!

Aliza sees her reflection!

The lamp:

The old lamp stayed, but I gave it a much-needed makeover using Modern Masters Metallic Effects paint and patina solution. You can see the complete tutorial here: Thrift Store Lamp Gets Gorgeous with Copper and Patina Finish

Thrift store lamp makeover!

The pillows:

The adorable dotted pillows are from IKEA as well! They are so comfy!

The desk:

I added an antique secretary desk to the room as well. This desk was in sad shape when I bought it. I gave it a makeover using DecoArt’s Chalky Finish Paints. You can see the complete tutorial here: Chippy Paint Antique Secretary Desk

Chippy Paint Antique Secretary Desk

Here’s a super-quick look at the bookshelves taken with my iPhone. It’s the only way I can show you the entire L-shaped design of the bookcases!

We aren’t quite finished with this room, as we want to add a small electric fireplace near the couch, dress up the window, and add sliding vintage barn doors to the room’s opening. Paint will come down the road, as will hardwood floors. Eventually we will swap out the couch for a set of comfy chairs.

But for now? We are in book lover’s heaven!



  1. says

    Omigosh! What a fabulous room!!!! my dream is to have my own library… you did a fabulous job.

    Have a great week!


  2. says

    I would absolutely swoon if I had a library room. I have so many books…I love books but I have just had to force myself to get rid of a bunch of them…no where to put them. *sigh* Your room looks absolutely gorgeous, Laura.

    • says

      Thank you Mary Beth – your compliment means so much to me! ! We’ve had to get rid of books too (in the past) and now we are thrilled to have space to grow too!

  3. says I get your blog delivered to my email inbox and I just had to click over just to leave you a comment… This is such an amazing transformation….I hope you are linking everywhere with this….The configuration was worth every second your husband put into his calculations…The lights set it off perfectly…SOOOO Jealous! And yet, incredibly happy for YOU!!! Enjoy!

    • says

      Brooke, your comment Made. My. Day. 🙂 Thank you SO much for your feedback and for encouraging me to link this project up everywhere…which I better get started on! (Of course I just looked at your Studio Tour and am totally jealous of your entire space AND having a slop sink which I really wish I had! 🙂

  4. says

    Wow!! That’s amazing and I’m super-jealous! We had to give away a bunch of books in our last move because we just didn’t have room… if only we had one of these to justify my book hoarding! : )


  5. says

    your kitties are so cute! i love this room, i want a library room. we have an office/computer room, but we end up with our laptops on the living room couch. i’m thinking that the office needs to be the library. and you are too funny with the engineer comment. i have the same woes! the boyfriend is an engineer, and he has to calculate everything, and it ends up being no better than my eyeballing things, but he feels better about the decisions. whatever, as long as it gets done, right? and so did you go to the ikea in philadelphia or the plymouth meeting one? we always go to plymouth meeting.

    • says

      Thanks for your comments! You cracked me up about comparing your boyfriend’s calculations with just eyeballing something! LOL We shopped at the Philly IKEA, only an hour away from us! (We used to live in Philly!)