Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Billy, I've got your back

Tic toc.

It all started with a clock. An old wind up clock my father left me. I've never really found a place to properly display it. But finally, it's time has come and it softly chimed to me that it FREAKING WANTED ITS OWN DISPLAY SPACE. DONG DONG DONG DONG. Okay, okay, I got it.

So, I shook off the inertia and bought a short Billy bookcase. I already have a tall and short Billy, both almost 10 years old. This new one will go on top of the old stumpy one. And since I was going to fuss about my Billies, I decided a new back might do the trick to update them. Ironically, it was to be an update to make the new one look old, if that makes any sense.

The goal was to give the Billy an old world charm to match the clock. I went through all of IKEA Malaysia's range of textiles, twice over, including bed linens, curtains and anything I could put a pair of scissors through. This really was the hardest part - deciding on the fabric. Should I go for something uniform like the TVÅBLAD CIRKEL or free flowing like the MALIN VÅG? Should the colours pop or be muted? Would the back be too loud and clash with the display items? You can picture it in your mind but it never comes out quite 100% the way you imagined it.  

Finally, in the third round of the fight of the fabrics - the BRITTEN NUMMER won me over. It seemed appropriate. It had the whole words + books thing going on and handwriting reminiscent of pre-email days. I bought 1.5 metre of fabric and got to work.

First, assemble the Billy bookcase frame, leaving the back out. I draped the fabric over it just to eye it before I commit. It looks like its going to work. Yay.

Then, iron the fabric. You don't want a crinkly looking back.

Set the fabric right face down and place the Billy back on top of it. Make sure the words are facing the right way. The Billy back has an arrow pointing upwards. Cut the fabric with about 2 inches of excess.

There are many ways to adhere the fabric to the Billy back board. You could use glue or staples but I decided to do it the super easy way - masking tape. Duct tape would work too.

Then it's just like wrapping a present. Tape down the right side of the fabric. Pull the fabric taut and tape the left side. I cut out the excess and made envelope corners. Tape down the top and bottom.

Carefully slot the covered back board into the groove for it. The groove is rather narrow. So if you're using a thicker fabric, it may be a problem. As you push it in, the fabric may bunch up a little, so jig it up and down slowly to ease it in and minimize the fabric bunching up. Nail the bottom, as per the Billy assembly instruction. And the back is set.

Then, place the two shelves in the Billy. I replaced one of the wood shelves with a glass one and clipped on an OLEBY battery operated light to give the clock some lime light. 

Stand back and eye it. Little fabric, big difference.

Lastly, the decorating fun begins.

Two short Billies become one tall one. I've intentionally left the plinth out of the assembly to create a narrow space between the two Billy bookcases. I will probably slot two trays into it to stowaway craft materials and tools. Another yet to-do is to lock the two Billy bookcases together with brackets. That's for another day.

I am still curating the items on the bookcase. It's not quite working yet but for the sake of shooting some photos (before I put it off), I just threw together some stuff. I'm learning that it is not easy to achieve the perfect balance. The Centsational Girl offers an analysis of a well-styled bookcase. Good stuff. And did you know there are 7 ways to stack your books? I didn't.

Hope you liked this super easy way to update your Billy's back. Besides fabric, you can also use lace and a can of spray paint or wallpapers too. And if you have excess fabric, the BRITTEN NUMMER makes a pretty wall art too.

What have you done to update the look of your Billy bookcases? Tell me in the comments below.

P.S. I took some of these photos before I set the Billy back into the groove, just to be doubly sure the fabric work with the items. You'll see the groove towards the back of the Billy.

Disclosure: I was not compensated by IKEA Malaysia for this post but was provided with the fabrics to complete this tutorial. The choice of fabric and what to do with it was entirely up to me. Their range of textiles are available here.  


  1. Oh, eine schöne Billy-Variante! Ich habe mich gerade mit Ivar beschöftigt. Bin mir aber nicht sicher, ob die Veränderung zu minimal ist, als das man es als »Ikea-Hack« bezeichnen könnte.

    Wenn du magst kannst du dir mein multi einsetzbares Ivar-Puppen-Etagenbett ansehen ;)

    Liebe Grüße . Tabea

    1. Thanks Liebe for sharing your many uses of the IVAR shelving unit.

  2. this is gorgeous! thank you for sharing your lovely idea!

  3. hi, i really like your ideas. just found your blog and i fell in love with it:) im new to blogspot and also opened a furniture-blog (in german). please take a look^^

  4. Jules, this is lovely. I don't know if you know this but IKEA has plugs to seal the unused holes. Here is a link. You should check it out. I sealed all the unused ones in my walk-in closet.


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