Building our Billy built-ins: part one

Well Happy Monday to you! After getting absolutely nothing done on Saturday — you know those days, when every plan just doesn’t quite happen — we were able to make huge progress on our pantry built-in project yesterday. As you may remember, we had a plan to make some semi-built-in shelving using Ikea Billy bookcases. Now, this isn’t exactly revolutionary since there’s about a gazillion tutorials out there for making built-in Billys, but we wanted to break down the steps that we took just in case anyone is looking to do a project similar to ours, with doors and trim and a crazy, not-at-all-level floor.

"built-in" billy bookcase plans for the pantry,

We started by putting together the Billys, and we were pleasantly surprised to find out that they come with a little notch in the back that allows them to fit over our baseboard quarter round. (The glare in all of these pictures is really bad. Sorry! There’s just no good lighting in this room and we were working until pretty late last night!)

built-in Billy bookcases, part one, via

We had originally thought we were going to need to cut out all of the baseboards behind the bookcases, which would be a big pain, but with that notch, we were able to just push the bookcases against the existing baseboards. Phew! However, we still needed to make the bookcases level. Our pantry floor (like most of the floors in this 124-year-old house) isn’t level at all. I actually think this is the most un-level floor in the house, and I tend to get a little dizzy in here. It’s just a normal part of settling in an old house, but I guess it’s amplified in here because the room is so narrow (only about 4-1/2 feet across).

built-in Billy bookcases, part one, via

Well, we certainly didn’t want to leave our bookcases super crooked and have cans of food sliding around all the time, so Andy decided the best thing to do was to attach pieces of wood to the wall behind the bookcases to push them away from the wall at the correct angle.

built-in Billy bookcases, part one, via

We used scrap wood and nailed it to the wall with a nailgun — one on each end and one in the middle between the two bookcases. We didn’t need to bother with finding studs or using drywall anchors to screw them in because the wood wasn’t going to be supporting any weight. And they don’t have to be pretty because that gap, and the wood block, will ultimately be covered by trim. We also slid a thin piece of plywood under the bookcases. Then we used the hardware provided by Ikea to anchor both bookcases to the wall to prevent then from tipping over.

The next step was to attach some trim to cover the gap between the two bookcases in the front. I read a lot of tutorials where other people had success using a flat piece of 1-11/16″ trim to perfectly cover that whole section, but the gap we had was a little bit bigger than that, making that front piece more like 2-1/2″ wide, which probably happened because of our crooked floors. We were also worried that some trims would make it difficult to open the doors that we were putting at the bottom. We looked at all of the trim options at our local Home Depot and decided on a more decorative piece of moulding that’s about 1-1/2″ wide. We liked that it’s thin on both sides, so it won’t be a problem for the doors, and the decoration seems a little more appropriate for our house. The decoration should also help to mask the fact that the trim isn’t really covering the whole thing, once it has been caulked and painted to match.

built-in Billy bookcases, part one, via

Here you can see the trim in relation to the gap behind it.

built-in Billy bookcases, part one, via

We primed the trim and then used a nailgun to attach it to the bookcases. It doesn’t look like much yet, but we think once it’s caulked, patched and painted, it should look like it’s always been there!

built-in Billy bookcases, part one, via

Our next step is to continue to frame out the bookcases with moulding. We’re going to add crown moulding to the tops and on the side along the wall to cover that gap. On the bottom we’re going to “wrap” the baseboards around the edges. We also haven’t been able to decide what we want to do behind the shelves, if we want to paint the back like in our little drawing or maybe add wallpaper. What do you think??

We already started putting up the shelves and unpacking some boxes. It’ll probably take some time before we really figure out where everything should go and what works best for us, but for now it’s so exciting to have a real pantry again… with food in it!!

— Kerry

Oh, P.S. did any of you see the new Muppets movie or the new Wes Anderson movie over the weekend? I’d love to hear what you think!! We ended up seeing the Muppets and liked it. I liked the last one more, because that movie was just soooo good, but this one was still a lot of fun. We’re going to see Grand Budapest Hotel asap, too.

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One thought on “Building our Billy built-ins: part one

  1. Hmm. I thought you were making your own version of them – not using the real ones. I have two of them. I will say they work short-term but I don’t think they hold up well long term. Be careful if you are sweeping or vacuuming around them. The finish can easily chip/peel off. I’m actually hoping to find some solid wood bookshelves soon at a garage sale and paint them white. Then I’ll toss my Billy’s.

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