The Mission of Wolves: "Built-ins".

A little backstory: if you know me, you know my favorite things to decorate our home with are books. I don’t really do knick-knacks or accessories, but as a total bibliophile (and someone working on their A.S. in Library Information & Technology), nothing says cozy to me the way wall to wall books do. My husband knows this, and knows it has been a dream of mine to have built-ins incorporated somewhere in our home to house all the books we own. But, to be perfectly honest, having a carpenter come in and build us some built-ins would be expensive. I know, because this time last year we got a few quotes for the job and to do built-ins in the great room and mudroom would have cost us about $15,000. I don’t know about you, but that’s a prohibitive cost for us, so I set out to find a way we could create something just as nice but for a lot less.

Enter Pinterest.

I have been pining ideas for years, and finally convinced my husband that we could create our own “built-ins” for less than $1000 and he wouldn’t need to do any serious construction or woodworking (both of which he can do, but his work schedule doesn’t leave him much free time).

You can see on my Cozy Up The Place board that I like neutrals and the space where modern meets traditional; clean lines, but nothing stark, and fresh spaces with an inviting, but minimalist aesthetic.

I think we achieved just that with this project.

The alcove space we worked with is approximately 165” long, but not very deep, so the black-brown IKEA Hemnes bookcases and sideboard (that doubled as a TV stand) that we originally had there stuck out about 2’ from the wall. The three pieces weren’t terribly large, so there was a lot of wasted space above and around them. We also have quite a bit of books and they were starting to look cluttered and messy as we were running out of shelf space. So, for the project, we measured the width and height (95”) of the alcove, and searched IKEA’s website for suitable bookcases.

Yes, they’re all IKEA.

Initially, my husband voted for white ones from the Hemnes line, since they are made with solid wood, but their sizing would not have filled the space the way we envisioned. Also, in the quotes we received last year, much of the materials were listed as wood veneers and MDF, so we knew we could get the look we wanted by using IKEA’s famous Billy line.

Using two of the white 31.5” x 79.5” bookcases, two of the white 15.75” x 79.5” bookcases, and two of the white 31.5” x 41.75” bookcases with height extensions and Oxberg doors, we were able to build this:


The final measurements of the entire install is approximately 157.5” x 93”, so there is a narrow area of clearance at the top and about 4” on either side. The top space is barely noticeable and the side areas really don’t bother us since the overall look we wanted is what we created.

While the four taller bookcases are flush against the wall, the two shorter, center bookcases are moved away from the wall about six inches to accommodate cords and my husband used an arbor hole saw to drill three holes into the bookcase backing to thread the cords through. Each bookcase is anchored to the one next to it and will be anchored to the wall once we finish trimming things out as we intend.

Also, do you see that unfinished piece of wood under the television? That is a stain-ready piece of wood that is 16” x 63”. This allows for our television and sound bar to sit atop these bookcases, since we needed 14” of space for their bases but the bookcases are only 11” in depth. There is about 3” of overhang in the back and an extra 2” in the front that allows for a “mantle” of sorts that we’ll use to hang stockings and the like for the holidays.

As far as time investment, we (just the two of us) started assembly Friday morning and had everything built and styled before bedtime last night (Saturday). One bookcase was already assembled, as we owned it, and we had picked up the other pieces last weekend, so travel to and from IKEA are not part of the final build-time investment.

Here’s a wider angle:


So, for those who have asked, that’s it. That’s how we created “built-ins” for less than $1000.