How to Enhance Basic IKEA Bookshelves

Since Ikea introduced its iconic Billy bookcase in 1979, the company has sold more than 41 million units around the globe, according to the BBC. While these bookshelves are highly functional, they typically come in plain, neutral shades such as white, black and tan. Make your Ikea bookcase stand out from the crowd with design ideas that help you add style to basic bookshelves.

Add Molding

Basic white bookshelves can blend in with white walls.

Add molding to your Ikea bookcases to make them look like high-end built-in shelving. Start by lining an entire wall with these units, sitting them atop stacks of boards or plywood to raise them a few inches off the ground. Look for a baseboard molding that covers the wood base as well as the bottom frame of the bookshelves, and nail it to the frame so it extends across all of the units. Add crown molding at the top, then cover the joints or any gaps between the bookshelves with a smaller molding or trim.

Paper or Liners

Lining the inside of the back panel of Ikea bookshelves transforms these units from basic to stylish. Pick a colorful or patterned gift wrap, fabric, wallpaper or contact paper, and apply it to the inside surface of the vertical panel on the back of your bookshelf. Try adhesive spray or photo-safe tape to hold the paper or fabric in place. For a less permanent solution, apply the fabric or paper to sheets of cardboard or foam board cut to fit the cavities on your bookcase.


Contrary to popular opinion, you can paint plastic laminate if you use the right supplies for the job. Paint your entire bookshelf to match your color scheme, or paint only the back panels to add contrast and show off your books or accessories. Start by lightly sanding the shelves to scuff the surface, then apply an acrylic enamel paint designed for use on plastic laminate. If you can't find this specialty paint in a color you like, start with a coat of primer designed for use on plastic, then wait a week before applying a coat of acrylic latex paint.

Add Texture

Some buyers find the back panel on Ikea bookshelves a bit flimsy, so consider replacing or covering it with a tougher, more stylish material. Remove the back panel and replace it with beadboard panel, which can be painted, or left white. Tin ceiling tiles can be affixed to the front surface of the panel to add texture and depth, while removing the back panel and replacing it with strips of wood from an old pallet give bookshelves a rustic, natural look. A simple layer of sheet metal made from steel or copper adds strength to the back of the bookcase while catching the light and adding a touch of style.

About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.