DIY Ikea Bookcase Makeover (No Powertools)

This might be my favorite DIY to date, mostly because of how perfectly my vision came to life! This method works for an Ikea Billy bookcase or something similar.

When I first rented this studio (more about the space here), I was THIS close to throwing the bookcase out- I didn’t like how boxy and out of place it felt, it looked like someone had literally just thrown a bookcase in here without giving it any thought. When I was gathering inspiration photos I knew I wanted my studio to have a light and airy yet warm and cozy feeling, and I was drawn to rooms with beautiful built-in looking shelves:

Because of how the crown molding is in the studio, I couldn’t make mine go all the way up to the ceiling, nor did I want to further complicate the project, but to achieve that built-in look, going up to the ceiling is the way to go.

Living in NYC, we don’t really have access to power tools. Yes, we could have rented some, but honestly the hassle of waiting for something to be available, going to pick something up, transporting it home on the subway then up a few flights of stairs, then going through it all again to return was just not something we wanted to do, so we did everything by hand (we did use a drill at one point but thats totally optional). This project required two people and definitely 4 hands at times, so grab a buddy. If you don’t have anyone willing to help, DON’T WORRY, I’m sharing two different methods here, and one can even be adjusted to be rental-friendly!

Method 1 (2 people)


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Step One

Measure, cut & attach the beadboard panels. For some reason we didn’t do this first, but in the interest of not damaging any molding you should do it first! It was supposed to be installed vertically but somehow ours ended up horizontal, and I’m totally okay with that! Cuts are a little tricky, so make sure your saw is sharp. Once cuts are made, lay the shelf face down on the floor. Attach the beadboard to the back with nails.

Step Two

Lift the shelf back to standing. Measure the baseboard. If you choose to apply it just to the front you will just be making a straight cut with the mitre box and saw. If you want to do the sides as well you will need to make 45 degree angle cuts, more on that here. Once cut, attach it to the shelf with construction adhesive. Place books or weights against it to hold in place while drying.

Step Three

You’re going to be covering the edges of each shelf, the center (if you have one) and the sides with molding. We used thinner molding for the front of the shelves and thicker for the center and sides. Measure and cut each piece, then attach with construction adhesive. You can apply painter’s tape to secure them in place while the glue dries.

Step Four

To prep for the crown molding, you’re going to need to give it some support on the top of the shelf so it has something to adhere to. I happened to have some corner molding leftover from a previous project so we used that, but a 2×4 (or any small block of wood) would work as well. We cut them into 3 inch strips then attached these, about 3 inches apart along the front and side edges of the top of the bookcase. We used a drill to screw them in, but you could use construction adhesive if you don’t have one.

Step Four

Now for the tricky part- cutting the crown molding. If you’re like us and not using a power mitre saw, you’re going to need to 4 hands for this step, especially if your crown molding is as tall as mine. One person needs to hold the mitre box very still while the other cuts at a 45 degree angle. Here is another blog post I found that goes more in depth on cutting crown molding.

Step Five

Attach the crown molding to each block of wood at the top of the bookcase using construction adhesive, this may also be a two person job- getting the corners to line up is the hard part, make sure you run a very thin line of adhesive where the corners meet so they stick together! To be safe, we also secured the crown molding using finish nails every few inches.

Step Six

Once all adhesive is dry, fill each and every crevice with paintable caulk, smooth and remove excess with a wet towel. Removing excess is crucial so you end up with a smooth finish.

Step Seven

Time to paint! I chose to paint the outside a creamy white and the inside slightly darker to add subtle dimension. Please note that my bookcase had already been primed and painted by a previous tenant. If you are starting with a new shelf, you’ll need to prime before painting!

Method 2 (easier, 1 person)


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This method is pretty much the same process as above, but simplified with a few differences:

  • instead of cutting beadboard panels, you’re going to attach beadboard wallpaper right onto the wall behind the bookcase. I didn’t do this because my wall has molding about 1/4 of the way up, but if you have smooth walls this could work great!
  • to avoid complicated angle cuts, you will not be using baseboard or crown molding. Instead, you’ll use decorative molding on the outer edges. You can cut 45 degree angles where the corners meet with mitre shears. You will not have crown molding sitting on top of the bookcase, instead it will be framed out on 4 sides with pretty decorative molding.
  • you will still attach everything with construction adhesive and caulk all seams
  • *if you want to make this rental-friendly, I suggest using command strips on the back of the molding instead of glue.

Please let me know in the comments, or DM me on instagram if you have any questions! This corner is FAR from done, I plan on doing a massive gallery wall to the left of it and I’m on the hunt for a leather chaise to nestle right next to the shelf, for a cozy and masculine(?!) vibe in here. Stay tuned!