38 weeks pregnant building an IKEA Billy bookcase entertainment centre

About the space

We moved into a 3 level above ground townhome. When we moved into our new home we knew we wanted to keep the TV off the central level of our home. We don’t watch much TV and I much prefer the family chatter to TV background noise (even when your 3 year old is in ‘why’ mode).

Our basement was a finished open space. We have a full bath that we upgraded directly through the builder. That leaves an L space for us to hang out in. It’s a bright space with a large floor to ceiling window and a walkout patio door giving access to our backyard. The 9ft ceilings help to open the space up even more.

Why an entertainment centre?

  1. Safety – We have little kids running around our house at all times. I wanted to secure the TV and keep it inaccessible. My nephew had a TV fall on him and break his leg (it could have been a lot worse)
  2. Storage – toys, cars, books, crayons, super heros.. should I go on?
  3. Visually pleasing – there is something about a built-in that just commands attention. It’s simple, and clean and the floor to ceiling built-in makes it look very custom

Where to start?

I always start at the same place. Pintrest! Once I read a few blogs about the process, I document what questions remain and what will be different.

Let’s make it easier

  1. Use a pre-existing shelving system – IKEA has lots of options for shelving. I read many blogs and the most common were either the Billy series or the Besta series.
  2. Make it look grand & custom – If you really want that wow factor you need to make sure that every gap is covered and that the unit goes from the floor to the ceiling and from wall-to-wall. When we lined up the bookshelves vertically we had an 8 inch space left at the end of our wall. To make sure that it would fit the entire space of the wall we added trim between the two vertical shelves. This gives the illusion that the built-in actually goes from wall-to-wall. We also added moulding at the very top to close off the gap between the ceiling and the unit.
  3. Don’t use the backing.. or use it – We opted not to use the backing that came with the IKEA shelves. We have a light switch and also the electrical outlet on the wall. Because we didn’t have a jigsaw at the time it would be too difficult to cut these out
  4. Hide the unsightly imperfections – we have a diagonal vent box at the top. It drove me bananas. At first, I wanted to use cabinet doors to hide them completely. But then we realized doors would look strange paired with vertical open floating shelves. My second preference was to have a rustic natural wood shelf at the top of the space. However, at 84 inches long, it will prove to be very heavy and not suitable for the L-shaped brackets. So we settled with a standard white shelf. To cover the vent, I made three dollar DIY boxes and cut them on the angle. I’ll put up a blog post to show how I created those as well. I think it looks pretty sweet in the end.
  5. Make a new bestie (caulk and putty) – these finishing touches are super important in making the project look professional. Billy comes with about 662829 pre-drilled holes to adjust the shelves to your preference. Functional, except it looks terrible after. Use the putty to close the gaps. Use caulk in any places where two shelves meet. Trust me, once you start it’s very addictive because it’s so fulfilling.

Final thoughts

I love this space. It was the first big project my husband and I have done together in our new home. On a very small budget, we created a custom built-in that works for our family. Are you thinking of creating your own built-in? Feel free to leave a comment/ ask questions below.

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