Hiding an Eyesore with a “Built-in” Bookcase

When we moved into our home four years ago, there were so many little features that I found charming.  We had the giant above the front door ledge.  There were various art nooks that provided some architectural interest.  What would become the playroom and Zack’s room had these little doors that provided access to large attic storage spaces.

As such things go, I soon realized what a pain all of those things are to decorate around.  In the playroom, I began by having a sofa in front of the little attic door.  The problem was that the door handle is at head height, so not only did it stick out above the sofa, but I hit my head on it several times when I sat down.  That sofa is long gone thanks to an old man cat with a bladder problem and a rage issue, but the door remains.  And I’ve given the door the evil eye ever since.

Several of my friends, notably Centsational Girl and Just a Girl, have created faux built-in sets of bookcases using pieces from Ikea’s Billy collection.  After obsessing about their new beautiful spaces, I realized that installing my own built-in Billy system could not only provide us with some needed playroom storage, but it could also solve the eyesore door problem.  I measured and discovered that my door would fit inside the dimensions of the wide Billy bookcase with a few inches to spare.  Some Billy Olsbo doors would hide that attic door without a problem.

Sorry for the terrible photos.  A new camera, better lenses and camera lessons are on their way to me soon!

To make them look truly built-in, we had a few steps to take other than just assembling them.  The first thing I did was to lay the thin plywood backing on the empty Ikea boxes and paint them yellow (Sunflower by Glidden).  Using a high density foam roller, I primed them with Zinsser Cover Stain oil based primer, and then then gave them three coats of yellow paint.

We slid the backings into our four bookcases and nailed them into place per the instructions.  For the one section of bookcase that hides the door, we had to cut the backing so that we still had access to the attic through the bookcase.  If that doesn’t make sense, it soon will.

Another thing we had to do was attach the four free standing bookcases to each other.  We laid them flat (fronts down) and raised the two shallower end units so that their backs would be flush with the deeper units.  Tom drove some screws through the sides on the bottom and top of the units.  He also attached some 2 x 4 boards to the bottom to help tie them together and also raise the bookcases up so that the baseboard trim we would install would be level with the trim that was already on our walls.

We very carefully tilted the bookcases up and anchored them to the wall from the top with L-brackets going through the studs.  These bad boys aren’t going anywhere.

You can see where the paint got scraped off of the backing on the little unit on the right.  We slid the backing into the unit against the direction of the arrow that was printed on it.  Who’d have known there was really a right way and wrong way to slide those suckers in?  At any rate, I was able to easily touch up that paint.

Unlike Kate and Chris, our “built-ins” couldn’t go wall to wall since we had a closet door and an open railing to deal with.  So, we had to end up buying baseboard trim (instead of removing what we already had and reusing it) and nail it to the front and sides of the unit.  We also added crown moulding to the top, quarter round at the joints to the wall and between the individual bookcases and a strip of lattice to the front to hide the seam where the two larger units were joined.  Kate did an excellent job explaining this process, so I won’t even try.  I primed the mouldings and painted them with a latex paint I had color matched to the units – I just took a shelf in to Lowe’s to do the color matching.

Once the moulding was finished, I painted the wall behind the bookcase and added the shelves and doors to the unit.  And in the process, the attic door was hidden.  I’m not sold on the yellow yet, and I’ll probably end up changing it.  But, I’m going to wait until my room is complete before I worry about that.  It’s just paint after all.

The great thing about this Billy “built-in” idea is that it looks professionally installed, provides a ton of storage, and hides the eyesore of an attic door.  See?

To access that attic space, all I have to do is remove the shelves and unlock the attic door.  I may take me an additional minute to get into the attic as it did before the doors were hidden.  This part of the attic is where we store all of our Christmas decorations, so we only need to get in and out of there two times a year – to get the decorations out and to put them away.

All I have to do now is crawl through the bookcases.  And it is SO worth it to have that annoying little door hidden.

Yes, I’m in my pajamas.  Yes, it may have been 3 o’clock in the afternoon when I took this picture.  Just keeping it real, y’all.

 Have you had to come up with a creative solution to hide an eyesore in your home?  Have a question about my bookcases?  See you in the comments!


Filed Under: Transform Your Furniture

About Lindsay Ballard

Lindsay Ballard is a former college mascot turned political geek turned DIY fanatic who is conspiring to live in a Technicolor dream world. Her designs are bold and graphic, while her spirit is fun and full of color. Lindsay chronicles her projects and design ideas here at Makely, where she shares daily tutorials and inspiration. Lindsay lives outside of Austin, Texas with her husband (Tom), children (Zack and Emma) and dogs (Jack and Duke).


  1. It looks so good! I love how the moulding makes it look that much more professional. I would have loved that little door as a kid. 😉

  2. I love the yellow! I’m sure once you fill up the shelves, it won’t be so bold, but I think it looks great against the white and blue color paint. Great job on the built in- looks fab.

    • I think you’re right, which is why I’m holding off on passing judgment on the color. It might be “too” much with the rest of the room, though. I can’t believe *I* just said that.

  3. I vote for the yellow! It’s bold and unexpected and really awesome! What an excellent project, I’m so so impressed. Thanks for sharing it :)

  4. I’m not usually a yellow girl, but I LOVE that yellow. I think it’s perfect!

  5. Amanda @ mommyiscoocoo says:

    Ahhh-mazing! Hope you have a great week!

  6. That is amazing! Great job! And btw, I will gladly click a link to read your posts!

  7. What a great job, and I love the bold yellow with the blue & white, like colours a decorator would choose. Using the baseboard along the bottom really gives the unit a professional finish.

  8. When I was a kid, I’d hang out in my attic, pretending I was Anne Frank or Lucy from the Chronicles of Narmia, until it got too hot up there to tolerate any longer. I completely understand the need for Mommy Time Out, but that section of the attic could be such a cool ‘secret’ playroom, especially with the new entry! It’d definitely feel like going through the wardrobe.

    • LOL! Yeah, it’s unfinished and super hot in there, so They last for all of two minutes. That’s such a fun idea, though.

  9. Looks AWESOME!!!

  10. I love it Lindsay! And of course, the colors you chose are perfect for the playroom.

  11. I’m so impressed with all the work you get done around your house. With two kids. *JEALOUS* This project is awesome! Keep the yellow. It’s fun!

  12. Paula Beckham says:

    Great job! Leave the yellow; it looks super!

  13. I am having a The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe moment seeing you crawl the bookcase door.

  14. Bravo, Lindsay! Love the fun punchy color you chose for the backing of the bookcases. :) I’ll echo Condo Blues–I can see my kids playing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe there!

  15. Really turned out lovely, hiding the little attic door. I don’t have any problem with living in PJs, I see people in town wearing them all the time!

  16. I’m LOVING it!!! I have a full sized door that looks less than stellar – this has given me food for thought – storage in the gameroom/exercise room with the entrance to the attic!!

  17. This looks terrific and what a clever idea! I’m digging the yellow with the wall color you have now, but I could see how you might get tired of it. It’s perfect for a play room though!

    I hate to hear that you are having trouble people stealing your content. :( I’m really glad you chose to do a summary and picture rather than just the first few lines of your post. I so rarely click over to those because I don’t know what the post is about. A good idea and obviously you got me to click over! :)

    • Oh, good! I was so worried about the feed thing, but I’m glad that everyone seems fine with it. It takes some extra work on my end for each post, but I think it is worth it if you guys like it. Thanks for clicking over! :)

  18. Such a good idea for a cover-up plan. I completely agree with Elizabeth L. Thank you for including a picture in your truncated post. I am sad that many are being forced to truncate their posts due to scalpers, but your approach is the best I have seen so far.

    • Thanks, Emily! I’m willing to do the extra bit of work if it makes you guys happy. Blogging sure has changed a lot over the last few years -so much more to worry about now! I’m glad I have found a reasonable solution.

  19. Heather C. says:

    I love the yellow! I love everything about it!! Awesome job!! Now to gain the confidence to do the same in our family room -eeek!

  20. I just found your site through Pinterest. I LOVE your idea. !!!

  21. I spent more than a month of sunny weekends painting the inside of an ugly bookcase I was repurposing for my craft room with a lovely intense shade of orange. Finally finished, and found out it won’t fit up the stairs to the craft room! I’m crushed and trying to get the desire to start the project all over, but with a new shelf I can assemble in place…the Billy.

    Why did you choose the Zinsser cover stain in the oil base instead of the 1-2-3 primer?

    • Sounds like you need to bring that orange bookcase to me! :)

      I picked the oil based primer because the backing had a thin layer of shiny laminate on it and I knew the oil would bond well and hold the paint better. I also had it on hand, which helped with that decision!

  22. I love it.

    I’ve always plotted out where in a house you could build a secret room that wouldn’t get noticed by “searchers” – ever since reading Anne Frank and Corey Ten Boom – it seems that things can change from the peaceful and free way we live now, to the “hide your friends and neighbors in your attic” that might require some quick re-modelling.

    This is perfect- if anything drastic should happen in many years, you are going to be a lifesaver!! Or maybe future owners of your house! Way to be a hero 😀 heehe

  23. I love this solution! You obviously had to do a lot of work but the end result is fabulous.

    I also wanted to thank you for going above and beyond with your RSS feed. I know so many bloggers are having issues right now but your RSS feed truncating was amazing. I recognized you and your blog immediately and was sure to click over and I’m glad I didn’t miss this project. I know you’re dealing with 2x the annoyance with having scrapers and the extra work on your feed but seriously, thank you for all the hard work!

  24. That really does look professionally installed! The idea of adding trim to the bookshelves is genius! I definitely want to look into doing something like this for a future DIY project. Thanks for the inspiration :)

  25. Mirna Barriga says:

    Awsome!!!!!!!!!!! Now my husband cannot argue with me about how a built in will be oh so expensive. We love Ikea and this is a great solution. I so do need the storage for all my books and pictures. Thank you so much for sharing!

  26. Oh WOW!!! I LOVE the bright yellow – what a creative way to hide the door! You did an amazing job.

  27. I have been removing blogs from my Reader all afternoon because I just do not have the time/care to click over to see *if* the content was something I was interested in. I am leaving yours on because it is so easy to view first and then click over. I feel like this is the best middle ground for your readers’ convenience and also your content protection. Thanks for going above and beyond for your “Readers”.

    • Thank you for that, Cristin. It really is a tough decision when you know that so many people rely on the RSS feed, but you really don’t want these strangers to be earning a living from stolen content. I think what I’ve done is a good middle ground, and I’m happy that you are happy, too.

  28. totally AHH-MAZING. i am incredibly jealous!!! :) this is FAB!

  29. Love everything about it! And I can’t wait to show it to the hubs b/c we have a breaker box that drives me crazy and I have been wanting to hide it for EIGHT years!!!

  30. Excellent solution! And who doesn’t want to own a bookcase with a magical hidden door??

  31. That was a trick, it looks a hiding place, anyways I like how it was made and how it looks. Perfect color combination as well. :)

  32. I love the “built ins”. The colors are great too.

    I followed over from my Google reader. Sorry to hear people are stealing your stuff. Your blog looks great on the iPad so thanks for making it easy!

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! I try to make it as easy as possible. I think I still have some tweaks I could make here and there to make it look even better, but I’m trying to take baby steps and not overwhelm myself.

  33. I love it! The built-in is terrific, and the colours you chose are beautiful! I’m inspired – makes me feel like painting some rooms right now. :) Enjoy your “new” room!

  34. beautiful job! it looks so professional.

  35. Genius! I’m so stealing this idea because we have the same door in one of our rooms!

    • Does that door wear you out or what? Everyone who comes over always said, “What is that door for?” I used to say that my cleaning fairy lived in there. Oh, how I wish!

  36. Lindsay, absolutely love all aspects of your creative, problem solving project. Can you please tell us what brand/color your wall paint is? Thanks for your hard work to share. Vicki

  37. I LOVE IT. I want wall-to-wall cases too but I rent. I’m thinking about doing it anyway in the living room to flank the fireplace.

    • Do it! If you just add new baseboard molding instead of removing what’s on the wall, you’ll be able to easily take them down when you leave.

  38. I just hopped over from Centsational Girl and I LOVE your bookcases. They look amazing! Definitely not like Billy’s. For what it’s worth, I like the yellow and I think it will get toned down once you fill the shelves up. Then again, as you said, it’s just paint, so it’s easy enough to change. Great way to hid that little door AND still be able to use it!

  39. I’m here by way of Centsational Girl’s blog. What a fabulous way to hide that door and still have access to it. Brilliant!

  40. This is absolutely brilliant! and the space looks awesome.

  41. Amazing idea and great execution!!!!! Love the yellow in the blue room!

    Saw this at Centsational girl btw. :-)

  42. Vanessa B. says:

    Thank you for fueling my new obsession with having some kind of hidden door/room thing in my house. It is so cool! And I have to say I am absolutely loving the yellow. So happy to have found your blog thanks to Kate @ Centsational Girl!

  43. LOVE what you did with these bookcases. Functional and pretty!

  44. Lindsay this was such an awesome idea!!! Genius!!! I love your whole project and that little door is in a great place now. Stopping over from Centsational Girl.

  45. I love the combination of yellow and blue… Leave it that way! Don´t change the yellow painting…

  46. Thank you for posting this! We are moving in two weeks and our new master bedroom would look gorgeous with built in shelves, but I didn’t know the cost of doing it. I knew I could probably do it myself, thanks for the how-to!

  47. I’m contemplating using Billy cases to do a library, but I’ve heard they have a cardboard-like back, which affects the stability of the unit. I never see this issue addressed in any of the blog posts I’ve seen. Did you have a problem? If so, what did you do to strengthen/stabilize the units? Thanks!

    • Hey Pam-

      Yes, the backing is similar to cardboard. I think that it’s a thin sheet of MDF covered in a laminate. It’s thick enough that it doesn’t wiggle.

      The bookcases do come with cut outs at the bottom so they fit around your baseboard trim and up tight against the wall. The wider bookcases have a metal bar that spans across the middle that further help stabilize it.

      That being said, ours are overly attached to the studs in the walls since we have kids. We were terrified that the kids would try to climb them and they’d topple. I probably wouldn’t worry about it if we didn’t have kids, though.

      I hope that helps!

  48. I’m seriously contemplating going the cheaters way out and buying bookcases instead of building them since we have a party coming sooner than we’d like to admit. It’s clear that you have two different depth bookcases. Online I wasn’t able to find two different depth Billys. Could you possibly provide a link for me? What’s the depth of the shallower one? Thank you so much! You may have solved our design issue!!!

  49. Where did you find the doors to fit the width/height of the bookshelves or did you have them custom made? Thanks!

  50. maria harvey-starkey says:

    Wish I had the pictures of a builtin linen closet I had built in a bath years ago. It had a door in the back of it to access the ‘secret storage’ hiding spot we used for Christmas (and to hide those dumb boxes my husband wanted to save from any and all STUFF he bought’ that he thought just MIGHT need to be shipped back for warranty work?? lol

    Great project, love the ideas here!!! Thanks!!

  51. Betty819 says:

    Wow! You all were really clever how you built the bookcases around your storage door. You’d never know it is there but it is still accessible if the need arises. Great job! Can’t wait to check out the rest of your blogspot to see some of the other projects you have accomplished. Thanks for sharing this with your followers/new fans!

  52. Wonderful solution!!!! Never would guess that you were trying to hide a “problem.” Love it!

  53. How clever! The solution seems so obvious. I have a mini door for storage access under the stairs. I have hated it since we moved in to our house. It is such an eye sore and hard to decorate around. Faux built-ins would be perfect for this area as it serves as family room/office/toy room. Love it!

  54. AngelaKay says:

    I lover this and am SO INSPIRED! Working on plans for built ins in our master to am now expanding the options I am considering.

  55. THis is so dang cool. As a kid I would have loved to have a secret door!

  56. OH my! This is amazing! I’ve pinned this and now following your blog! :) Just found you but I’ve already been browsing and found some fabulous things! Thanks for sharing! x

  57. LOVE the entire look of the room. The bookcase is an awesome idea! Am working on my home office and planning on using the same color scheme. What is the brand/color of the blue wall paint? Thanks!

  58. This is the perfect solution for our playroom too! Can I ask approx how much it cost?

  59. Linda Weeks says:

    Hi, Lindsay
    We just put in some IKEA Billy bookshelves, and were really happy with them. but you have given me some more ideas about how to finish them off with trim and maybe some color! Great work!

  60. Penelope says:

    I just had to comment. Thank you so much for keeping it real and posting the picture of you in your pjs at 3pm. That put a smile on my face and made me feel less guilty when I do that. Thanks!

  61. Hey,
    Amazing. How did you get the two center pieces to project out from the two smaller sides?
    Or can you tell me which components you bought from Ikea?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Abigail-

      I used two different depths of bookcases. I think some were 11″ deep and some were 15″ deep (or maybe deeper). But I just looked at Ikea’s website, and it looks like the Billy only comes in 11″ depths now. :(

  62. Hi there
    Could you tell me how you got the skirting board and the crown moulding to fit flush against the bookcase when the shelves are slightly recessed from the side panels of the unit. If we put the skirting or crown moulding up against the bookcase there is a gap.


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