Before & after: see how a savvy IKEA shelving hack totally transformed this living room

Built-in cupboards made from IKEA bookcases, savvy upcycling tricks and a lick of fresh white paint has brightened up this ex-rental home

When the owners came to view the house, it was in a poor state but they fell in love with its potential. It was an ex-rental and had been empty for ages. The boiler was beyond repair and the toilets didn’t flush! Every room needed urgent attention before they could move in.

Once they had tackled the boiler, bathroom and kitchen, the next room on the list was the living room...


living room with cream colour wall grey sofa with designed cushion and mirror on wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

Having bi-fold doors fitted instantly transformed the space, letting in natural light and connecting the space to the garden. A long column radiator was installed to heat the room and new flooring was laid throughout the ground floor.

The changes made a huge improvement, but the owners still didn’t feel like it was an inviting space. They put it down to making the classic mistake of putting all the furniture up against the walls in an attempt to make the room feel bigger.


living room after makeover with white wall white shelve and cream colour sofa with designed cushion

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Having researched furniture configurations to best suit the shape of the living room, the owner (an interior stylist and content creator)  settled on placing the sofa and armchairs in the middle of the room with a coffee table in the centre.

An old tatty sofa has been revamped by covering it in strips of wooden beading. The coffee table is an IKEA hack, which was picked up on Facebook marketplace for £10.

IKEA Billy bookcase shelving hack

white shelving unit with frame and plant vase

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

The living room shelving ideas are the part of the room the owner is most proud of as she completed the whole process on her own. 'I’d dreamed of a wall of custom joinery but it was way out of our budget,' she says. 'I decided to make my own by customising four IKEA Billy bookcases.'Transforming' them into bespoke built-in shelving for under £350.'

One of the best bits about having open shelves is the opportunity for endless faffing and styling. 'It’s become a running joke in our house that I’m always re-styling my shelves,' the owner tells us.

living room with grey sofa and designed cushion white wall round mirror and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

The owner installed the wall panelling herself using MDF strips. 'I went a bit mad and did all the ground floor,' she says. 'It gives a bit of interest to white walls.’

The grey Scandi-style tub chairs were sourced on eBay for just £110 each. They allow more flexibility with the layout of the living room.

Living room view through to kitchen

living room with white wall white shelve white door and wooden floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

Previously there was a little window in the aperture. The owners removed it to create a view from the kitchen into the living room and garden, opening up space.

Floral prints, lots of natural textures and earthy tones help to bring flow between the garden and living room.

Are you inspired by the DIY prowess of this budget-conscious home owner? Why not give it a go yourself?

Additional words: Maxine Brady

Stephanie Durrant
Deputy Editor Style at Home

Steph Durrant is the Deputy Editor of Ideal Home’s sister magazine, Style at Home. Steph is an experienced journalist with more than 12  years under her belt working across the UK’s leading craft and interiors magazines. She first joined the team back in 2016 writing for both homes brands, specialising in all things craft, upcycling and DIY.