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
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  • 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


    Beige living room with grey sofa, cream rug and ornate mirror

    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.


    White living room with in-built storage, cream sofa, yellow cushions, white coffee table and wood flooring

    Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles

    Having researched furniture configurations to best suit the shape of the living room, they 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

    Close up of white built-in living room shelving with ornaments, cactus and vase with pampas grass

    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.

    White living room with panelling, grey armchairs, yellow cushions, round mirror, wall lights and bi-fold doors

    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

    White living room with built-in storage shelving, serving hatch, storage bench, wood flooring and pheasant cushion

    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

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