How to Paint an Ikea Billy Bookcase

Ikea Billy Bookshelves

Ahhh, the Ikea Billy. It’s everywhere. And it’s been in my life for at least 10 years. When they moved with us to the house I just wasn’t feeling their beech veneer anymore so I decided we should paint them. We still wanted to use them as bookshelves so we were very concerned about the painted shelves sticking to and ruining our books. Luckily our friendly neighborhood Home Depot paint man had a suggestion on how we should do this. Here are the steps we took.

How to Paint an Ikea Billy Bookcase

Step 1: Rough up your Billy with some sandpaper. This will help the paint stick better.
Step 2: Start with a coat or two of a good water based primer. We used Zinsser Bull’s Eye 123. We were pleasantly surprised at the mild smell of this but be you should still do this in a room where you can open some windows and use a fan.
Step 3: After the primer is dry apply a couple of coats of Porch and Floor paint. Mr. Paint Man suggested Behr Porch and Floor Low-Lustre Enamel. He said this was because we still wanted to use the shelves for books and that the floor paint would stand up to us pulling books on and off. Makes total sense and made all the difference. The color we used matched our walls, Behr Natural Linen. We were hoping it would help them blend into the room better.
Step 4: Let everything dry for a few days, we waited a week. When we felt they were dry and not sticky we put the shelves back in. I’ll warn you that 2 coats of primer and a few coats of paint will make the shelves fit tighter than they did before. We wound up having to sand the sides of the shelves to make them fit. I suppose you could paint them completely assembled but you’d have to be absolutely sure you were comfortable with your shelf placement.
Step 5: Put your books back on and enjoy Billy’s new look! So far so good on the shelves. We haven’t had a problem with sticking or the paint peeling off. At 70 bucks each and with more than 10 years of use Billy’s holding up pretty darn well.

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6 Responses to “How to Paint an Ikea Billy Bookcase”

  1. Annica Benning August 7, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Thank you for this! I am painting my BILLY today :)

    • •k• August 7, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      Good Luck Annica! Enjoy your new Billy!

  2. Lisa Thamert August 13, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Wondering how the paint has held up to use over the last year?

    • •k• August 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

      Actually very well. And we’ve had a pretty sticky summer!

  3. Rob February 1, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    Hi. Can you tell me the color of paint on the wall in your bedroom?

    • •k• February 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Sure, the paint in this room is Behr, Natural Linen.