How to Paint an IKEA Billy Bookcase

If you want to upcycle your Billy bookcase, painting it is a great option. This can give your bookcase a whole new look, is an easy project to achieve, and results in a stylish piece of furniture on a small budget.

The Billy bookcase is not made from solid wood, so you will need to follow slightly different guidelines compared with painting solid furniture items. Learn the best way to paint an IKEA Billy bookcase here.

What is an IKEA Billy Bookcase?

If you haven’t come across an IKEA Billy bookcase before, there’s a high probability you have been living under a rock or actively avoiding flat-pack furniture giants. For those that don’t know, the Billy bookcase is one of IKEA’s most iconic pieces of furniture.

Since its original design in 1979, it has evolved into various shapes and sizes, but all are keeping the classic components of the piece at its heart.

This is a very versatile type of bookcase that comes in a series of colors and is incredibly affordable. IKEA has sold in excess of 60 million Billy bookcases around the world, making it one of their best-selling products of all time. The Billy bookcase is sturdy and reliable, making it the international gold standard for flat-pack bookcases on a budget.

How to Upcycle a Billy Bookcase

How to Upcycle a Billy Bookcase

If you have a Billy bookcase but want to change up the look of it, you’re not alone. As an enormously popular product, there are many people who have found themselves in a situation where they want to revamp their Billy bookcase.

You may change your interior decor theme and find that your much-loved bookcase no longer matches your style, or maybe you want to move the bookcase to a different room, and it won’t work with the color scheme.

Maybe you’re simply bored of looking at the same piece of furniture for so long and feel like injecting a bit more character into your Billy bookcase. If your Billy bookcase is still in good condition and serving a purpose, then it makes no sense to discard it in favor of a new bookcase. Instead, there are a variety of ways you can upcycle your bookshelf to give it a new look.


Undoubtedly the most popular way to transform furniture is to paint it, and the Billy bookcase is no exception. Painting furniture has become a huge trend in recent years, as more people seek to help the environment by repurposing items they already have instead of filling landfills and buying new products.

Painting furniture is also enormously popular among a growing community of thrifty homeowners who want to create their ideal interior space on a budget.

As well as being a good way to give an old piece of furniture a new look on a budget, painting furniture is also great because it is so accessible. Anyone with very limited knowledge of painting will be able to take on a furniture painting project because it is so easy, and furniture paint is now widely available in big box stores, craft stores, and DIY and hardware stores.


One fun way to upcycle a Billy bookcase is to remove the shelves and apply wallpaper to the back wall of the bookcase. You can use wallpaper paste as an adhesive or double-sided tape. Simply cut the wallpaper to size, fix it in place, and re-install the shelves. This will give your Billy bookcase a new look using free wallpaper samples or leftover wallpaper from other projects.

Vinyl Wrap

Vinyl wrap, also known under the brand name of D-C-Fix, is a plastic-coated roll of paper with a sticky backing. These are available in a wide variety of patterns and involve peeling off the backing paper to reveal the sticky surface and then pressing this evenly across your furniture. This is a good option if you don’t want to create any mess, and it gives an instant makeover and a wipe-clean surface.

Painting Tips for an IKEA Billy Bookcase

Don’t Sand

If you have painted wooden furniture before, then you will likely know that the first step in painting furniture is to prep the surfaces by sanding them.

This removes the sheen on furniture and creates a rough surface that the paint will better adhere to. However, the Billy bookcase is not made from solid wood and instead is finished in a laminate veneer. This is a surface that should not be sanded, so you can skip this step.


Before you do anything else, you should disassemble your Billy bookcase and lay out the parts on a drop cloth so that any accidental drips or spills will not damage your flooring. You should paint each component of the bookcase separately to achieve the most professional finish.


As you can’t sand laminate veneer, you will need to prime it to ensure that the paint adheres. Otherwise, you can expect the paint to marble on the bookcase and result in an utter mess. Use a sealing primer to completely cover the laminate and create a new surface to paint on.

Select Correct Paint

If you have primed your Billy bookcase, then you can use almost any paint you like to finish it with. Chalk paint is a popular choice, though be warned that chalk paint advises a primer is not needed- this is NOT the case on laminate veneer, and you will still need to prime to ensure your chalk paint sticks. Remember as well that chalk paint will need to be sealed with a wax or varnish.

You can also use interior furniture paint on your bookcase, with a matte finish for a classic look or a gloss finish for a polished look.

Use Rollers and Brushes

If you want to avoid brush strokes showing up on your bookcase, you should use a small roller to cover the majority of it. Use a brush only for corners and areas that are difficult to reach with a roller.