Floating Bookcases

Most crafters love a good read and a bookcase filled with literature is the quickest way to make a room feel homey. As a card-carrying book-worm I think books need to be given pride of place, but in small flats space can be an issue. I guess the solution is to create the feeling of space, while at the same time, cramming rooms with as many books as possible. Sounds tough?

Enter my boyfriend:

Crafty Boyfriend

The only space I have for a bookcase is in my hallway, but the designers at IKEA obviously have lower and thinner skirting boards in their homes and so the ubiquitous Billy bookcase range’s bottom section is the wrong shape for the walls (and skirting) in my flat. Having already purchased said bookcases, this left me with two options (or so I thought): 1, hack away at the scalloped section of the bookcase to fit the skirting board; or 2, mount it proud of the skirting board leaving a gap that meant it was not flush to the wall – resulting in a loss of precious space, and increasing the likelihood of people walking into the bookcase and knocking it over. I resolved to go with option 1 until, junior hacksaw in hand, I had a rare moment of inspiration; why not cut off the entire bottom section of the bookcase and wall mount it off the floor, flush-to-wall, and resting above the skirting board??

Open googalization, it transpired I was not the first to come up with this idea. This was encouraging. I found the IKEA Hackers site first up, with instructions for their ‘Floating Billy Bookcase’, and despite it being thin on detail this was really all I needed to get cracking.

You Will Need:

  1. An IKEA Billy bookcase
  2. A saw
  3. Space to work
  4. Ideally, an electric drill/screwdriver
  5. Enough screws and brackets to secure the bookcase; I used 12 on the large Billy and 4 on the small

How To Make Your Billy Float:

  • Take your completed  Billy bookcase (but NOT according to the IKEA gospel, you will need to leave off that horrible flimsy bit of backing wood, and don’t put the optional shelves on yet), and place it on a large work-top.
  • With a saw (I had upgraded the junior hacksaw by this stage), remove everything south of the bottom shelf, so you are left with large rectangle frame with one fixed strengthening shelf in the middle. Sand away to make it a bit smoother or else you’ll end up with chip-board splinters. Also remember you’ve taken some of the rigidity away with your sawing, so handle the frame carefully.
  • To mount the bookcase you need a generous helping of right angle brackets to hold up all that load – I put mine on the underside of all three shelves and adjacent to that on the side of the frame, using screws of about 15mm. I actually think might have been slight overkill in the end (there are over 25 screws in to the wall), but when you are talking about the possibility of a bookcase toppling on you, over-engineering seems like a good starting point. So attach these brackets to those points on the frame
  •  Then using a few piles of books (or other flat stackable object), get your bookcase in its final resting position on the wall and check it with a spirit level. I actually rested mine on the skirting board because that’s the height I wanted it but there is nothing to stop it going straight onto the wall, as long as the brackets are strong enough.
  • Get your pencil (I stole the little IKEA one from the store) and mark the drilling points through the brackets.

  • Next, you can probably guess, is a whole load of drilling. So move the bookcase somewhere else and get stuck-in (I like to save these tasks for a Saturday morning so the neighbours can enjoy the tortured wall’s screams). You’ll need deep, thick screws but I won’t suggest a specific type as walls vary – I just go by the load-bearing suggestions on those packets of screw/rawlplug combos.
  • So, your left with a wall looking like a colander, now for fun bit; get your bookcase in place and with the (invaluable) aid of an electric screwdriver, fix it good a tight to the wall. It was amazingly solid by the time all the brackets were fastened.
  • You’re basically done now, just put the shelves where you want them as per usual. You could finish the edges with decorators caulk to get it flush if you want, but I didn’t see the need for that.

I also did the same for the IKEA skinny DVD rack, this time in a corner of the hallway. This was a very easy by comparison and needed less support brackets as it rested on two sections of skirting. A good little project to practise on first.

Everyone who walks into the flat comments on the floating bookcases. You would have to be an IKEA philistine to not recognise them as products of their swedish, but this was never about trying to pretend they weren’t cheap IKEA – it was about taking something mundane and making it more stylish and suitable for the space. Add to that the fact that it creates a visual sense of space, and is easier to clean around, and its a done deal!

Guest post by Jon Trotter (Crafty boyfriend)


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