As someone who works from home, I obviously spend a lot of time in my home office. It may come as no surprise that, as a creative by trade, I tend to be far more productive in a space that inspires me. As far as an office space, I find myself much more motivated and charged to get things done when I’m in a space that not only functions well but also feels nice to really be in. I’ve made an effort to create some beauty in my home office and give myself an inspiring view while I work throughout the day by creating a unique gallery wall (that has certainly changed and evolved over time) directly across from my desk.

The gallery feels fresh and a little quirky and brings me joy throughout the workday as I look at pieces that have meaning and bring up old memories, but the rest of the office just felt a little flat. As a space where I work, I didn’t want it to feel cluttered or too overwhelming (the gallery makes enough statement on it’s own) and adding more art to the walls felt redundant. 

While our house definitely has bits of character here and there, I’ve longed for something to not only add a bit of functional storage to this hard working space but also act as a place to display books, photos and items that have meaning to us. Back in our old house, we built floating shelves in a nook in our dining room and, while my style has certainly evolved since then (see below), looking back at old photos made me miss having a space specifically for displaying. 

I realized that our home office now would really be the perfect spot to add a bit of character and functional display space by creating our own version of the tried and true “IKEA Billy Bookcase Hack.” Spend more than a minute on Pinterest searching that phrase and you’ll find no shortage of inspiration. 

The plan became to use the IKEA Billy Bookcase to create built-in shelving on either side of the window behind my desk. After some brainstorming and planning, we got a few drawings together for how we hoped the final space would look and how we would work with our particular measurement and limitations.

Some elements we had to contend with were a return vent, an electrical outlet, and an old telephone jack on the right side of the window where one of the bookcases would be placed. The phone jack was really no problem (it’s been a long time since we had a home phone, and the jack was easily disconnected and removed) but we had to come up with a way to keep the return vent open and the outlet needed to remain accessible within our new built-in.

Based on our room dimensions and the dimensions of the Billy Bookcases, we knew we would need to build a frame for each bookcase (to eventually attach the finishing boards and trim to) and also a platform for each shelf to rest on.

We started out by assembling the bookcases, which was actually a breeze compared to some IKEA assembly I’ve experienced in the past, and then figured out exactly how we wanted each one placed on the wall. Once they were in place, we were able to plan out exactly how we were going to accommodate the vent and outlet within our build. 

First, we removed the trim along the back wall and on each side wall based on the depth of the bookcases, creating a nook for each one and its frame to slide into. Then, we built a platform base for each side to sit upon. We planned to raise the right side up just enough to create a new access to the return vent and then matched that on the left. 

In order to create access to the return vent, we cut out a space to allow airflow, framing that in, and attaching a perforated metal panel that will eventually be painted white and trimmed out to allow for air flow while still blending into the construction. Then, we created a frame from the base to the ceiling. Each bookcase will sit inside of these frames, allowing us to attach finishing wood and trim pieces from floor to ceiling. 

Lastly, we placed the bookcases into their new frames and secured them to the wall, keeping them firmly in place. To allow access to the outlet, I simply cut the bookcase’s back panel at the height of the first shelf. I’ll then paint the wall the same white as the rest of the elements, leaving it almost undetectable.

Phase II will be all about truly creating that built-in and enclosing each frame to take each side from simple IKEA to a true built-in feature. So far, things are looking just how I imagined and have already given the space some of that dimension and character than I’ve been looking for! I’m hoping to make some progress this upcoming weekend and be back with an update for you sometime soon!

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