Wall O Shelves
April 23, 2010 8:36 PM   Subscribe

What is the best solution for a wall of bookcases?

I am moving into a new apartment and I would like a wall of bookcases. I have looked into the IKEA Billy...and while I think it would be an affordable and reasonably attractive choice...I wonder if I couldn't do better/more attractive/more sturdy for the same ballpark price.

If you were going to fill a 10 foot wall with as much bookcase as you could for say...umm, 600 bucks....what would you go with?

Also...does anyone have a bunch of Billies? Are you happy with them or do you regret it?

posted by ian1977 to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I have four of them lining one of my walls and I think it looks quite nice. I would highly recommend it.
posted by Silvertree at 8:46 PM on April 23, 2010

I've got a billy and my ex has 2. He keeps records (heavy!) in his, and they still look every bit as good as mine, which holds clothing.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:52 PM on April 23, 2010

I have lived with laminated bookcases for most of my life, and they work fine. It's a good idea to spread out your hardbacks and encyclopedias rather than load up one shelf year after year, but even once they warp you can stick some over sized coffee table book in to hold up one part and no one will notice (well, at least no one has ever said they noticed.)

Of course you know you could buy a table saw, some wood and screws, and varnish and paint brushes and a how-to book for about the same price, and build something better in a day and a half. -- Um, yeah, OK, I have a table saw that I use every other year, and have built two of the book cases I have -- but you could do it.
posted by Some1 at 9:00 PM on April 23, 2010

I have these guys in my living room (link is to a collection of types of modular units which can be bought individually) and they are very sturdy and fit together in an attractive way. I also like the fact that I can add onto my wall of (different types of) shelves and cabinets and drawers as I can afford.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:00 PM on April 23, 2010

I'm thinking along the same lines, and tempted by either the 'Hungarian Shelf' approach or something like the Container Store's Elfa range (discussed here along with pricier options) where the shelves are flush to the wall. Since that involves screwing standards into wall studs, which is less feasible in a rented apartment, 'bunch o'Billies' is probably your easiest option.
posted by holgate at 9:06 PM on April 23, 2010

I have a lot of bookshelves, and it's great to have the storage, but: if I had it to do over again, I'd make sure that many of the shelves either had doors or the option to install doors (maybe glass doors). Life is too short to spend it dusting.

Sure, it only takes a few minutes, but multiply that by the number of times you do it per year, times 30 years (and you won't ever want to get rid of these shelves, so you will have them forever).... it's a few days out of your life. Just saying.
posted by amtho at 9:17 PM on April 23, 2010

I would go with Billys + doors as well. Doors eliminate dust.

The nice thing about Billys in particular is you can reasonably bet that if you want to add another in 5 or 10 years, Ikea will still be selling Billyses, so you'll be able to find something matching or that goes with your existing ones.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:43 PM on April 23, 2010

FYI you can find the same sort of bookcase at Walmart for 1/2 to 2/3 the price.

I have been very happy with my Walmart bookcases.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:48 PM on April 23, 2010

I like the idea of adding some simple crown molding along the top to make it all look like a single piece of furniture. Just don't get white.

Ikea's pax wardrobes come with some sleeved screws. You drill through the shelf support holes and use them to join 2 or more pieces into a solid unit. I put in a row of 3 wardrobes and made a false wall and trim around it to make the whole thing look built-in. We love it.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:12 PM on April 23, 2010

Or you could easily build them. The nice lady at Knock Off Wood has plans and instructions.
posted by irisclara at 10:23 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am currently planning a wall o' shelves and at the moment I am leaning towards the Elfa shelving with wood from Home Depot (or the like).
posted by grapesaresour at 10:42 PM on April 23, 2010

I have seen a brick bookcase - of the design broadly described here look very good. The ideas is to pick up the shelving material and bricks for next to nothing.
posted by rongorongo at 2:12 AM on April 24, 2010

I have six billies. They work. They're probably on my list of best function:value items at Ikea. People have mentioned that you can always get another one years down the line. This is true except occasionally the colors do change - so go conservative if you plan on adding more later. Mine were six in a row down one wall until I needed part of the wall for something else. It looked good - obviously not a built-in - but unless you're really into design it won't bother you. Do make sure that your bookcases are all squared when you put them together; leaning ones look crappy.

People also love the expedit bookcase which is less efficient in terms of books/bookcase area but has the added bonus of being free standing. People use it as a room divider. The squares also are good for displaying things and storing things other than books.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:19 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm looking at my 3 Billies right now. I think they're great. They've made it through 2 moves (secret: don't take apart the frames, just remove the shelves) and hold a ton of books. They're excellent value for the money.

My one small objection is that the shelves are much deeper than necessary for most books, so as furniture they take up more space than, say, made-to-measure shelves would. But I compensate for that by double-stacking books on some shelves, and putting a small object here and there in front of the books on other shelves.
posted by Paris Elk at 4:45 AM on April 24, 2010

I'd personally go with Expedit over Billies. I like the flexibility of the system, and the graphic impact it has depending on how you arrange inserts or bins/baskets, etc.
posted by drlith at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2010

I use Billys for everything - tall ones for books, medium ones inside the closets for sheets & towels, short ones by the front door for shoes. The only reason I don't have more of them is that I've run out of places to put them.
posted by elizardbits at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

My one small objection is that the shelves are much deeper than necessary for most books

Seconded. I do okay with a wall of similar (Big Lots) laminate shelves for my larger books, but even then there's a ton of space wasted. If you've got a lot of mass-market paperbacks, it may be worth building your own shelves to fit (nobody sells them). DVD-sized shelves work decently but they're usually too flimsy and too expensive.

And do anchor the shelves (even in a rental, it's not that many holes) and shim the bottoms so they're not even close to leaning forward. It might not end up being necessary, but if it is, you'll be glad you did it. Crushed by a wall of books is probably not a great way to go.
posted by asperity at 7:31 AM on April 24, 2010

I had a bunch of Billy, and then moved into a tiny apartment and sold them, and now that I'm back in a bigger place I bought Ivar instead of Billy. I don't have a picture of mine but here's a few units' worth to give you an idea of what a big Ivar looks like.

The main disadvantage of Ivar is that it's open-backed and -sided, which means bookends and a bit of a different look. The main advantage from where I sit is that it's all solid wood. Like Billy, it's been available forever and will probably remain so. Unlike Billy, pieces attach to each other so it automatically turns into one big wall-sized bookcase. There's also pieces to go around corners and so on too. Also: stainable and paintable, which solves the "discontinued color" problem (and also the thing where Ikea subtly changes the shade of a color and you don't realize until you've bought some).

(My Ivar shelves also hold weight that made a Billy shelf bow.)
posted by mendel at 8:45 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ivar works great. What makes them great is that you can sand them, stain and do a poly coat for a custom look. I have a good sized book collection and Ivar has held up as long as you do the cross bracing and use molly anchors for the really tall cases. People think my shelves are custom and quite frankly, Ivar is EASY to modify if you have an electric saw (short, odd spaces easily solved).
People assume that my book cases are custom.
posted by jadepearl at 9:31 AM on April 24, 2010

I'd go with Elfa. You do need to install the hanger track, but after that, assembly is dead simple, and (in case you'll be moving someday) the shelves pack down better than bookcases. Construction is also sturdier than Ikea's laminate, IMO. My garage is filled with Elfa and it's great. I especially like the fact that it doesn't reach down to the floor, so I can clean under/around more easily.
posted by adamrice at 9:38 AM on April 24, 2010

I have a 12' wall of Billies in my bedroom, plus the extensions on the top. Full of books and DVDs. We have the birch ones, as do many of the folks above. I used to have the red-brown, but I found that they look very faux-wood and show damage very easily. It's hard to beat Billy for the price and look.

Can I interest you in some lingonberries?
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:41 AM on April 24, 2010

Floating Billies
posted by mlis at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2010

People also love the expedit bookcase

We have a 4x4 Expedit and love it, but it was a bit tricky to move (there was one narrow staircase turn it couldn't make, so we had to use a different bookcase upstairs).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:06 PM on April 24, 2010

Do you want a wall of bookcases or a wall of books? You can really maximise the shelfspace with Ivar, but if you want the definition provided by vast amounts of wood that could have perfectly good books on instead, by all means go for Billy or something similar.

(My set of Ivar shelves have survived three moves, and will be expanding again when I move back to somewhere bigger; I'll be starting with one upright and half a dozen shelves or so, but it should be fine without another crossbrace as the current unit will provide enough stability.)
posted by Lebannen at 3:31 PM on April 24, 2010

I have the Billys in a rental and I bolted them to the wall--I plan on spackling the hole when I leave. I love them, I have the light gray ones with the glass doors and I put a beautiful 50's fabric in the panel of the doors--people can't believe they are Ikea.

I especially like the doors as they keep my space from looking too hectic with all the books and stuff--and I'm way too allergic to dust...
posted by beckish at 5:25 PM on April 24, 2010

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