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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

BILLY bookcase hack to IKEA office built-ins: a DIY guide

The pandemic is over, so you might be wondering why we needed IKEA office built-ins? Over the past couple of years, a lot has changed at Douglas HQ. We've both transitioned from being full-time employees (with the associated joys of commuting and office politics) to 100% work-from-home, freelance creatives. No longer confined to working for someone else, we're now masters of our own destiny. However, amidst this newfound freedom, we found ourselves constantly fighting over the kitchen table due to the lack of a dedicated workspace. After experimenting with various makeshift desks like console tables, we realized we needed a more practical solution.

How an upcycled bed frame transformed our IKEA hack built-ins into a functional DIY home office

IKEA office built ins - a DIY IKEA hack using billy bookcases
Before and after the IKEA office bult-ins project

A reshuffle of the kid's bedroom yielded an old bed frame, specifically just the head and foot parts. To avoid a trip to the rubbish tip (sorry - recycling centre), I took it upon myself to repurpose the wood into a desk. Ideally, I wanted a pull-out desk to save space when not in use. I decided that the IKEA hack with BILLY built-in shelves on our living room back wall would be the perfect place to house this pull-out desk as the shelving and IKEA cabinets offered storage space for home office items and equipment as well as room for an office chair. I devised a simple design focused on functionality and this blog post will show you how I did it in case you want to create a similar IKEA hack home office. 

Here's my step-by-step guide for how I upcycled the bed frame into a pull-out desk and snazzy DIY home office.

You will need:

Wall of IKEA hack built-in shelves with a single bed head leaning against them.

A wall of bookcases to create the built-in desk within 

Wood to construct the pull-out legs for the desk


Sander / sandpaper





Paintbrush (or paint sprayer if you have one - I don't!)

Wood filler

Palette knife (to apply the wood filler)

mdf panels (for the desk)

Paintable table (to connect the mdf desk pieces)

1. Crafting the pull-out desk frame

Timber on wooden floor with tools being made into DIY home office

I adapted the bed head to create a pull-out frame for the desk to sit on. It was super simple and the main idea was for it to be sturdy, blend in with the built-in shelves when pushed back and not in use.

As the bed head was already the right height for the desk, I only needed to adapt the width and remove the extra slats that weren't required. I saved the slats and repurposed them later on in the pull-out mechanism.

If you are creating the frame from scratch, use wood batons to construct a rectangular frame of the same width as your bookcase / shelving unit and the same height as the shelf you plan to use as the desk section.

2. Customizing the built-in shelves

Upcycling a bed frame in to a pull out desk for DIY home office

I removed a middle shelf where the computer monitor would need to sit and a shelf that would have been knee-height to accommodate someone sitting at the desk and mirrored these changes on the far RHS bookcase. I took the fake shelf fronts off first to make the actual shelf removal easier, which reminds me, people always ask how I got the shelf fronts to look thicker than the classic thin BILLY shelves, and it was super simple. I stuck some 50mm wide MDF strips over the actual shelf fronts with No More Nails grab adhesive, then filled any gaps with flexible filler, sanded, primed and painted. Taking them off was really easy, just a case off pulling the overhanging MDF strip and levering off.

3. Creating the pull-out mechanism

Mechanism for pull out shelves in DIY home office by Claire Douglas

I wanted to create a simple way to keep the desk frame sturdy when in use but without adding lots of extra pieces that would make it bulky and stand out from the main structure of the shelves, so I had a really simple idea to use slats from the bed-frame to create a guide fixed to the side of the built-ins for the protruding support pieces to slot into.

This ensured stability without adding bulkiness. 

As you can see from the picture, this was certainly a no-frills approach but there was no need to reinvent the wheel here, it just needed to work. I reused some of the holes that had been drilled for when it was a bed frame, hence why some of them look a bit larger than the others. 

This was actually a prototype, after I had tested it to check it worked I moved it down the wall closer to the floor, to made it easier to hide (with a storage basket).

4. Applying a coat of paint

This DIY project is part of a larger overhaul of the downstairs of our house and as such I changed the colour of the whole built-in shelf unit at the same time as creating the pull-out desk. I opted for Farrow and Ball's Dimity as its a calming neutral shade that's not cold or grey. You can also see from the image below that I had started adding some extra compartments in to the central shelves.

DIY home office under construction from wall of IKEA hack BILLY built-in shelves

5. Adding shelf compartments

To personalize the shelves further, I repurposed removed shelves as dividers for added storage and visual interest, opting for an asymmetrical arrangement for a modern touch. 

I was keen to take this opportunity to add in some extra compartments to the central shelves to add some interest and make them look more bespoke and less 'BILLY'.

I had a great idea (well i thought it was anyway!) to use the shelves that I had removed and repurpose them into the compartment dividers as they would be the exact depth already, so would only need cutting to the desired lengths. 

Sketch by Claire Douglas of wall of built-in shelves

As you can see from my excellent (ah-hem!) drawing above, I'd planned to create a symmetrical arrangement with the extra dividers, but upon creating them in real-life I thought it looked a bit twee and decided to go a bit more interesting still with an asymmetrical set-up (below).

Wal of built-in shelves made from IKEA BILLY bookcases by Claire Douglas Styling

6. Make the desk

I used a couple of pieces of MDF sheet to create the desk top as I wanted it to fold up into the shelf when not in use and then flatten out when you needed it. I taped the pieces together with strong paintable tape to allow the fold in the middle to be really flexible. It's exactly the same principal as the board in a board game (think Scrabble for example) when it folds up to fit in the box and then opens up when you play. I then primed and painted it the same colour as the shelving so that it would blend in perfectly.

And there you have it, a super simple, low budget (no cost at all actually as I upcycled all the wood) pull-out desk. To finish off the DIY home office I channelled holes through the built-in shelves for the power cable of the computer. I was able to do this as we fortunately had a plug socket in the bottom of the middle RHS cupboard. This meant we could then fit the computer in the space I had made by removing the shelf and power it up ready for use.

Built-in shelves adapted to form home office with pull out desk by Claire Douglas Styling

The results of the DIY home office upcycled transformation.

I need to take some official 'after' images with the shelves all styled up, but I didn't want to delay sharing this until then as I know what I'm like, and it could be weeks and weeks! So here are the rough and ready final pics to give the you idea.

Reasons why these IKEA office built-ins work so well

I was so happy with the results of this DIY project. The IKEA hack resulted in a functional, low-budget home office space utilizing upcycled materials. Additional touches, such as channelling holes for cables and thoughtful storage solutions, enhanced both the practicality and aesthetics of the work area. The IKEA OXBERG cabinet doors that were on the BILLY built-ins are great for storage, as are the rustic baskets under the DIY hack desk. The great thing is that this small space which was purely built-in furniture before, has been transformed into an efficient work zone within the living room. With a smooth finish and careful attention to detail, this project showcases how IKEA billy bookcases can be transformed into high-end-looking storage units, with custom doors (courtesy of the postal tubes) and handy desk space (also with a built-in look). 

IKEA office built ins - DIY home office in shelving unit with pull out desk

Tips for a successful IKA hack home office DIY project

  • Opt for closed storage if you don't want your office items on display. I found the IKEA OXBERG doors work really well for the BILLY bookcases. 

  • Fill any holes before priming and painting for a seamless look with high end aesthetics.

  • Consider adding other pieces of IKEA furniture for extra functionality and improved storage. The IKEA ALEX drawers are handy for this. 

  • Use quality paint for a professional finish. I like to use paint from the Decorating Centre online. If you are in the UK, they do a great colour match product which comes in Leyland Trade matt emulsion and vinyl matt for a scrubbable finish. In the US, consider a quality paint like that from Benjamin Moore. 

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Where next?

Other IKEA-hack related blog posts that you might enjoy...

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