Published on July 23rd, 2011 | by Jules Yap


French Country House Library

Materials: 60 Billy / Benno Bookcases

Description: Faced with a 11m x 4m landing which had been curtained off at either end as bedrooms we wanted to create a ‘built in’ library / office. With a 3.3m ceiling height there was an opportunity to build an impressive floor to ceiling installation to house a large book collection and 1500 DVD’s.

The house benefits from being symmetrical the landing has 4 doors – 3 to bedrooms and one from the staircase. The doorways are just over a meter wide and so there was an opportunity to use the Billy bridging units above the doors.

So, off to IKEA and ordered 60, yes 60 units to put together and install. 15 full height units each side with half height units mounted upside down on top.
6 Benno cases were cut in half, as were 4 bridging units to fill the space.

Trimmed with oak architrave, door frames extended to fill the space. Gaps filled with Numerar Worktop trim.

At one end
Desk from oak worktop with a centre table on wheeled legs to pull out to access the windows for cleaning.

At the other
Sofa bed and somewhere to curl up and read a book.

See more of the French country house library.

~ Chas Saunter, Lot et Garonne, France

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The Author

Jules Yap

"I am Jules, the engine behind IKEAHackers and the one who keeps this site up and running. My mission is to capture all the wonderful, inspiring, clever hacks and ideas for our much loved IKEA items".

57 Responses to French Country House Library

  1. Critifur says:

    This looks great! What color are the Billys, they do not look like any of the finishes they offer. I am thinking of using the Billy as a template and recreating them with good plywood, and customize the widths, but still make them to come apart when I move again. Not sure as yet.

  2. Pingback: The All-Time Best IKEA Hacks: 2007-2012 | Lifehacker Australia

  3. Anonymous says:

    This probably cost no more than 2500 EUR and in France you would probably get about a tenth of the storage space for the same price if you had a carpenter build you custom units made from “real” wood.

    Great use of a space that would otherwise be nothing more than a pass-through area. Bravo!

  4. Anonymous says:

    For non-book lovers, yes, the sheer amount of brainpower and sweat equity needed to customize the Billy units into a spectacular library would indeed be a nightmare.

    The hype about BILLY is its versatility. For those who don’t care about IKEA products, IKEA Hack is probably not the best site to be visiting or trolling.

  5. Anonymous says:

    For non-book lovers, this library might be a nightmare. Why bother investing that much brainpower to re-design a library if one doesn’t want to read books (Kindle doesn’t count.)

    Number two: the hype about the Billy bookcase is that its clean, simple lines and mode of construction make it versatile enough to suit different styles of decor. The whole point of this website is to show IKEA devotees what can be done to customize stock IKEA units.

    For those who are not crazy about Billy products, well then this is not the site for them.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Quite a large chunk of change (has to be at least 10,000 USD) for a wall full of veneered particle board shelves. You could have used real wood for that cost. It’s not a hack if it costs multiple thousands of dollars to accomplish, and no offense, but it really isn’t that creative.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s what struck me, too. It could’ve been done with real wood for an incredible fraction of the cost, esp. if one built it themselves.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This room shows a hoarder’s dream and nightmare for every normal person. I don’ understand the hype about the Billy bookshelf. It’s so bland and ordinary.

  8. Michelle says:

    Stunning use of some very basic bookcases. If I had a room like this in my place they’d have to drag me out at the end of a weekend to go to work. Terrific job!!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    nice. I would rather stream or rent movies, and use kindle for books.

  10. So beautiful, I’m in love with this room! I love the snuggle-up-and-read sofa at the end, that is so inviting!

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is what Heaven looks like.

  12. Okay, this looks fantastic. And very similar to what my Husband and I are planning in our home.

    However, we’ve been going back and forth on building shelves, versus buying them pre-fab. Personally, I want to opt for pre-fab because I don’t have the skill to build them myself. He, however, grew up in a household where they did most of the modifications/building themselves. He’s convinced he can build them from scratch.

    The one part that of pre-fab that I am leery of is Ikea’s more current use of cheaper materials that break quite easily/often.

    For anyone that’s attempted these kind of book shelves, have you found that the shelves have started to sag in the middle from the weight of the books? If you have these bookshelves, would you use them again or opt for harder woods and build them from scratch?


    • Anonymous says:

      Dom- I have 5 fully loaded billy bookcases. The 3 oldest are maybe 4 years– last 2 were bought just over a year ago. No sagging on any of the shelves. They cover 1-1/2 walls of my formal living room and I get a ton of comments on them.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have 12 Billy bookcases. They are 8 years old and most of them have had extra shelves added to them. No sagging at all.

    • I have Billys that have been in place for almost ten years and show no signs of saggage. However, I have a 20-year-old Billy-style case (not from Ikea) that has saggage. Solution: When you buy your Billy, get a couple of extra shelves just in case. They’re highly-store-able, and you won’t be subject to changing finish whims…we all know that brown-black is very current now, but once time passes? Brown-black might not be as simple to replace. Think, if you will: Harvest Gold, Avocado Green, etc.

  13. Anonymous says:


    Anonymous has a point. She also is not by herself. Many of the comments on the poll express the same thought.
    Judging by Jules replies to comments on the poll, it seems she agrees and she indicates that she will consider using 2 categories next year; hacks and repurposings or customizations.

    As one commenter there says: This is great interior design, but no hack.

  14. Anonymous says:

    oh my
    book heavan all those book i love it but its not a hack

  15. Zulaya says:

    Dear anonymous,
    I’d say that debate has been officially settled by its inclusion in the nominations for hack of the year. Which, from the date, is the link you clicked to find this.

  16. Anonymous says:

    it is really nice and beautifully done, but.. it’s not a hack

  17. Navntoft says:

    Great job. Well done.

  18. Mut says:

    This is just beautiful. A real book-lover’s library.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Someone’s resale value just shot throw the roof. That’s incredible!

  20. chicca says:

    I think you have created a cozy atmosphere!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I like this one, gives me ideas how to create my future library much needed for someone who studies History and English.

  22. Anonymous says:

    ew. who owns dvds?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Love,love,love it!! Makes me want to give my books a nice home also.(They are sitting in piles on the floor)
    I have a kindle, too. But I love the feel and of course, the smell of traditional paper and ink books much more. Kudos.

  24. ashleyist says:

    I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Kindle.

    Just kidding. This is great. Nothing against the eyesight killing ereader phenomenon, but I’m glad to see that there are still other bibliophiles who love the smell of hardcovers, fraying edges and ink.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Really nice! It looks like a cosy cottage, a dream for the books lovers!
    Just one word “Waouw!”

  26. Lena says:

    Wow, this is impressive! And, clearly a hack.

  27. Ditto: WOW! I can’t imagine putting together 60 of them–two were enough for us!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Get a Kindle!

  29. Diana says:

    Chas- now you have to pay for my therapy. I have a debilitating case of house envy! Great job. :)

  30. Chas says:

    SandyQuilts – the floors are original from 1860, pine, sanded, treated and given three coats of varnish.
    Anna W – I bolted the base units to the wall with angle brackets and then drilled and dowelled the top units to the bottom ones (as much for alignment as safety) and bolted them to the wall with angle brackets as well. All the top units (which are mounted upside down) were cut down to fit under the beams. Finally I joined them all together with male / female bolts. The finished structure is very rigid and you can climb up it!

  31. Anna W. says:

    Absolutely love it. Will be trying it out in my new apartment next month.

    How did you secure the small bookshelves to the large bookshelves, so that they wouldn’t fall off? Or are the small bookcases attached the the wall instead?

  32. Anton says:

    BEAUTIFUL, I love libraries.

  33. Betsy Hunter says:

    I love this —and I don’t care what that “anom” said about it not being a hack. Must be a real type A.

    This library is great and I love your site. Keep up the IKEA Hacking…

  34. Anonymous says:

    To the ANONYMOUS that said this is not a hack. You should really think about the amount of work and modification this person had to do to accomplish their goal.

    I applaud the acomplishment of anyone who uses any item (be it from Ikea or not) in a way that is not “as designed”. Sure this person used bookshelves as bookshelves, but they did it in such a way that was impressive and beyond the normal design for Ikea bookshelves.

    Besides this hack I feel is more about inspiration and sharing of idea’s which is at the very CORE of hacking of all kinds.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Rather serious case of bibliomania. But nice nonetheless. :)

  36. Anonymous says:

    Holy smokes, that is a HUGE library! And AWESOME.

  37. AlizaG says:


  38. Wow, that is truly amazing and inspiring!

  39. Dang, now how do I wipe off the drool from my keyboard!

  40. Corliss says:

    Beautiful! And it just proves that you can make IKEA furniture fit in any decorating style.

  41. Phil says:

    Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous!

  42. Joanna says:


  43. Anonymous says:

    I’m in love! This is amazing and I love the way you extended the door frames out so it melded together perfectly. Amazing! (And yes, I’m extremely jealous!)

  44. luckylass says:

    Wow! This looks wonderful and just as good as built-ins, but I bet it was 1/3 the cost. And to anon: this is a hack – the bookshelves were hacked and cut to fit the space.

  45. Henriette says:

    This is the most amazing homemade and modern/old country library I’ve seen. Wish I could visit and see IRL :-) )

    My own library now seems both too small and petty, AND so very humble ;)

  46. oh,henry! says:

    can i move in with you?

  47. SandyQuilts says:

    Lovely. But I want to know about the floors. Can you tell me about them?

  48. Anonymous says:

    This is not a hack, it’s a way to display Ikea’s furniture like all buyers do. There’s nothing creative about it.

    • erikig says:

      I agree, I think it is quite beautiful, cozy and I would love to have this setup at home but it is not really a hack. It is just using bookshelves as bookshelves.

  49. Anonymous says:

    That’s a lot Billy’s!

    Though were it my own French coutry house i’d much rather build bookcases of my own from real timber.

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