IKEA’s Billy bookcase is great for holding all kinds of stuff: kids’ toys, barware, and, of course, anything library related. The one thing the best-selling storage can’t house all that well? Shoes. This is something Saritha Ashok found out the hard way after she purchased a brand-new Billy unit for her Leiden, Netherlands, home. Ashok’s thinking was to put the piece in the tiny entryway leading to her back garden and load up the shelves with her family’s footwear. But it turned out, her calculations were off. “I thought that it fit this space perfectly, but I forgot to measure whether the shelves were deep enough to hold shoes, which they are not,” Ashok recalls. All of their sneakers and loafers had to be propped up vertically, while any boots had to be turned to the side—not ideal. “So I came up with a supercool hack to solve that,” she says. For around $45, Ashok turned the fan-favorite find into family-friendly storage that not only looks good when not in use but, most important, keeps the rest of her house sparkling clean. Here’s what she did. 

Step 1: Build a Barrier

ledges on ends of shelves

To prevent soccer cleats and ballet flats from sliding around and becoming a jumbled mess, Ashok first added skirting boards to the edges of the bottom three shelves (aka the designated shoe zone). After shimmying the racks out of the bookcase, she cut the trim part to size using a jigsaw and, holding it perpendicular to the shelf, joined the two pieces with wood glue. Once the adhesive was dry, she tucked the ledges back into place. 

Step 2: Jazz Up the Doors

Because the bookcase is the first thing you see when you enter the house from the back, Ashok wanted to add some visual interest to the piece. Turning the tops of the glass panels into arches was an easy way to do that: She cut out the inverted shapes from a plank of MDF and glued them to the see-through panels, then filled any lingering gaps with wood filler. 


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Step 3: Customize the Color

blue closet closed

The entire facade, fresh arch detailing included, got two coats of primer before being doused in a dark navy chalk paint, which Ashok had custom-mixed at her local hardware store. 

Step 4: Add a Natural Touch

shoe closet door open

Another post-purchase regret? Not buying the Billy bookcase that comes with a wood-lined interior. Fortunately, it didn’t take too much effort to replicate the look. Once the arch and painting were done, Ashok wrapped the top half of the interior with a faux wood peel-and-stick wallpaper. Tightly woven baskets holding additional outerwear and small vessels help beautify the makeshift mudroom.