$150 custom closet system

A few weekends ago, it was all about closets at the Project House. While YC voiced his shock and disbelief at the number of clothing boxes that tagged along with me when I moved westward, I tackled our problem of tiny closets. It turned out that our closets were not so much tiny as very inefficient. So I turned to that tall, strong, sturdy, dependable Swede known as Billy and beloved by Ikea shoppers the world over and every DIY-er’s dream shelf. For between $100-$150 per closet, I redid both mine and YC’s, conveniently (for me) located in the guest bedroom.

As you can see, the master closet was fairly typical of a 1950s ranch-style house: a single bar to hang clothes on and one shelf. Unfortunately, Yukon balked at the idea that I turn the closet into a walk-in by knocking out one of the walls in the office. But I came up with a cheaper, better solution…

Closet Before
Closet Before

The closet is wide at about 8′, and tall at about 8′, but only about 2′ deep. So I bought two Billy bookcases (which we had had some experience when we put together some built-ins a few weeks ago), some wallpaper, and more hanger bars.

I started by painting the ceiling and walls of the closet and got a wild hair to wallpaper the back, thinking that it will inspire me on those 5:45am mornings I have for my new job. A note on wallpaper… “Prepasted” does not mean “peel-and-stick.” It means “cut perfectly, soak in water for 30 seconds, let sit for a few minutes, level against wall,  line up with previous wallpaper, and then wrestle it into place while coping with the disgusting goop.” And while it doesn’t make 5:45 in. the. morning. any more inspiring, it was worth it. Because even though maybe no one else sees it, I will know that the back of my closet is covered in pretty Moroccan tile wallpaper.

I decided to put in a short and tall wide Ikea Billy bookcase. Because I didn’t want to have to deal with the way that the Billy really does not line up well my baseboards, I just cut the closet baseboards out where the shelves were going in (and if you look closely in the “after” photo, you can see I did not do a great job and hacked out an extra 1-2″).

Billys come with great little wall mounts that make them super sturdy and secure and ensure that your clothes won’t come toppling down on you. For added stability, and because I wanted them to be more like a custom closet system, I also secured the short Billy to the tall Billy by predrilling the holes all the way through one shelf, into the other, and then securing them together with some 1.5″ screws.

Predrill a pilot hole through a hole of one Ikea shelf and into the adjacent shelf to screw the two shelves together.
Predrill a pilot hole through a hole of one Ikea shelf and into the adjacent shelf to screw the two shelves together.

Finally, I rehung some hanger rods and YC put a shelf across the top for extra storage space.



In the span of a morning, I transformed my dated, yellowed, space-less closet into a wealth of storage with a Moroccan twist. Some baskets on the shelves for smaller items like socks and such work really great. The top shelf that spans the closet (not pictured since YC added it later) is perfect for storing suitcases, out-of-season clothing, and bigger items that aren’t often used. And the closet looks so nice that it inspires me to want to keep it organized, uncluttered, and pretty.

Here’s my cost breakdown:

  • Tall Billy Bookcase: $60
  • Short Billy Bookcase: $40
  • Wallpaper (Lowe’s): $20
  • Paint for sides and ceiling (already had it)
  • Additional wooden hanger rod: $5
  • 6 new brackets for hanger rods: ~$20

Total: $145

YC’s closet, which I’ll share later is a little narrower than mine, and he didn’t much care for the wallpaper effect. So his total was about $100 (one skinny tall Billy and one wide short Billy) plus the brackets and hanger rods. So far, we are loving our cheap custom closets!

What size closet are you working with? How have you maximized your storage and space?

For more Ikea Billy bookcase hack love, also check out our built ins!


4 thoughts on “$150 custom closet system

  1. Pingback: Coop and Home
  2. Hi!

    I reached out to you earlier requesting your permission to use a photo of yours with credit and a link to your site in a BuzzFeed roundup of clever home remodeling ideas. We’re planning to publish soon — just following up to see if it would be ok with you!



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