Forty and fabulous – 10 reasons you should love the iconic Billy bookcase

We join IKEA in celebrating its unflappable form and function

You’d be hard pressed to find a homeowner who hasn’t heard of the iconic BILLY bookcase from IKEA. A staple furniture item for anyone owning a new home or moving into a flat for the first time, this chameleon has just turned 40 and with the help of Christine Gough, interior design leader for IKEA Australia, we’re here to celebrate its life in pictures and decorating ideas.

IKEA Billy bookcase turns 40
(Credit: IKEA)

1. It’s simple to style up

A bare-bones Billy asks nothing more than a vignette or two to look sharp in any lounge room. “For additional storage and to balance displaying your personal items with the things you need, but would prefer to keep hidden, use boxes that are beautiful to look at and perfect for keeping things organised,” Christine suggests.

IKEA Billy bookcase turns 40
(Credit: IKEA)

2. You can get it in a bunch of colours

From plain white to black-brown, light or dark timber veneer, and now including an anniversary bright yellow version available for a limited time only.

IKEA Billy bookcase turns 40
(Credit: IKEA)

3. It’s modular

Available in many configurations, the Billy is as versatile as a piece of furniture can be – stack it, line it up side-by-side or stand alone, there’s a Billy configuration to fit into any space.

4. It’s easy to assemble

A poster boy for boxed furniture, Billy is a great piece to cut your flatpack teeth on.

5. Everybody has one

According to IKEA there’s one Billy bookcase sold every 5 seconds somewhere in the world and, given that it can work in any room, Billy’s your best friend wherever you need it – entrance hall, bathroom, baby’s nursery or bedroom.

A quick online search yields hundreds of hacks and ideas for how people have used Billy in their homes.

6. It’s affordable

With the smallest module starting at just $69 and no end to the versatility of the basic bookcase itself, it’s no surprise that Billy finds its way into so many homes – even walk-in wardrobes can use Billy as a base. 

7. It’s a blank canvas

According to IKEA, Billy has been a huge part in helping Aussies across the country express their individuality in the home with a statement personality piece. “Our research shows that almost half of Australians agree that a place is considered home because of the happy memories associated with it [IKEA Life at Home Report 2018],” says Christine.

8. It’s perfect for a “shelfie”

What’s more fun than styling up a bookshelf? Billy is the perfect place to do just that with books and beautiful objects on display.

“As an interior designer, it’s important to me that we can call the place we live a home for many reasons,” says Christine. “Your home should not only be functional and comfortable, but also beautiful. It’s a place that truly represents who we are and the one thing that never goes out of style is the nostalgia we feel when we step inside our home – so what better way than to style your space with the memories that make your house a home?”

“The perfect BILLY bookcase to me is styled in a way that effortlessly reflects your personality and displays all the special nostalgic moments in your life.”

Christine Gough, Interior Design Leader, IKEA Australia

9. You can add doors to it

“If you want to protect your items from dust, add a glass door to BILLY or use glass domes, jars or vases to showcase your items,” Christine suggests. “Combine natural organic forms in jars and domes to create a beautiful contrast to the natural, organic forms you want to display.”

10. It’s the booklovers choice that never goes out of style

“So much more than a bookcase, BILLY is functional, flexible and beautiful and celebrates the things you put on it and in it, whether its books, records, photos or special pieces you’ve acquired over time,” says Christine.

The things we collect and hold onto help tell our story and express our identity and one of the most common places to show them off is on your bookcase.

“The things we choose to put on display can say a lot about who we are and what we hold dear.”

Christine’s top four tips for styling up your Billy bookshelf:

  1. Make it personal. Add meaning by displaying photos or special souvenirs that speak to a life filled with experiences. 
  2. Consider colour. Easily create harmony by picking one special accent colour and adding it to a neutral palette.
  3. Mix it up. Grouping together diverse everyday objects in varying shapes and sizes can create unexpected appeal and beauty.
  4. Choose texture. Try choosing one material – like glass, wood or ceramic – to add interest without overwhelming your still life.


With these ideas, it’s a cinch to keep your 40-year old friend looking as new as the day you bought it.

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