I have always loved walking around Ikea looking at the kitchen section. Strangely, my favorite part is the Ikea pantry area—looking at all those pantry cabinets and storage is so much fun to me…nerd alert. 🙂 When it was time for us to put our own freestanding pantry in, we turned to Ikea. Rather than going with an Ikea pantry cabinet, we decided to try an Ikea pantry hack by using the Billy bookcase as our pantry! Spoiler alert…it TOTALLY works! Check it out!
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Why you should use an Ikea bookshelf as a freestanding pantry
There are two main reasons why I believe the Billy bookcase to be the best choice: price & functionality.
As lovely as they are, the Ikea pantry cabinets in the kitchen section are expensive. The Sektion cabinets start at almost $400..for a 15” wide pantry! In contrast, you can get a 15” Billy bookcase with a door for just under $100 ($49 for the 15” shelf itself and another $50 for the door).
In all fairness, the Sektion cabinets are much deeper than the Billy bookcase (24” vs 11”). I’m not entirely convinced that deeper is better, however—in my experience, it can be a huge deterrent to keeping your pantry space organized…but more on that below.
So, because of both price and functionality, we went with the Billy bookcase as our freestanding pantry cabinet. Now that I’ve told you why we went with an Ikea bookshelf for our pantry, let me tell you how we did it.
How to Make an IKEA Billy Bookcase into A Freestanding Pantry With Doors
Like in all things, measure your space first to make sure the bookshelf will work. The Ikea Billy bookcase comes 2 widths: 15 ¾” and 31 ½”.
Height wise, your options are 41 ¾ and 79 ½. If you need it, Ikea also sells an extension for the bookshelves that is 13 ¾ tall, making your maximum height 93 ¼. Make sure you give yourself at least ½” gap between the top of the unit and the ceiling, especially if you are going to add doors! This was the space we were working with, on the right.
Now’s also the time to decide if you want doors on your cabinet or not. I highly recommend them unless you are super organized because it’s very difficult to keep your pantry tidy all the time despite best efforts and you might want to keep the doors shut.
Phew, that’s a lot of numbers!
Head to Ikea, grab a bookcase real quick and leave—in and out in 15 minutes!
In all seriousness, I’ve never made it out of Ikea in less than 30 minutes, despite my best intentions. Give yourself an hour because you may want to check out some of the cute accessories. 🙂
Also, I highly recommend you grab 2-3 extra shelves for the bookcase. Trust me on this one!
Build the Ikea Billy bookcase
If you’ve ever put together Ikea furniture before, you know how this goes. If not, good luck. 😛 Ikea furniture can be pretty difficult to put together, but thankfully the Billy is pretty easy! In case you need them, here are the instructions for putting the Ikea Billy bookcase together.
Tool wise, you’ll need a flat screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver and a hammer – if you don’t have any of those, grab this basic tool kit for $15 – it will totally come in handy! You’ll also need a pencil and—most importantly!—a building buddy.
You’ll start by building the frame – make sure you do it on a blanket so the finish doesn’t get scratched. Once you have the frame put together, secure it to the wall. Scott was in charge of this part.
Add your doors
If you opted for a storage cabinet with doors and shelves, now’s the time to add the Billy bookcase Oxberg doors. We opted to splurge for doors (3 total) and I’m soooo glad we did! The doors are glass on top and solid on the bottom half…so you can put your pretties on the top and hide the other stuff safely below. 😉
Fair warning: there is absolutely a learning curve to installing the hinges and hardware for the doors. It took us two solid hours to do all three. Scott definitely hit stage six in the Ikea assembly process…despair and exhaustion. LOL.
Be prepared that you may need to remove baseboard if your cabinet is flush against a wall. We really wanted a little room on the left side to store our vacuum and such, so we couldn’t center it. We used a Dremel tool to carefully cut it (and added a trimmed down piece back later).
And there you have it! A freestanding pantry with doors for a few hundred dollars!
Decide where your shelves should go
I was in charge of putting the Ikea pantry shelves where they needed to go. I literally measured a bunch of random food items in our house, trying to make sure I accounted for both the tallest and the smallest heights.
That’s it! For an afternoon of work and a few hundred dollars, we have the best kitchen storage cabinet of all time – or at least of our home life so far. 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve gotten a ton of questions about this post…who knew this little post about a bookcase turned freestanding pantry would be so popular? I am answering some FAQ below – let me know if I miss yours! 🙂
What is a pantry used for?
Short answer – whatever you want! A kitchen pantry is simply an extra storage space within your kitchen. If you are wondering what should go in a pantry, here are a few suggestions:
- Non-refrigerated food items: probably the most common use for a pantry is food storage
- Homemade preserves and canned items: not everyone cans, but if you do, a pantry is an ideal place to keep your preserves
- Spices: spices need to be stored in a cool, dark location to stay fresh…like a pantry
- Dishes: if you are tight on cabinet space, use a few shelves in your pantry! There’s no rule that says the pantry is only for food…just think of it as extra storage
Food storage: items like Ziploc bags, storage containers, and lunch bins
Seasonal items: you can save the top shelf of your pantry for holiday favorites that don’t necessarily need a place in your cabinets, like a favorite Christmas platter or a heart-shaped cake pan you only use on Valentine’s Day.
How to make your freestanding pantry look built in?
The Billy bookcase is exceptionally easy to make look like a custom built in by using trim pieces and molding. I’ve done it three times – here’s exactly how to make a Billy bookcase look like a built in!
How do you make the Billy bookcase into a tall kitchen pantry cabinet?
For those who have extra height in their kitchen, or just need a little more storage space, you’re in luck! Ikea makes an extension piece that sits on top of the Billy bookcase. There’s even a special door for the Billy bookcase extension if you are going to do a freestanding pantry with doors.
How deep should a pantry shelf be?
I firmly believe that the more narrow your pantry shelves are, the more useful the pantry will be. For me, an ideal depth for a pantry shelf is 10-14” (for reference – the Billy bookcase is 11” deep). It should be wide enough to hold the most commonly used household items, but narrow enough for things to be found easily. The only exception to the depth rule is if you have a freestanding pantry with drawers or shelves that pull out, making it easier to reach items in the back.
How can I make my pantry look organized?
It may seem overwhelming, but making a pantry look organized is easy. Here are some helpful tips to keep your pantry looking clean and tidy:
- Keep shelves as narrow as possible
- Create zones- make one shelf just for cans, while another holds all your baking supplies
- Use baskets to corral like items – find yourself some cute pantry baskets that you can use in your pantry to hold items like chip bags that can become messy quickly
- Invest in excellent storage containers – I love the OXO Pop Containers. Yes, they are a bit splurgy, but I’ve owned some for 8 years now, and still going strong. Start with a small set and add as you can
- Label your containers – whether you use washi tape and a marker, or a sticker, or invest in a label maker, it’s important to keep bulk items in containers, like beans and rice, labeled so you know what it is and when you bought it
Next up – baseboard (finally!) What do you think? Are you motivated to build your own freestanding pantry cabinet with an Ikea Billy bookcase now?