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IKEA Pantry Hack: Use a Billy Bookcase for Kitchen Storage

Feeling overwhelmed with a crammed and cluttered pantry? You aren’t alone. Thankfully, there’s an easy, affordable solution with my Ikea pantry hack…using a Billy bookcase in the kitchen!

While I certainly have used the Billy bookcase for holding books, I had a lightbulb moment one day when trying to figure out how to add some pantry storage to my kitchen.

An IKEA Billy bookcase can be your ticket to extra storage and organization too!

If your daily kitchen routine is nothing but a cycle of endless shuffling just to find the ingredients you need for that recipe, it’s time to take back your pantry!

Keep reading this post (with loads of helpful pics!) if you’re ready to get organized once and for all without any major commitments or demo!

Kitchen pantry cabinet from an IKEA bookcase

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!

This post contains affiliate links at no extra charge to you.

Why you’ll love this Ikea pantry hack

  • AFFORDABLEAs 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 around $100-$150. It’ll cost you $39-$79 for the 15” shelf itself (depending on the color) and another $40-$70 for the door!
  • FUNCTIONAL – 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.
  • ACCESSIBLE – There’s probably an Ikea near you, and even if there isn’t, they ship nationwide! Depending on how close you are to an Ikea, you could go get your pantry right now and have it done tonight! Huge perk in my (impatient) opinion!

How to make a Billy Bookcase pantry

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.


Like in all things, measure your space first to make sure the bookshelf will work. The Ikea Billy bookcase comes in 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!

Phew, that’s a lot of numbers!

This was the space we were working with on the right.

Empty kitchen with room for freestanding pantry using an Ikea pantry hack

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. It’s very difficult to keep your pantry tidy all the time despite best efforts, so you might want to have a door to shut.


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 it together.

Tool-wise, you’ll need:

  • a flat screwdriver
  • a Phillips screwdriver
  • 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.

1. Assemble the frame

You’ll start by building the frame – make sure you do it on a blanket so the finish doesn’t get scratched.

Image showing how to put together Billy bookcase

Once you have the frame put together, secure it to the wall.

Scott was in charge of this part!

turning a Billy bookcase into a pantry
securing Billy bookcases to the wall for Ikea pantry hack

2. 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!

Man adding door to Billy bookcase for use as a kitchen pantry

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.

Ikea relationship meme, can your relationship handle a trip to Ikea

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).

Removing trim to install Ikea pantry hack

3. Install the shelves

Lastly, you’ll want to decide where you want to place your pantry shelves and install them on top of the little pegs.

I was in charge of this part, so 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.  

Ikea billy bookcase with doors opened in a kitchen for a freestanding pantry

I also had ordered some glass food storage jars and some OXO POP containers and wanted to make sure they fit as well.

Glass jars to keep Ikea pantry organized

And there you have it – a freestanding pantry with doors!

Newly installed Billy bookcase with doors

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. 🙂

Ikea pantry hack using Billy bookcases

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 FAQs 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.

Ikea pantry cabinet from a IKEA Hack with the Billy Bookcase

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.

Organized Ikea 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.

Ikea pantry cabinet filled with containers of food

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.
Baskets filled with oils and vinegars in a freestanding pantry

Next up – baseboard (finally!) What do you think? Are you motivated to try this Ikea freestanding pantry hack with a Billy bookcase now?  

Ikea pantry from the billy bookcase
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Tania Griffis is an accomplished writer, blogger, and interior designer with a Journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. She started her popular blog, Run to Radiance, in 2011, demonstrating her design expertise through the personal remodeling of six houses to millions of readers across the globe.

Tania also owns The Creative Wheelhouse, a respected ghostwriting agency for bloggers, further showcasing her talent for creating engaging and informative content.

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      1. Good luck. We tried to order the billy bookcases and they are literally NEVER in stock and ordering is near impossible. I wanted these in my kitchen for a year and finally gave up. Maybe if you are in another state you will have better luck

    1. Have you found a way to install pull-out shelves in the 15″ wide Billy bookcase? I’m trying to convert mine to house a pull-out laundry hamper.

    1. Haha yes I picked that bell up at world market last year! We use it to send our dogs to bed- they used to never want to go in our room to sleep but now we just ring the bell and off they go!

    1. Loved this idea and I have a wall that needs to be filled! A very small kitchen, with no pantry! We just purchased 4 billy bookcases with solid doors it will take the whole wall up with so much storage, we cannot wait to do this project. I am hoping that with trim and crown molding it will look marvelous! Ty for such a great idea and the money we saved is awesome!

  1. Those glass jars look way prettier than the original packaging from the store, that’s for sure! Great job, it looks so neat and orderly!

    1. Not pathetic at all!! I’m always jealous of weird stuff like baskets and pots and pans and wall colors….!! 🙂

  2. i’m always shocked and ah-mazed by your transformations – every single time, i’m like ‘how in the world will this work?’ and i scroll down only for my jaw to drop with a grand OOOH. sounds dramatic, but girl – i could *not* do any of this!

    1. You are so sweet!! And you’d be surprised at what you can do. When y’all get your house and you start to lean and experiment- you’ll see. 🙂

  3. I’m a little jealous you have enough space for this, we live in good sized apartment but the kitchens super small and there’s no pantry. I love how the jars look end the ones with the blackboard labels so cute 🙂

    1. A big kitchen was one of our “must-haves” when planning a remodel- and it was a trade off! The pantry was the original dining room, so we moved our dining room into the formal living room and just have one living room…which to it is totally worth it. 🙂

  4. Love this idea! Could you please share where you got the doors so they perfectly lined up with the Billy bookcase? Are they also from IKEA? Thanks in advance!!

  5. With all the options that IKEA provides—we have found we have something from them—built-into almost every room in our house. This is an excellent way to have a custom look—without the ‘custom’ expense. I’m totally happy with all the finishes and construction, and after two years in a brand new IKEA kitchen…I’m a super fan.

    1. Have you found a way to install pull-out shelves in the 15″ wide Billy bookcase? I’m trying to convert mine to house a pull-out laundry hamper.

  6. Do you have to secure it to the wall? I want to place it on a wall where there is a phone jack and don’t believe I can remove it, so the bookcase wouldn’t be flush to the wall.

    1. I definitely recommend securing it – the pieces are pretty sturdy but you don’t want them tipping! Maybe look at using anti-tip furniture straps to secure it since that gives you a gap between the wall and the bookcase.

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