Turning a Bookcase into a Closet

Here is the story of finding space in our house, which was built in 1920 and has ZERO closest space. Did these people even have clothes/stuff in the past? I have no idea how storage use to work in this house because we are busting at the seams.

During early trimester melt down mode, I came across this idea. And I thought genius! I have a bookcase, I’m handy, and I’m cheap. I can do this! So…I did.

You too, can get this lovely piece of furniture for less than $50.  And honestly, you can PROBABLY get it for less than $30, I just don’t have patience and when I find what I like, I go for it.

Supplies: Bookcase, Spray Paint, Fabric, Staple Gun, Hammer, Closet Rods

The bookcase was an IKEA Billy bookcase (which I bought off of Craigslist 3 years ago for $15):

It was a brown color, so I painted it white:


And then it sat there for a long time because I didn’t know what to do! White was soo boring. The back of the bookcase is just a piece of cardboard. My idea was to paint stripes or something but paint barely stays on, and when it does it looks like crap. And I’m better than crap.

So, I turned to Pinterest. The more I searched, I decided that fabric is the way to go. I found this idea from the folks at The Blissful Bee. Which I thought “oh! easy! Find some fabric. Connect it to cardboard and slip it in”. Except the bookcase is 12-14 inches deep. Inserting cardboard wasn’t going to be an option because then I wouldn’t have space for the hangers, or shelves. So then I found another idea from Fable Lane. She just suggested to glue the fabric to the back panel. And I was all set for that. I figured that was a no brainer, but I definitely would need to measure thrice, and cut once.  (disclaimer, I didn’t show you what to do with fabric, but make sure to measure the space and buy a little extra just for mistakes. I think I ordered about 2 yards and have MORE than enough).

And then my genius husband came in. And saw me trying to measure fabric to just glue inside. And tsk, tsk. Originally, I didn’t want to take the back off of the bookshelf because everything I had read talked about how hard it was to put back on. Well, those people are liars. Or they don’t have Phil for a husband. With the help of a staple gun and a hammer that’s what we did.

image_4 image_2

Removing the back: There are probably about 25 nails all over the back and the cardboard sometimes pulled the nails out, and sometimes just popped off.


Measure the fabric over the back and leave about an extra 2 inches on all sides. Trim the excess once it’s on. No sense in trying to be super neat and cut to fit now. (This is where that whole measure thrice, cut once advice comes in REALLY handy).


First make the fabric tight across the back, and then staple. Staple the top and bottom first, and then work on the sides. Once the fabric has been stapled, we re-stapled the back and then renailed the back. The process took about 5 minutes.

Finally, we had to hang the clothes bar. This was one of my biggest concerns, because every website said just get an extension rod. Well. Have you ever bought an extension rod? Sometimes they slip depending on the weight, so I did a lot of research and ended up getting one from Home Depot that could hold up to 250 lbs. I doubt we will have 250 lbs of baby clothes, so I think we are safe.


Originally, we were going to hang two bars but there didn’t seem to be enough space. So we went with one bar and three shelves for baskets, books and stuff.

And then we were done. Here is the finished project:


I think it’s a HUGE improvement. I even had extra fabric left over, and once I figure out how to work my sewing machine, I’m going to turn the scraps into curtain ties.

Total Cost:

Book case: Owned
Paint: I used Rust-Oleum Universal Paint and Primer in one spray paint (It seriously is the best spray paint!) $5.53 (times three so, $16.59)
Fabric: Amazon, 2 yards, $24.47
Closet Rods: $6.98

Total: $48.04

I know that the fabric could have been A LOT cheaper if I had maybe gone to Jo-Ann, or Wal-Mart and used a coupon. Same for the paint, I’m sure I could have used coupons but..I just wanted to get it over with. However, $50 for a fully functional closet is a great success!


11 thoughts on “Turning a Bookcase into a Closet

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  4. Super[Wo]man

    I made this project for my twins, who have so many clothes it’s ridiculous! And, like you said, the rod keeps slipping! I’m headed to Home Depot TONIGHT to get this tension rod! Thanks for the help!

  5. Pingback: Adding clothes storage to a bedroom with no closet | Renewed House

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