Our living room “library.”

Our living room “library.”

Finally—a house update!

My sister-in-law helped me create the plans for our large-ish living room. We segmented it into two sections: a library “room” anchored by two IKEA bookshelves, and a sitting “room” anchored by a large sectional.Our living room "library" uses IKEA Borgsjo bookshelves as its foundation

(I highly recommend persuading your brother to marry a designer. Breaking down a large room into two “rooms” was something I wouldn’t have tried without guidance.)

In the library area, we wanted space to display our books, a small desk, and plenty of storage. We had a small budget for the room and we spent most of it on the sectional. (More on that in a future post.)

Our living room "library" uses IKEA Borgsjo bookshelves as its foundation

I thought about doing built-ins (or fake built-ins) but we decided to go with the Borgsjö bookshelves, at least for the time being.

My designer recommended the Borgsjö bookshelves based on size, style, and price, but I couldn’t find any reviews online. Even at our “local” IKEA (a two-hour drive for us) they were only displayed in one place on the sales floor. We decided to go with them anyway.

IKEA borgsjo puffin classics puffin clothbound classics

shown: the Puffin paperbook classics 16 book set that showed up under my Christmas tree and the Puffin clothbound hardcover box set that I snagged for myself at a pre-Christmas sale.

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve now lived with them for six months. Here’s the lowdown.

colorful bookshelves

After we snapped these photos, I went to town with color on the bottom shelf. Highlights, in order: classic Nancy Drew mysteries, The Mother Daughter Book Club hardcovers, Little House, Noel Streatfeild’s shoe books, the Beverly Cleary box set.  

First, the good:

• They’re inexpensive. The units we used—with glass cabinets above and concealed shelves below—are $130. We bought them during an IKEA family promotion, so the units were closer to $100 each. (Also available: units with drawers on the bottom instead of shelves, and glass-door cabinets.)

• They have great lines.

• They’re nice-looking. They are not pure white; the off-white finish resembles a wood grain.

• The doors open and close smoothly and silently, much better than the more expensive Hemnes units. This was a huge factor for us.

• They have hidden storage: a huge perk for our family of six. (The concealed shelves hold board games and photo albums.)

IKEA Borgsjo puffin classics close up

The bad:

• They are not high quality, made out of pressboard with a thin veneer.

At 71″, they are shorter than other IKEA bookshelves.

Our living room "library" uses IKEA Borgsjo bookshelves as its foundation

We went with the Borgsjö because they did the job, the price was right, and we’ve never had a furniture arrangement like this.

With the Borgsjö shelves we could try out this library “room” arrangement with a much smaller financial commitment than any other option. They were easy to match with the desk we wanted to use. We could easily sell them at cost on Craigslist or repurpose them elsewhere in the house if we decided to do something different with the space.

Our living room "library" uses IKEA Borgsjo bookshelves as its foundation

top shelf, center: the Puffin in Bloom collection. I love these books. 

The two Borgsjö units are flanking a Vittsjö laptop table ($40). I chalk painted it white to match the bookshelves. The other “walls” of our library area are a Hemnes sofa table, our piano, and a big window.

Our living room "library" uses IKEA Borgsjo bookshelves as its foundation

We also used two Borgsjö glass-cabinet units in the dining room, but that’s another story for another day. (We are happy with them.)

We’re very happy with our little library room. The kids love hanging out in this area: it’s a favorite place to color, read, or just do their homework. The shelves are meeting our needs. On another day when the rest of the room is tidy, I’ll show you pictures of the whole space.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with library nooks and IKEA hacks in comments.

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35 comments | Comment


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  1. danielle says:

    I don’t have any ikea hacks and really our whole house is a library nook (I collect old books) but I just wanted to say again how much I love your collection. So colorful and beautiful!!! If I get a girl in this house of men and mini men then I will need to have a collection just like that!

  2. Anjanette says:

    This looks beautiful, Anne! I love this combo and the look of the white shelves with all that color. I’m excited to see the rest of the room too– we love our Hemnes sofa table (all the storage!) and we’re in the market for a new sectional sofa, so I’m interested to hear what you chose!

  3. Jenn says:

    I have the Hemnes bookshelves and I love them. The doors ARE loud when they close. Ours our split between glass tops and solid bottoms which is fantastic for family storage.

    I love the house update, Thanks!

  4. Kendra says:

    Around the time you posted the pic of your beautiful books the other day, I also noticed The Interestings on a friend’s bookshelf and thought what a great pop of color it was. Now when I search for books on Pinterest I find myself scrolling to see what other covers are available! Though I check out most of our books from the library, it does add to the fun of buying books when I decide to splurge.

  5. My husband basically hates IKEA, which is unfair because we really do like some of their smaller items (lamps and whatnot). But we’ve never been pleased with their furniture pieces (our coffee table, for example). They’re cheap, and, unfortunately, it often shows.

    We moved into our home a few months before you moved into yours, and we’ve been creating a library in one of our small bedrooms. It’s coming along so nicely, and I’m almost ready to reveal it on my blog! 🙂

  6. Yes! Having a designer sister-in-law would be so handy! Love all the color the books bring to this space, and having four kiddos myself, I am impressed that they’re color coordinated. I think it’s a good way to try out an idea to see if it works, because if you really like it, adding built ins won’t feel like such a risk. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Frances says:

    We set up our formal living room with bookcases along one wall. I just added an old card catalog I found on Craig’s list and we all now call the room the library. It is great to have a space that displays our favorite books. Plus, when I have the time it it is the perfect spot to curl up in a chair and read. Love the look of these bookcases that you used. The glass doors add a high end quality to it!

  8. Beth says:

    I’m relatively new to your blog (thanks to my wonderful sister for sharing), and I just love it!!! Thank you for sharing so many things that are just life.

    Your living room library is great! I’m so glad you shared which bookshelves you chose because I’ve been looking for something similar. One question, do the doors help keep out dust? I know some just don’t seal well enough, and I’m curious about these.

  9. Barb says:

    My fave part of this post? The peppermint stick crock! Yeah, I’m sick like that! I need that for “my” room! PS ladies, use cheap colorful gift wrap on cheap garage sale books to colorize your collections!

  10. renee @ FIMBY says:

    I loved this post Anne. We’re moving in July to an undetermined location in Montreal and I’ve started pinning ideas I want to incorporate in our home. It will be 16 months at that point since I’ve lived in my own place (we hiked for 6 months, then 10 months housesitting) and I’m quite excited to make my own nest again (in a rental).

    I love the desk between the shelves.

  11. Angela Mills says:

    That is so funny, I have a picture of those shelves in my camera roll. I just found them on ikea this weekend and I want to get them for our living room. The one I found has glass doors on bottom, too. But I like these better, with the covered storage on bottom. I just love how you’ve done yours. So pretty!

  12. Hannah says:

    We recently moved into a new home after being overseas. I had to break up a large space into two separate sections. Thankfully I had some help doing it and love how it turned out. I’m still working on finding the right bookshelves for a small fourth bedroom, though. I see it as more of an office/place for the occasional blow-up mattress when we have an overflow of guests. I’d like to not break the bank on shelving, but I don’t want anything so cheap it doesn’t stand properly (been there, done that). We don’t have an IKEA anywhere near us. Sigh.

  13. Janice says:

    I just bought the BORGSJO desk yesterday. There is an IKEA 10 minutes from my house, so we are there probably a little bit too much 😉 At first, I struggled with “maybe the quality is not great?” or “maybe it isn’t perfect for my long term goals”, but I have learned with growing children that our needs (and room usage) changes from year to year. Much sooner than I ever dreamed. I love knowing that I didn’t spend “Haverty” prices on high quality furniture that I might not even being useful to me in two years. We can just enjoy our living space and fit 5 people in our small-ish house on a budget! Love your library corner! It looks great!

  14. Anne says:

    Nearest IKEA is suburban Chicago (three hour drive?); so, I can’t get there too often. It is fun to go though! I like what you put together! And the rainbow of colors? Lovely. I’ve never officially hacked anything, but I do love the LACK shelves. And how cool to have a sister-in-law that’s a designer!

  15. Stephen says:

    When we moved to a new apartment we had the opportunity to remodel. We completely built our kitchen from IKEA. It is a very small space, but IKEA has the perfect size cupboards that can mix and match to fill the space in a well designed way.

    I am also using one of their fold down desks (BJURSTA) to fill a corner of the living room. I mounted my computer monitors to the wall to save desk space and have a small bendable IKEA LED lamp (JANSJÖ) that is perfect for not lighting up the room when my family is asleep.

  16. Sarah says:

    Beautiful pictures! I do love Ikea. We used the Billy bookshelves to turn a formal living room into a library with floor to ceiling shelves, which will eventually go all the way around the room (we have to do it in stages). I currently have a dining table in there, but I want to put in a couch and small table instead – I find the table is too much of a clutter magnet. The room even has a red chandelier! But I do miss having books around the house (I love the “our whole house is a library nook” comment from above!), so I’ve been looking at other shelving options to bring some books out of the library and into the main living space of the house. I’ll have to look into the shelves you posted, and I really can’t wait to see pictures of your whole room!

  17. Kathryn Dean says:

    This post inspired me on so many levels. First of all, I love the shelves! My parents use the glass ones in their dining room for china. I think I will purchase the ones you have for my dining room.
    Secondly, looking at all of your wonderful colorful books, I realized my youngest child has missed out. My kids range from 7-17 with the first three being fairly close together and the last one being a bit of a surprise. Your books reminded me that I read book series constantly to the first three. We read The Little House series, Narnia, Inkheart, and others. After looking at your shelves, I pulled our old Little House paperbacks out to read to my seven-year-old.
    Finally, I love all of the COLOR! I’ve been in a burgundy and dark wood rut for years. I see so many possibilities in my future. 🙂

  18. Lauren says:

    When you chalk painted the table, did you do it before assembly? And did you give a protective coating of wax or anything like that?


  19. Liz says:

    This little library looks wonderful! Where did you get that desk??? I’m looking for a small desk and that one is so perfect.

  20. Kate says:

    Are the borgsjo shelves the same color as the Hemnes furniture? I’m trying to figure out if I can use the Hemnes desk with the borgsjo shelving unit right next to each other and I’m ordering online. Thank you!!

    • Anne says:

      The finishes are different. My Borgsjo and Hemnes stuff are six feet away from each other, and it looks totally fine. But I don’t know if I would want them right next to each other.

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