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How-To: Dining Nook Built-In Using IKEA Billy Bookcases

Updated: Oct 4, 2022



Do you have an unused nook and need better storage? Does that storage also need to be a decent focal point, and fit your custom needs? Are you a bit unsure of your DIY skills and ability to pull off a built-in that doesn't look like a cake fail meme?


Well...you may have stumbled onto the right place in this monster blog post. I say it is a monster, because it is. It's long and I am going to talk you through each step of how I built my dining nook built-in. I wish this built-in was like a banana bread recipe where, you know, you could skip the blah blah blah and click "Jump to Recipe". But, alas, it's not. I did highlight the steps here where you could jump ahead to different sections...but, that's the best I got.


My hope is that this post gives you some ideas, helps you think I can do this, or even shows you step by step how to problem solve through a section of your build. When I hit publish and saw that this post was a 33+ minute read (face palm)...I remember thinking who would read this? So, if you have read this far - I appreciate you. And if you saved this post to die in one of your Pinterest folders...I'm okay with that too. It means you have future plans for something like this and sometimes even a quick visual may show you possibilities, amiright?


The WHY:

We just needed more storage in this busy area of our home. And this dining nook had precious wasted square footage that could be utilized better. Plus, this is an opportunity to make a meaningful, functional and beautiful focal point from all views in our open main floor floorplan. So, to best meet what we needed, I sketched out a plan for the space.


We live in a builder basic 1980's home...many of these style houses have this recessed nook. I believe it's for adding a china hutch, but, for many folks like us, this was just wasted dead space. Actually, I hung some string art here three years back. The actual intention behind the string was to check if a feature wall would look cool in this spot. So - to visualize - I used some nails and black jute string. The result was actually quite cool, so, I kept it temporarily...then, three years later (yikes), I was like - we need to store more stuff here. We could do with more dining room necessities storage and we desperately needed more toy storage... Preferably behind closed doors (to prevent dust build up - [preventing me from dusting (yahoo)]. So...planning for making this drawing come to life began.


HAVE I BUILT A BUILT IN BEFORE:

Nope.


But, I truly believed I could do this. So, here goes.


TABLE OF CONTENTS


Below, you can click on a heading that will take you to a particular section of the build. Even looking at the breakdown of these 19 steps...I'm like, I can't believe I built this, let alone wrote a blog post on it. Who's going to read this monster post??...it's so freaking long. But, to the three of you out there who are like me, and consume how-to's to add to your future self affirmation of yes-I-can-because-someone-else-did-it mentality, this long ass post is for you. And to the majority who hoard inspo and information on your Pinterest saves for future reference...Again, that's great too!



1. TOOLS & MATERIALS Needed


I did my best to provide enough detail of the things I used...not going to lie...there are a lot of supplies. I still consider myself a beginner woodworker, although lifetime DIY'er. So, I have a lot of tools/supplies on hand (also hoarded, but in an organized way, because I am OCD bout this stuff). And, this dining nook built-in is a good project to use up all your existing DIY supplies (kidding not kidding). Also, I'm not providing exact amounts of supplies...as every built-in is sized differently.

Power Tools

Misc Tools

Wood/Wood-like Products

Other Stuff

Paint Supplies

Table Saw

7/8" Forstner Bit

1" plywood for the bench carcass (I used scrap plywood haha)

1" 23G Pin Nails

Zinnser Bin Shellac Primer (the red can)

Mitre Saw

Kreg Jig Mini Pocket Hole Jig

2 - 2x12x8 Fir Boards for the Bench Topper

Brad Nails 1.25"

Paint Tray

Jig Saw

Kreg Concealed Hinge Jig

Wood Screws 3.5"

Roller

Drill

Level

Wood knobs

Brushes

Multi-Tool

Tape Measure

1x6 Select Pine x2

Brass knobs

SW Diamond Urethane Cabinetry Paint

Right Angle Drill

Pry Bar

1x2 Select Pine

120 grit orbital sandpaper

Painter's tape

Brad Nailer

Box Cutter

1x16"x8' White Wood Board - often used for shelving

Wood Screws 1.5"

Flat and wide putty knife (plastic)

Pin Nailer

Carpenter Square

1x4 Select Pine x2

Wood Screws 1.25"

Orbital Sander

Various sized clamps

Pocket Hole Screws 1.5"

6 Full Overlay Hinges (110 degree)

4 Inset Hinges (90 Degree)

Pocket Hole Screws 0.75"

4 Brass Knobs

Pocket hole Screws 1.75"


2. Demo


Not much was needed except removing baseboards. To be truthful, I had a hard time starting because these were perfectly good baseboards. Pristine, in fact. But, they had to go for the ladder base. And as it turns out, it was quite easy to remove using my multi-tool and a new blade. First, I scored the caulk line, used a small prybar to remove the baseboard.


I suggest drawing a line of where you need to cut and applying medium pressure while using your multi-tool. Let the blade/tool do the work.


As much as I was not looking forward to removing perfectly good baseboards, I was quite proud of myself at this point. An example of an ugly and unfinished view to most folks, turning out to be quite pretty to me. It's a view of opportunity. As the first hurdle of demo was done.



3. Building A Ladder Base


Using two 2x4x8's, and my mitre saw, I cut 7 pieces of wood. Two to fit the length of the opening and 5 to fit the width. Disregard how the existing baseboards extend in front of the ladder base. I ended up cutting this part off eventually.

Next, the steps of the ladder base where I wasn't able to countersink a 3" wood screw got two pocket holes each using my Kreg Jig Mini Pocket Hole Kit.



The side steps and where the steps met the back wall rail got pocket holes. I wanted to assemble this ladder base in place. The dining nook is not perfectly square. The left side had 1/2" less depth comparing to the right side. I wanted the face of the eventual carcass (the internal framework of the built-in) to be flush with the opening. So, it was important to measure, cut and fit each part of the ladder base piece by piece.


Countersunk two 3" wood screws on the fronts of the ladder base. And not shown, but, definitely must do...Attach ladder base to wall studs. I used 3.5" wood screws attached at each stud on the back wall and one on each side wall. (If you have a hard time drilling into studs like I do, drill a pilot hole first).


4. Building the Carcass

The word carcass shouldn't make me laugh every time...but, it does.


I had a few sheets of 4x4 1" scrap plywood. They came from my parent's house...their backyard under an eave actually. There was some water damage to a few sheets - I ended up cutting off any badly water damaged parts off and sanding any minor surface areas that were damaged. Wood is crazy expensive now, so, I wanted to use as much scrap wood as I could for the parts that were hidden behind trimwork and doors. Using this 1" plywood (and they were sturdy!) saved me about $250.


Because I used scrap 4x4 (ish) plywood sheets, I couldn't cut one long piece of wood to cover the ladder base. I had to cut 3 pieces of plywood, roughly 24" wide x 18" deep each, to fit over top the ladder base and act as the bottom shelf of the carcass. Honestly, this actually served me well. Because the nook is not perfectly square, it was more forgiving to cut and make adjustments piece by piece instead of making 3 exact sized boxes. I am still new to woodworking, so, I needed as much forgiveness as possible haha...


As seen below, there are 3 pieces of plywood that cover the ladder base. And 3 vertical pieces that will eventually act as internal side walls.


I wanted to make sure important things fit in these eventual cupboards...(also note, cupboards are able to store bulkier toys better than drawers...and these cupboards will be toy storage eventually).


Note: I used my circular saw to cut down the larger sized boards and then my table saw when pieces were a smaller size and easier (less awkward) to handle. This video is a poor example of this note actually, but, I generally followed this guideline.


Pieces of the base and side walls cut to fit as seen below.

And each board needed to get some surface water damage sanded off (sigh). Using scrap wood saved me money...it did not save me time unfortunately. But, that's ok. Before sanding...

And after sanding using 120 grit on my orbital sander.


And a freshly sanded view...Note: LABEL all your boards and which direction they face. This will help you tremendously when putting pieces back that look slightly the same yet are a quarter inch or more different in size. (Was happy I remembered to label...this round).

Another note: My cuts were not perfect. As seen by the gap below. These gaps were covered using shims or by the vertical walls, or by future face framing. It's okay to not be perfect and figure it out as you go (is what I keep telling myself).

Next, I furred out where my vertical walls met the side walls in the dining nook. I believe I did this for two reasons. One being that there was a gap on my bottom board where it met the wall. Second, being that the eventual face frame needed more thickness away from the wall. I just want to be honest and upfront...I'm not entirely sure why I did this looking back... and really wish I wrote this blog post as I built the damn thing. But, the built in works and looks good. So...(nervous sweat).

All the vertical walls got pocket holes and wood glue to attach to the bottom base. The side walls also were screwed together in several places using 1.25" wood screws.

Ok, now I know why I furred out the side walls..It's so each of the cupboard doors are the same size. Also, it will allow for a framework for faceframe to be nailed into. Phewf...mystery solved. Also, use your carpenter square a lot while you build. Every step later on will thank you for doing your best to be square.

Next, I cut 3 more pieces of 1" plywood to fit the backs of these cupboards and provide further structural support. These back wall pieces connected to the carcass via pocket holes. I also drove six 3" wood screws from the wall into studs to fully secure the carcass into the nook.

Next, I cut 3 more pieces of 1" plywood for the carcass topper. This topper spanned the full width of the built-in. I used little wood schims to ensure the plywood sat level on top of the vertical walls. Wood-glued and countersunk about thirty two 1.5" woodscrews to connect the top to the vertical walls. If you haven't guessed by now, I like to over engineer everything. It's gotta be sturdy for it to be functional. As seen below, I am pretty proud of myself at this point.


Note: As I was taking this pic of myself on my tripod, I got totally busted by a solicitor at our front door. So, I'm smiling awkwardly at him. This is why I prefer being behind the camera, rather than in front of it...


 

THE NUMBER GAME (to give you an idea of size and scale)

Height of Carcass: 18" (this includes Ladder Base)

Width of each cupboard opening: 22.5"

Width of Dining Nook: 74.75"

Depth of Dining Nook: 18" on Left, 17.5" on Right

 

5. Trimming Out the Carcass


The raw edges of the plywood boxes need to get covered up. I do realize that this will also be covered up by an overlay door...so, trimming out the carcass may not be fully necessary. However, I just want this to look more finished and profesh...and less janky is the hope.

I ended up using one 1x6x8 of select pine for the top and bottom pieces of the face frame. I used my table saw to cut this.


NOTE: select pine is considered a soft wood. I looked all over (went to a couple Home Depot's and one Dunbar Lumber looking for Poplar - an affordable harder wood more frequently used for face frame in the DIY world). But, I couldn't source it. I had limited time - (my stretches of when I get to work on this thing is 1-2 hours a day while my little one napped). I was getting annoyed with how much time was being eaten up by sourcing materials. So, I took a chance on select pine...in hopes that using a really good cabinetry paint will improve it's ability to withstand dings. (Update...we have been using this built-in daily and it has worn great so far. Both kids open the bottom cabinets to access toys daily. They have banged their clunky ass toys into the frame and hit doors on nearby chairs. So far no damage...fingers crossed this is par for the course).


I digress...I've gotten off track as one does. Face frame. 1x6 cut into 1.25" for the top rail. Remainder to cover the bottom as a toekick. 1x2 select pine cut to fit the thickness of the vertical walls. I used my table saw to adjust thickness. Because of the type of overlay hinges I purchased. The stiles (vertical face frame pieces) had to match the thickness of the vertical plywood walls, so the hinge could be secured flat against the walls. This will make sense eventually. Also, I know there are hinges out there that accommodate for face frames that aren't flush with the carcass...I couldn't feasibly source them from the big box stores. And hinges in general, I found very confusing. So, I went with the route that made the most sense in my head. I took my time measuring and cutting and this is what worked for me.


Attached all the stiles to the rails via, you guessed it...pocket holes...0.75" pocket screws for this application. Also, used wood glue at each connection. Added wood glue to each pocket hole too...in hopes that this further strengthened the join.


Once all the face framing was put together. I added wood glue to all surfaces adhering to the carcass. Then used my brad nailer to attach the frame to the carcass.





And what it looks like with the face trim on...

It will just be so much better seeing a finished frame, rather than the unfinished plywood ends - if I left it raw. On Instagram, I polled how many folks would do this part. And, I was surprised how many people said no. Over 30%. This is totally OK, cause there are many ways to do a DIY, this is just how I did and learned through mine.


6. Making Cabinet Doors - Hinges

I've never made a door for furniture before...have you?

For the doors, I bought one 16x96 Laminated White Wood Panel (these are often used for shelving projects) for just under $30. I wanted the doors to be solid wood on the sides and from one piece (so technically I only have to make 3 cuts, one to fit the size 75" width of the carcass, and two more cuts to fit each door frame opening).


I have to mention that this particular wood is not typically used for cabinet doors (or maybe it is, I'm not sure...). But, it is a softer wood species (select pine that has been milled and glued together) that could potentially get dented with heavy and rough usage. So, if you are rough with your cabinetry and furniture...go with poplar, maple or teak. These doors will get used a lot by the kids, so, only time will tell how it will wear. (It's been 3 months so far, and the kids go in here daily...so far so good...no dings, no dents/scratches. But, my kids are a 6/10 on roughness with furniture...).


I started out by lining up my board against the cabinet and marking lines where cut down the board to fit the opening. Then I marked two lines at the midpoint of each middle stile.

After measuring about 30 more times...I cut the board down using a clamped level as a guide and my circular saw.


Once I had my 3 doors, it was time to install hinges. And I'm going to be pretty honest...hinges are a bit of a mystery to me, even still now. But, I will try to explain what I know about hinges, so, hopefully it helps you save some time. First, I needed to figure out what kind of hinges I needed.


Full Overlay Hinges:

You see where the red circle is on the image. That describes the how the cabinet door sits on the side of the cabinet carcass.


The door fully overlaps the side. There are specific hinges just for this kind of door. These are sometimes referred to Euro hinges and you will notice them on a lot of big box cabinetry builds (if you have a kitchen from IKEA, my hand shoots up here, you have many full overlay hinge examples on hand).


You will notice that these kinds of doors completely cover the carcass of your built-in

If you look above, I displayed an image of an inset hinge. Notice how the door is on the side of of the cabinet carcass...and not over top like the overlay hinge? I could have put inset or full overlay hinges on my built in - but, I felt more comfortable making a more finished look with cabinet doors using Full Overlay hinges.


I purchased a Kreg Concealed Hinge Jig to use for the first time...and found that it was actually quite straightforward to use!

I also purchased 6 Richelieu 105 degree, full overlay, soft close hinges. Honestly, they were the only ones that fit the bill for what I needed at my local Home Depot. Check how far your cab will need to open or if it would interfere with walls/other cabinets when you open the door. If you want your door to swing out more that 90 degrees...there are options for that. I knew for mine, 90 degrees plus would work fine.


I followed the directions on the Richelieu package of where to place the hinge on the cabinet. The Kreg Jig had settings on it to replicate the measurements for most frequently used measurements for hinge placement. I had it on setting #5 (this will only makes sense if you have the jig in front of you).


I swear, every time I made a concealed hole for my hinge using this jig, it made such a beautiful (and so easy) result. I wasn't precise on the placement of the hinge on the actual cabinet door. I basically placed the hinge on the midpoint of the upper and lower third of each cabinet door.

I screwed 6 hinges in, and my doors were ready to install on the cabinetry frame. There are instructions that tell you where to place the carcass portion of your hinge (so your door attaches). I'm again going to be very honest....mine didn't line up with their measurements. I basically put the two pieces of the hinge together on the cabinet door and lined it up with the carcass using my foot to balance the door (twas awkward, like this explanation). Made two marks in the screw holes where the hinge should sit...and secured the hinge to that position. This is the part where I felt unsure of why things didn't work out with the instructions. But, my door functionally works so...


Because my doors are about 0.75" and my plywood carcass was made out of 1" plywood...my doors didn't line up great on first install. See how the gap is wider on the right than the left. There are ways to adjust your hinge so the door moves up/down/left/right. Buttttt, if I moved these doors anymore, they interfered with the faceframe.


So, I shaved the middle door down on my table saw...



There...3 doors that fit. And the woodgrain lines up (for now...they get painted eventually. But, I enjoyed this view for a little while). Up till this point, I was like...I can't believe I built this. Also, that plant in the picture looks a lot more dead these days.


7. Extending the Trimwork - Building Upstands


You see that piece of (trim)work that extends past the dining nook wall? I called this an Upstand while I was building this nook.


I was actually unsure of whether the term 'upstand' was correct for what this actually is...so I looked it up.


Google says:

So...my terminology is technically wrong when addressing this part of the built-in. But, I'm still going to continue calling it an Upstand. I got the idea from @little_savage_life on IG. She posted about a company in the UK called DIY Alcove Cabinets who make built-ins into flat pack pieces that you install yourself. It's semi-custom stuff that looks fully custom. So cool. But, I live in Delta, BC, Canada, they don't ship here and I didn't have the budget for this anyways.


The upstand is made from two pieces of wood I cut down using my table saw and mitre saw to extend 2" past the door frame. It frames in the built-in doors and gives the whole built in a more custom and built-in look.


A close up of how the two pieces of wood attach to the built-in. I furred out the carcass at the perimeter walls, to ensure the upstands had somewhere to pin nail into. Notice how it wraps around the baseboard? Cool eh?

I used 1.25" 23G pin nails and wood glue to attach the upstands to the bench frame.


Following that, I cut down a piece of wood for a flush toekick. In my mind, I wanted this portion of the cabinet to look like it was inset. By framing it out with trimwork, I feel like I accomplished that somewhat well.


8. Making the Countertop


I wanted a substantially thick looking countertop for this bench part of the build....However, I didn't want to pay for an actual countertop. When pricing out butcherblock slabs, they were about $250-450 for this size. I needed wood and not laminate - as the edge is exposed on the side, and this will be painted eventually.


So, to get all that, I went with two 2x12x8 Douglas Fir boards from my local hardware store. They are about $40 each. And two boards fit the depth of the bench built-in. So, for $80 to achieve the look and scale I was going for, it was money well spent.


As seen above, they had to go top shelf to grab this wood. (If going into the lumber yard makes you feel a little out of your element...I get ya. I often don't know what I'm looking for till I see it. And I ask the lumber yard folks questions and advice. They love offering it. Also...it builds great rapport for, you know, the next time you visit and see them again).

If you can, bring your measurements to the hardware store. Most hardware stores with a lumber yard can cut down your wood for you. Often, they will do it for free (even when they say they charge per cut ...). My 10" table saw at home is good...but, to cut through a thick 2" piece cleanly, it just wouldn't do a great job.


The cuts were so clean and fit in my car after cutting it down. This saved me a lot of time, which I am all for these days.


Cutting the Fir Boards to fit

I'm going to be honest...I messed up my measurements and forgot about those damn upstands.


See below, and how the countertop doesn't overhang the extended trim (upstands)?



So, I went back to the hardware store and bought another board. This time I had better measurements. Sigh.


The first piece was easy to cut...it just needed to be 74.5" long and fit within the nook walls. None of this board is seen once the built-in is built. The front fir board, I had to make cuts so the countertop extends past the wall and rests on top of the carcass with an overhang of 0.5". So, I lined up my board with my wall, and used a straightedge to draw a line. Make sure to choose the nicest side of the board that will be exposed as the counter :)


Next, I measured my wall distance from the back counter board to the nook opening. There is a green piece of tape in the image that shows where I measured to (that tape was actually to ensure that I didn't make the bench past this height. If I made the bench any taller - my IKEA Billy Bookcase uppers wouldn't fit).


Once I had my cut lines, I used my jigsaw and a clamped metal ruler as my guide to make the cuts.


Taking your time with this cut is imperative...is what I told myself. I didn't want to F up and buy another $40 board. Haha. Also...a fresh blade on your jigsaw helps. There are a bunch of different blades specific to what you are cutting. I used a wood blade meant for fine cuts. This pack had tonnes and is about $20CAD.


Check for fit...

Success! Also, as you see below ...it's not perfect...but, it will do just fine.


Prepping the Fir Boards

First, I wood-filled all the knots, dents and imperfections.


Then, I sanded the top down using 120 grit initially, then 220grit and 320grit. I paid most of my attention to the one board that will be exposed and ignored the rest...Most of the surface will be covered by upper cabinets.


Pretty happy about getting it buttery smooth...it was a beautiful piece of wood. Shame that I will be painting it. But, oh well.


I used wood schims to ensure that the counter was perfectly level.


Then I countersunk a bunch of holes into the wood top to attach to the carcass. I over engineered this part. Why? Because I don't want the wood to move over time. Wood species will shrink and warp over time based on seasonal changes. It's not a crazy amount...but, my upper cabs will fit quite tightly within this area. I just wanted to reduce the probabilities of things shifting with time.



Because, I didn't want to fill any countersink holes on the top of the bench that will eventually show...I drove in several screws from underneath.


This is the point where I majorly hesitated ...I almost left the built-in as a bench. Cause it looked great as is...Honestly, I might section this off as a singular blog post. I think folks out there might find this part helpful...we will see.


9. Adding IKEA Billy Bookcases as Upper Cabinets


THE WHY:

Simply put, this p