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How This Singaporean Couple Upgraded Their IKEA Bookshelf Into A Stunning Arched Built-In

19 April 2023 | BY

Inspired by similar DIY home projects online, a Singaporean couple transformed a plain IKEA Billy bookcase into a stylish arched bookshelf.

DIY arch bookshelf- cover image

The sacred ritual of making countless Pinterest albums overflowing with pinned posts is a rite of passage that most embark on before renovating their homes. Many of these posts are aspirational and tend to involve lots of money. 

But Ruby and Kenny from @hellohomebodies, who wanted to bring their Pinterest board to life, managed to do so for less than $1,000. Inspired by similar DIY projects online, the Singaporean couple transformed a plain IKEA Billy bookcase into a stylish arched display shelf. Intrigued, we managed to get in touch with the duo, who answered all of our burning DIY questions.

Inspiration that led to the DIY project

DIY arch bookshelf- inspirationImage credit: Our Aesthetic Abode, First House On Finn, A Carrie’d Affair Blog
Most projects start with inspiration – for Ruby, she browsed through countless images of arch bookcases and kept up with popular home decor accounts online. Typically, these platforms showcase DIY enthusiasts that work on large-scale home improvement projects that leave all of us in awe. 

However, these projects are often done by people in angmoh countries, unconsciously making us think that it’s impossible to recreate them in Singapore. Ruby and Kenny thus decided to undertake such projects to prove that these challenges can be done in Singapore.

The entire project took place over 10 weeks, and the couple documented the entire process on their Instagram account. 

Drafting a blueprint

bookshelf blueprint with dimensions
Image credit:

Even though it wasn’t the pair’s first time attempting a DIY home improvement project, it was the first time they were doing it on a larger scale. 

DIY arch bookshelf- assembling steps
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The measuring of dimensions proved to be a challenge, but since they had already purchased 3 IKEA Billy bookcases to use as a base, they could refer to IKEA’s official product measurements. This helped them save time and cut out uncertainty.  

Another thing they shared was that sketching diagrams on a piece of paper to envision the steps in their project made it easier to work out their ideal measurements.

Gathering of materials and tools

Home modifications are often costly and intimidating as not all of us own industrial-sized tools, and we’re unlikely to purchase one just for a single project. 

building arch skeleton
Figuring out how to operate power tools.
Image credit: Ruby

“Rent your equipment! We bought a set of electric drills for this project as we foresaw more uses for it in future, but we rented the sanding machine from Carousell instead of purchasing one,” Ruby advised. 

carousell tools rental
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Apart from IKEA bookcases and power tools, the couple also gathered materials such as medium-density fibreboards (MDF) for the project. 

As a true Singaporean, Ruby recommended hopping onto Carousell to scout for materials and equipment. Renting tools and buying someone else’s leftover materials will undoubtedly be cheaper than getting them brand new. 

DIY arch bookshelf- assembled IKEA BILLY bookcase
Layout of materials before construction of the arch.
Image credit: Ruby

 “Check for contractors who have in-house carpentry workshops. Most of them will be able to supply MDF with customisation.”

For those that don’t mind going the distance, woodworking workshops in ulu industrial areas offer affordable MDF boards that can be cut to your desired size. Otherwise, there’s always the option of buying them off Amazon and other online shops. 

Unexpected challenges faced 

Unless you’re God’s favourite child, no successful project is completed without hitting a few bumps during the process. Likewise, the couple shared with us the biggest challenge they encountered during their project.

DIY arch bookshelf- uneven floor to ceiling height
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“The biggest challenge was to work out the measurements when the ground, walls and ceiling were all uneven. As it turns out, we needed to shave off some height from one of the Billy units and also make adjustments to one of the support beams using a hand-held mini wood saw.”


#billy got an upgrade #ikeahack #diy #archedbookcase

♬ Say So (Instrumental Version) [Originally Performed by Doja Cat] – Elliot Van Coup

Learning how to operate tools can be a daunting experience as most of us aren’t Bob the Builder. Thankfully, there are endless tutorial videos and platforms online that we can refer to for help. 

In the case of Ruby and Kenny, help came in the form of a kind neighbour. 

“Neither of us knew how to use an electric drill and had to learn as we went along. Our neighbour even had to come over to give us a crash course!”

Tips for other aspiring DIY-ers 

DIY arch bookshelf- before and after paint
Documenting key points in their progress.
Image credit: Ruby

Like starting on an essay for school, a DIY project will benefit from you listing out the steps to take and the expected timeline.  

“Break it down into small, digestible steps and set a project timeline with a buffer so you don’t get frustrated trying to do everything within an impossibly short amount of time.” 

As Singaporeans, it’s in our nature to be kiasu and bite off more than we can chew. But in this case, taking it slow is key. 

Aside from checking out DIY project tutorials, we also recommend watching step-by-step videos on how to apply even coats of primer and prepping your surfaces before laying on grout.

Rewarding experience 

DIY arch bookshelf-final results
End results of the DIY arched bookshelf.
Image credit: Ruby

“What we enjoyed most was seeing the vision come to life, bit by bit.  Hitting milestones of the project became the most enjoyable and fulfilling part of the process.

“Both of you have to share the passion and vision – you are literally building a home with your partner, and if you have that shared mindset, you are then ready to take on these DIWS ( Do It With Spouse) projects.”

Some DIY projects are harder than others, and the resulting workmanship won’t always turn out the way we want it to. But going through the process, especially with a partner or a friend, makes it a lot more fun. And not to mention, those moments leading up to the end results are always so exciting. Be sure to check out Rubby and Kenny’s Instagram page, @hellohomebodies, where they documented the entire 10-week process step by step.
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Cover image adapted from: Ruby

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