IKEA Billy Bookshelf DIY header and lighting by Tracy Joy Jones

I Dreamed of a Library (Part 3) — Lighting

When Matt Jones proposed to me down on one knee on the old pedestrian bridge spanning the Arkansas River, I didn’t immediately say yes. The night was pitch black, and the old bridge had no lighting, so my surprise exclamation wasn’t “yes”. Instead, he asked his beautifully romantic question, opened the ring box, and I said, “A light!”

Old Pedetrian Bridge in Tulsa Oklahoma

The pedestrian bridge near 31st and Riverside, taken in Tulsa, Okla. on September 25,2012. Tulsa World File

We still laugh about it. The jewelers had added a light to the tiny ring box, and it completely stole the show. Of course, I followed our laughter with an emphatic “yes.” But twenty-two happily married years later, and the lights are still stealing the show.

They certainly did in the Library. Ironically, I wasn’t even sure I wanted built-in lighting. It seemed difficult and expensive. But Matt insisted that if we were going to go to all the trouble of building a library, we should go all the way and make it the library of our dreams. Of course, he was right, but I don’t think I really believed him until we flipped the switch and “opened the ring box.”

The Library before moving in by Tracy Joy Jones

The Library before it was mine… Notice the ugly ceiling fan!

In this picture from Part 1 of this “I Dreamed of a Library” series, you can see that there was initially a ceiling fan in the Library. I hate ceiling fans. This is due in part to thyroid issues and in part to being a true summer girl born in Africa. I’m never hot. The lighting unit attached to the ceiling fan was broken when we moved in, so I’d already replaced it with a light fixture I’d salvaged and painted. The absence of a ceiling fan left a spare light switch on the wall, leading to nothing, perfect for our Library lighting plan.

We called in an electrician to run a cable from the center light fixture to the area above the bookshelves. We were fairly confident we could do the remainder of the job ourselves. We’ve installed many light fixtures in this home. In fact, I believe we’ve now changed the lighting in every single room.

Sconces for the Library by Tracy Joy JonesAnd we found the perfect over the bookshelf lighting — relatively inexpensive, a little bit of bling, and exactly what I was looking for. Here’s the Amazon link to the lights if you’re interested. They come in all different colors and are even lovelier in person. We decided to do one light per bookshelf. Okay, Matt decided, but again, he was absolutely right.

However, in order to hang the lights, we had to build a header area above the bookshelves. But first we had to have something to brace the MDF header face against. It couldn’t just sit on top of the shelves. Along the tops of the bookshelves and on the ceiling, we mounted 2×4’s that would serve to stabilize the MDF sections of the header as well as the crown molding. If you do happen to tackle this project for yourself, be sure to find the studs before mounting your supports to the ceiling. The last thing you want is anything falling down during an Oklahoma earthquake. Oh, wait. That’s my worry, not yours. Still, better safe…

Matt carefully measured and cut the MDF facing to fit from the top of the shelves to the ceiling. Our Library room is so wide that it was cost-effective and practical to build the header front in two pieces. It made assembly a lot easier and much lighter. MDF is inexpensive but really heavy.

IKEA Billy Bookshelf header and lighting installation by Tracy Joy Jones

This picture was taken before we drilled the circular holes in the MDF for the wiring.

In the picture above, the header isn’t yet affixed to the support 2x4s. We set it up there to determine the position of each lighting unit so they’d be centered on the shelves. Remember, the end shelves were narrower than the others, so choosing where to place the lighting was tricky. It took a lot of measuring and a little bit of eye-balling magic to get it exactly right.

Once we’d determined the spacing for the lighting, we used a hole saw attached to a drill to cut the holes to allow access to the junction boxes and cables for each lighting fixture. We then premounted the junction boxes to the back of the MDF and mounted the hardware that came with the lighting units to the front. All that we had left was wiring.

IKEA Billy Bookshelf header and lighting installation by Tracy Joy Jones

You can see the hardware evenly spaced in this picture, as well as the wiring ready for me to paint and add lights. Also, on a happy note, I’ve lost twenty pounds since this picture! I almost cut myself out of the picture, but it was what it was.

Matt held the heavy MDF header at an angle while I wired each junction box to the electrical cable the electrician had run from the center light fixture. We then screwed the MDF header to the supports and wired and mounted the second header section.

Isn’t crown molding glorious? It covers a multitude of mismeasurements and gaps. However, matching the angle of molding to existing molding is very challenging. Our brilliant friend, Chris Rose, had generously shared his knowledge of crown molding with us during our kitchen cabinet remodel project. However, we struggled a little in the Library without Chris’s help, but it turned out all right. At least, nothing that a generous application of caulk couldn’t perfect.

Benjamin Moore Advance Self-leveling paint for cabinets

Benjamin Moore Advance Self-leveling paint for cabinets. I color-matched it to the IKEA shelves and purchased it in semi-gloss.

As I already stated, I have developed an aversion to painting after painting the entire house, and I had zero interest in painting the bookshelves. Instead, I took a single shelf to my local paint store and color-matched the standard IKEA color in my favorite Benjamin Moore self-leveling cabinet paint. I absolutely love this paint. It’s forgiving, it goes on beautifully, it hardens like enamel, but cleans up with water. I’ve painted every cabinet in my house with this stuff.

Being careful not to get paint on any of the Ikea shelving, I painted the trim, header, crown molding, footer, and baseboards. And then because the remaining trim and molding in the room had never been painted since we moved in, I painted every bit of molding in the rest of the room the same color to give it that “built-in that’s always been there” look.

Can you see it now? I’m going to do the big reveal tomorrow with the Library in full glory, so don’t miss it. Thanks again for reading with me.

Related Posts:

IKEA Bookshelf Diy hack by Tracy Joy Jones

I Dreamed of a Library (Part 1) — Framing the Door

IKEA Bookshelf DIY hack by Tracy Joy Jones

I Dreamed of a Library (Part 2) — Assembling Bookshelves

IKEA Billy Bookshelf DIY header and lighting by Tracy Joy Jones

I Dreamed of a Library (Part 3) — Lighting

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