I think I bought my first Billy bookcase from Ikea when I was at Brunel University, which would make it about 1990. It wasn’t until I joined Microsoft in ’95 that I really filled my apartment with them. Then I read Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs that same year. It’s a fictional account of the lives of some Microsoft employees that eerily mirrored some of the experience I was having at my new job. The mention of the Billy bookcase as a prime component of these character’s lives was the part that really freaked me out. I’ve tried to avoid them since.
Here’s a cool set of projects that in some way honor them as the Model T of the bookcase world. I particularly like the idea of tilting a bookcase to avoid the need for book ends.
Cool Hunting: Ding 3000: Pimp my Billy
“Billy Wilder takes the form of green branch growing across the Billy Bookshelf. Billy Heidenreich is a shelf with a lectern attached for displaying your most beautiful photography books, while the Stütze functions as an extra leg to tilt the bookcase at an angle so there’s no need for book ends. All the designs are beautifully made and will probably last longer than your Ikea shelving unit.”