Simple white bookcase, BILLY.
IKEA of Sweden
EUR 29

The BILLY bookcase is one of the biggest successes ever made by IKEA. With its many colours and combinations, it has a natural place in homes all over the world.

In the early years bookcases by IKEA largely comprised glass doors, drinks cabinets and base cabinets. But as time went on, more and more customers were looking for a ‘real bookcase’, and they got one in the 1967 catalogue. It was called TIGA and was the forerunner to BILLY. The words used to present TIGA in the catalogue were: “A real bookcase obviously contains books and nothing else. It’s high and offers plenty of shelf space.”

TIGA was a success. But it was difficult for IKEA to meet demand. It therefore launched the two similar models VIRA and REGAL, made by various suppliers across Europe. This was good for the business, but not for the customers. The shelves were similar to each other, but they couldn’t be combined. It would be better to have a single model, both for customers and for IKEA, as it could save money on distribution and logistics.

During a trip to Romania in 1975, engineer Arne Hall from IKEA visited several factories that made the various shelf models. This is where he got the idea for BILLY and drew a sketch right there in the factory.

The new model had to work for everyone, factories and customers alike. The bookcase came into the range in October 1977 and was named BILLY. No designer was mentioned in the protocol. Perhaps it was named after one Billy Liljedahl, head of advertising at the time – he had, after all, criticised the range department several times for the lack of a ‘real’ bookcase.

In the 1979 IKEA catalogue, BILLY was presented in oak and pine for the first time, alongside TIGA in white lacquer. BILLY was a success, and in the 1981 catalogue BILLY also appeared in white lacquer, while TIGA was discontinued.

Over the years, many new colours and designs would come along. In 2021, BILLY remains a best seller at IKEA.