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Complete Guide to Bookshelves

Complete Guide to Bookshelves

Bookshelves do a lot more than showcase your impressive library of classic books and avant-garde poetry. They can also display your favorite keepsakes in an entryway, keep references close by in your home office, and provide extra storage in your guest bedroom. Discover how to choose a bookshelf that fits your purpose and transforms an empty space.


Bookshelf Types

A classic freestanding bookshelf is the standard for showing off your tomes and trinkets. But there are many creative alternatives to the horizontal form. An etagere style features an open design. Its thin frame and decorative shelves have a delicate modernity, perfect for holding everything from your china collection to monogrammed towels. For stylish storage with added texture, color, or pattern, the square shelves of cube bookcases can hold baskets. You can use them to stash blankets, board games, and all your family room favorites nearby. Ladder-style and leaning bookshelves help save precious space in small rooms or closet hideaways. Some even come equipped with a desk for your home office.


Bookshelf Sizes

The ideal bookshelf size is one that gives unimpeded access, whether it’s to your favorite reads or your bathroom routine. While standard bookshelves run about four feet tall, consider the number and depth of shelves that you need. For lightweight CDs and paperbacks, hang floating shelves. For massive office binders and photo albums, look to curio cabinets.


With limited floor space, go up. Taller bookshelves hold more items without creating a large footprint, and they keep fragile trinkets out of harm’s way. If you have enough open space, a horizontal bookshelf can fill an empty wall and make your home feel complete. They’re also ideal for playrooms to keep toys within reach for curious little hands.


Bookshelf Features

Classic bookshelf features include open shelving to show off collectibles, while doors and drawers keep your belongings concealed and dust-free. Adjustable shelves easily accommodate that tall handblown vase you couldn’t resist buying, and they let your beloved house plants tumble and grow.


Why stop there, when you can go beyond a display case? From underbed storage to floor lamps, you can find multifunctional bookshelves with wide variety of available features. Use an S-shaped bookcase as an artistic room divider, or turn a compact flat-top shelving unit into a side table for drinks and snacks while binge-watching sitcom reruns.


Bookshelf Materials & Finishes

Wood bookshelves have a solid frame that withstands substantial weight, so you can easily fit heavy storage containers into the bottom shelf. Metal bookshelves are durable anchors, and they work well with minimalist lightweight designs, such as modern and industrial style rooms. While not as sturdy, bookshelves made from wicker pack just as much character, creating a warm, rich look. The relaxed, reedy texture is perfect for boho, coastal, or farmhouse styles. Or choose a glass bookshelf for crisp contemporary appeal. Consider maintenance when choosing your bookshelf material.


Bookshelf Styles

When working with a chic retro theme, mid-century modern bookshelves blend well with their organic forms and minimal ornamentation. They can help you pull off a simple but sleek look with smooth surfaces, clean lines, and natural color palettes. The intricate textures and raw materials of boho bookshelves lend your space a more relaxed vibe, perfect for hosting your book club for coffee and culture. Modern bookshelves offer funky shapes and bold colors. For country or coastal charm, distressed wood bookshelves are reminders of simpler times.