14 Built-In Bookshelf Ideas to Turn Storage into a Showpiece


Add built-in bookshelves to amplify a room's storage capacity, display space, and architectural dimension. These bookshelf ideas will help you maximize storage while adding style to your space.

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Cook Up Built-In Storage


Bookcases in a kitchen make perfect sense: They ensure your culinary references are easily identifiable, ready to inspire, and stored within reach of workstations. Recess a bookcase complete with open shelves and closed storage so it sits flush with the room's upper cabinets. Underscore built-in character by finishing the bookcase to match the kitchen's cabinets.

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Encase a Window

entertainment shelving

Use custom-designed bookcases to step up interest around a window and create extra seating. This trio of built-out bookcases extends the reach of a media center and supplies generous book storage and display shelves as well as a prettily cushioned perch meant for taking in views and conversation or just enjoying a good read.

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Get to Work

White built-ins

Arrange built-in bookshelves above a desktop framed by cabinets or file drawers to fashion a home office or a kid's computing station. Give the built-out components the look of a built-in structure by finishing the top and bottom edges with moldings and baseboards that match those used in the room.

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Play the Angles

living room fireplace media center

Create a strikingly serene scene by aligning built-in bookcases with a focal point's horizontal planes. When designing this wall, the homeowners took their cue from the panel fireplace mantel's shape and height; the top of the mantel forms a shelf of sorts that separates lower closed-door cabinets from the open shelves spanning the wall above.

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Employ Pattern

Keep the Carpet Clean

Pattern brings look-at-me panache to what could become black-hole built-ins. Line the back walls of bookcases with formal or fanciful fabric or wallpaper designs that suit your room's color scheme and decorating theme. Opting for glass shelves over wood shelves allows natural and artificial light to flow unblocked and illuminate a bookcase's inner reaches.

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Bedroom Built-Ins

retro room

Take advantage of underused wall space above and around a bed to create storage-rich cabinets, built-in nightstands, and display shelves. Match the built-ins to other wood finishes in your home and keep the silhouettes streamlined so as not to disrupt a bedroom's peaceful aura. This construction creates a cozy bed alcove, made cozier with a leather-upholstered wall.

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Get Creative


Reach into forgotten spaces, such as the outer edges of partial walls, voids beneath staircases, space above doors and windows and behind tubs and toilets, and out-of-the-way corners, to install recessed or built-out bookcases. Incorporate at least a few adjustable shelves so you can shift their spacing as your display and storage need change.

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Perky and Practical

Innovation Kitchen

Place a built-in bookcase near an activity center and reflect the location's fun-filled purpose by painting the bookcase a colorful hue. Stow crafting materials, office supplies, and incoming and outgoing mail in handsome baskets, vibrantly hued boxes, and efficient organizers. Arrange often-used references like bird-watching guides or gardening books alongside some of your favorite collections and vases of fresh-picked blooms.

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Think Beyond Books

living room

Built-ins can hold far more than your favorite tomes. Fabulous showcases for sculptures, treasured antiques, and finely framed photos, built-in bookcases add distinguished dimension to sophisticated spaces. During the design stage, measure the pieces you want to display to ensure the shelves are properly spaced to give each object room to shine.

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Make a Statement

gray and white family room

Incorporate arresting details, such as scalloped cutouts, raised embellishments, or fluted moldings, to create bookcases that command attention. These floor-to-ceiling bookcases draw the eye with shapely headers that craft fine-cabinetry compartments. Gray-painted crown moldings spanning the framework's top edges unify the constructions and meld the bookcases into the room's overall design.

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Raise a Wall

living room

Turn one large room into two distinct spaces by building an open-shelf bookcase partition that can be accessed from both sides. This thoroughly modern unit provides ample storage and display cubbies without completely blocking light, conversation, or sight lines between the two areas.

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Enclosed Built-Ins

Living Room Storage

Built-in bookshelves beautifully convert to cabinets with the addition of custom-fitted glass-pane or solid-panel doors. The advantage to adding doors goes beyond aesthetics: Enclosing the shelves protects stored and displayed items from curious toddlers' hands, keeps objects free of dust, and when glass, lets you show off your finest things. Solid doors are a better choice for enclosing shelves meant for holding jumbles of stuff.

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Bath Storage

Find space for the tub.

Built-in bookcases optimize a bathroom's storage capacity. Whether you reach between wall studs or build out from a wall, remember that bathroom shelves don't have to be very deep to hold bathing beauty necessities, such as bath salts, body lotions, and rolled towels. Though space is limited inside walls, you'll find enough room to install shelves measuring between 4 and 8 inches deep.

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Spotlight Your Collections


Devise a lighting plan that focuses attention on bookcase contents, lets you quickly read book titles, and creates after-dark interest. Install picture, or artwork, lights at the top of the bookcases to cast a soft glow across books and collections. Add wall sconces, shelf lights, strip lighting, or rope lights to brighten the interiors. Whenever possible, put the lights on dimmers so you can control the brightness and set different moods.

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