19 Cozy Spaces Showcasing Bookcases As Room Dividers

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Credit: Liz Calka

For the past decade or so, the open layout has become the de facto style. All that openness has its benefits — light and brightness being chief among them. But when you live in a small home like a studio or an apartment, an open layout can often mean there’s no real delineation of space, which can be a design challenge. You might not want to close off your space with walls, but it’s nice to have clear sleeping, eating, working, and Netflixing zones to make the space feel more functional and cozy.

Enter the room divider bookcase. Freestanding bookshelves and shelving units with cubbies are the perfect non-permanent way to divide a small space. They create physical and visual separation while providing new storage surfaces for books and decor. Designs with open backs allow light to pass freely into your new “room,” while models with drawers or doors mean you can stash things out of sight. The best part: Unlike walls, you can move these room divider bookcases any time you want. 

These 19 unique spaces make the case for a room divider bookcase. If you’re in need of a little visual separation in your space, let our inspiration be your guide. 

1. Pink Paint

As you walk into this tiny studio in DC, you can’t ignore the floor-to-ceiling, bubblegum pink bookshelf standing front and center. The renter here uses the bookcase as a room divider, separating her bedroom from her living area. Not only does it make the small studio more functional by defining spaces, but it also adds color and character.

Credit: Liz Calka

2. Functional Decor

The bookcase in this colorful DC home has two primary functions — holding owner Gina Martin’s plethora of inspiring photography books and dividing her small condo into multiple functional and cozy spaces. We love how it creates an entryway with places to hang coats and take off shoes. Having a simple space to transition from outside to inside is a game changer, even when space is limited.

Credit: Erin Derby

3. Moody Transition

The library-like transition between the living space and dining room in this historic Long Island home is enough to give any bibliophile heart palpitations. The dark-colored shelves spanning the living room walls are filled with books and elegant decor pieces, oozing charm.

4. Natural Materials

Shipping containers may be budget-friendly housing options, but they often feel cold and boring. This shipping container home in New Orleans is different — the owners added a handful of wooden bookcases (plus lots of books) that divide the space into separate rooms and make it feel lived-in.

Credit: Viv Yapp

5. Partial Divider

In this colorful England home, a partial wall of cut-outs creates a private nook with space to read or be creative. It goes to show that a room divider bookcase doesn’t have to be large to be functional.

6. Sideways Solution

Books fill this neat space that doesn’t exactly divide, but certainly provides an element of separateness in this Argentina apartment. The dividers keep things tidy, fitting just a few books in each, while a shelf holds a couple of decorative pieces.

7. Reimagined Hutch

This old wooden hutch is given new life as a room-dividing bookcase and additional storage in this Australia home. It’s a neat way to separate the kitchen from the dining area while reducing clutter.

8. Tiny Bookcase

The room-dividing bookcase in this Canadian home is small but mighty. It’s really just a series of wall-mounted shelves that hold a few books each. But the rainbow-inspired color-coded display is just the thing that provides a touch of visual space for the living room.

9. Storage Galore

A see-through five-by-five shelving system makes all the difference in this 400-square foot NYC apartment. Light flows effortlessly through the shelves, which brightens the entire space. The ample squares allow for plenty of storage for books, plants and trinkets. 

10. Built-In

By adding a room divider bookcase to an existing wall, this Chicago condo owner added a great deal of storage space along with a slightly more open feel. It’s a great way to store favorite books and artsy items as well. 

11. Toys for Two

When you’re small-space living with multiple kids, you’ve got to get a bit creative. And that’s just what Sara did in this shared bedroom in Yonkers, New York. Here, a room divider bookcase houses both books and toys for both kids to enjoy. 

Credit: Franke Chung

12. IKEA Bookcase

The bedroom in this Chicago 640-square-foot studio would be on complete view upon entering the apartment were it not for the IKEA KALLAX shelf. This popular product, touted on IKEA’s website as a great room divider “because it looks good from every angle,” closes off part of the bedroom area to offer a bit of privacy and separation from the rest of the home.

The owners made the top three rows of the bookcase open shelving and closed off the bottom two with bins — a smart move that allows light into the bedroom area but still offers a place to stow things you don’t want on display. 

Credit: Franke Chung

13. Double Duty

One room serves as four in this tiny 400-square-foot Chicago studio, but it still feels airy and spacious, thanks to its smart design details. Two sets of IKEA’s customizable BILLY bookcase serve as a room divider bookcase between the bedroom and main living area, giving this renter extra storage space for colorful books and personal objects.

14. Separate Workspaces

Even if your space isn’t tinythis 2,400-square-foot Philly loft isn’t exactly hurting for space — it can still benefit from a room divider bookcase. The main floor of the loft serves as a workspace for two of the renters, a painter and a sculptor, so it’s sunny and super open. A square bookcase (the discontinued EXPEDIT bookcase from IKEA, which has been replaced by the KALLAX) divides the back corner of the room, creating a small, homey seating area away from the work zone.

Credit: Submitted by Alex

15. Let In The Light

A room divider bookcase doesn’t always have to be ceiling tall or wide either. This NYC renter wanted a sense of separation between the bedroom and living space without blocking light flow from the only window in the apartment. The short, open-shelf bookcase between the couch and the bed sets some boundaries without blocking light and doubles as a spot to add a pop of color with books and tchotchkes.

Credit: Chris Snook

16. Sleeping Space

Another studio with smart organization, this 269-square-foot London space uses a tall bookshelf to create a cozy bedroom nook hidden from plain view of the living room and kitchen. A light colored natural linen headboard keeps the alcove from seeming too dark, and a mixture of open and closed shelves offers privacy without completely closing the corner off. 

17. Bedside Built-In

This solution is definitely more ambitious because it involves a built-in, but it’s still worth exploring. To create natural, thoughtful separation in a small space, this 450-square-foot studio in NYC uses a custom bookcase that separates the bedroom and dining area without any real sense of division. A square bedside cutout and curved archway create architectural interest and allow for plenty of light to flow into this tiny corner.

18. Privacy, Please

This Brooklyn renter didn’t want to waste space in her open loft, so she used vintage screens and a large bookcase in one corner to carve out an office and wardrobe space. Now she has a dedicated place to focus on work and getting dressed.

19. Mother/Son Space

This fiber artist shares her Oakland loft with her young son, so she wanted to make sure the home served both of them. She used two large room divider bookcases on either side of the kitchen and dining room to section off a large space for her to work and sleep without impeding on the rest of the space. The bookcases aren’t so big they block light from the huge windows, but they do hide her workspace and give the artist plenty of privacy.