How to Incorporate Bookshelves Into Your Space

updated Jul 22, 2020
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(Image credit: Alicia Macias)

Whether you have more books than you know what to do with or are looking for a bold way to fill up a blank wall, bookshelves are a great way to add an interesting design element to a room. But rather than going the traditional route and buying a wooden unit you push against the wall, try getting a little more creative with how you incorporate those ledges into your room.

There are so many interesting ways to incorporate bookshelves into your space, from wrapping them around a doorway to tucking them underneath a staircase. Read ahead for a few of our favorite ideas.

Around a Doorframe

(Image credit: Handmade Charlotte)

For a bold design move, take cues from photographer Jenny Brandt who shared her home on Handmade Charlotte. To create extra space, Jenny skipped buying a bulky bookshelf and instead built one around a doorframe. The family stores everything from books to knick-knacks on the shelves, and a comfy reading chair with an arched lamp is set in front to give you a place to unwind while you read.

Office Nook

Put yourself in the mood to read and write in your office by surrounding yourself with books. Styled by designer Anna Mårselius for Residence Magazine, this desk became one with the shelving unit that held all the volumes and chapter books. If you prefer a more traditional desk, you can also build a sprawling unit around it in much the same way.

Dining Room Accent

If you have a small dining nook and aren’t sure what to do with an empty wall space, do what Carl Dahlstedt did for Elle Interior and fill it with volumes of books. If you want the space to have even more personality, you can hang frames from the shelves, depending on how big they are.

Behind the Couch

For those who feel that a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf would swallow up their room, you can get a squat bookshelf like Amelia Widell, the founder of Swedish furniture brand Melimeli, did, and place your couch directly in front of it. To make the space even more impactful, you can also layer a series of framed prints or photographs across the surface so the wall doesn’t feel blank.

As a Side Table

Forget side tables—use bookshelves, instead! This photo proves flanking your couch with two gilded glass shelving units is a modern way to bring interest into the room without making it feel too overwhelming.

Where Bookshelves Meet Wallpaper

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Get creative with your bracket bookshelves and have them mix with wallpaper. Designer Cilla Ramnek for Residence Magazine showed how this design move can bring a vintage touch to your space. To make up for the unused space above the bookshelves, floral retro wallpaper fills in the gap and reaches the ceiling.

Differently Sized Shelves

You can make a shelving unit take up a whole wall like My 60s House did, but give yourself more storage space by using differently sized shelves. For example, the bottom ledge was wider than the rest, allowing Catherine to use it for a record player, clocks, and a bunch of other bric-a-brac.

Surround a Fireplace

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

If you have a fireplace, flank it with shelves like Wendy Goodman did in her brownstone. You can fill them with books and photographs, and place your armchairs and side table lamps directly in front of the units, creating the coziest reading space imaginable.

Build Around a Window

(Image credit: IKEA)

Another bold design move when it comes to bookcases is to build them around a window like IKEA did. You can also put a small loveseat in front of the window to create a dreamy place to sit, write, and relax.

(Image credit: Alicia Macias)