Storage Anyone? Four Ways to Create Faux Built-In Bookcases

updated May 6, 2019
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Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are installed in a dining room

Attractive storage solutions in the living room are always a joy. My heart leaps at the sight of built-in shelving. Everyone seems to want them, but not everyone can get them, especially if you rent. Using these tips, create a serious storage solution and the beautiful look of built-in shelving. They’re quick, affordable and eco-friendly. All without hiring a single contractor! Read more for details…

Using bookcases to create the look of built-in shelving — rather than building one into your walls — is eco-friendly because they consume less energy, don’t ignite particulates and vapors into your home, and last but not least, they’re portable and reusable, making them handy if you need them in another room, or if you are relocating.

Setting up your built-in look:

  • Use identical bookcases side by side so that they butt against each other perfectly to create this look. I like using bookcases from Ikea. Ikea’s Billy Bookcase works well for full and half wall looks. And used horizontally for the bench and under-the-window looks, Ikea’s Expedit Bookcase works great.
  • To make the bookcases disappear, select a wood finish that coordinates with your walls. In other words, if your wall is white to light, use white. If your walls are a medium color, use a medium wood tone like birch (a blonde colored finish). If your walls are a dark color, use a dark wood tone like expresso (also called dark chocolate or brown-black).
  • For the truly ambitious, paint your bookcases the same color as your walls for the most convincing built-in look.

The Right Height:

  • Floor to ceiling shelving: This offers the most amount of storage. It also emphasizes high ceilings.
  • Half wall shelving: This works great if you need counter-like space for displaying vases, plants and collections. It also frees up wall space for hanging art and wall decor.
  • Under the window shelving: The space under windows is often neglected and underutilized. “Dead space” like this is one of the best places to create storage space. The shelving will be out of your way, and it was empty space you weren’t using anyway.
  • Bench seat shelving. Aah. This is one of my favorite things, a two-fer, the Holy Grail of home organization. Bench seat shelving, as the name implies, is both seating and shelving, all in one! Look at the abundance of seating shown in our inspiration photo! If I had planned that space, I would have incorporated long bench cushions.

Last but not least, floor plan tips:

  • Split up bookcases to accommodate a sofa or television: Fireplaces aren’t the only living room fixtures that look good with bookcases on either side of them. Sofas, chairs, televisions and more work beautifully too. Just make sure to hang some wall decor above the item to balance the height of the bookcases.
  • Place furniture directly in front of bookcases: Don’t be shy. Sofas, chairs or televisions look great in front of bookcases. Think of the faux built-ins like a regular wall when laying out your floor plan.