If you ask me, there’s no better way to warm up a room than with a bookshelf. Admittedly I’m the kind of person that would line every wall floor to ceiling with books if I could, but there’s really nothing quite like the charm and coziness of a good old fashioned bookshelf. Putting out your favorite books is the simplest way to put your personality on display, and is one of the few times where having your stuff stored out in the open is not only acceptable, but charming. Modern bookshelves can be lovely and even make dramatic statement pieces, but if it’s warm and inviting you’re looking for, keep an eye out for bookshelves with more traditional features.
The easiest way to get a bookshelf with a more traditional feel is to look for ones that have a little bit of woodwork. Modern bookshelves are made of all simple, straight lines and 90 degree angles, which is efficient but not particularly homey. A good old fashioned bookshelf will have some embellishments, like crown molding on the top edge, panels on the sides or bottom, or even arched openings over the top shelf. These can be simple or more elaborate, but give the shelves that sturdy, furniture-like quality that makes them feel more permanent, even if they aren’t actually built in.
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Similarly, the finish on a bookshelf can go a long way. Many modern bookshelves are made with simple lacquered or laminate finishes in a handful of generic colors. More traditional shelves with finishes that have a little more texture to them – whether it’s a natural wood grain or a lightly weathered paint – stand out as having much more character. Especially if some of the books you’ll be putting on it are on the older side, a bookshelf with a little artificial wear and tear will take on a lovely heirloom quality.
Unevenly Spaced Shelves
This is one that you probably don’t want if you have a lot of books to shelve and limited space to do it. But choosing a bookshelf with unevenly spaced shelves is a good way to give your space a more rustic, homey quality. The different sized shelves encourage a more artistic sort of display, affording space to incorporate different decor items or alternate arrangements rather than a strict a-to-z row of books you’d expect to find. With small integrated drawers like the ones above or other unique features, this can easily make the bookshelf double as a console table in the entrance, a curio in the dining room, or even a nice little bit of storage in the kitchen, but always with the warmth and charm of your book collection.
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This might sound silly, but simply adding a cabinet or two at the bottom of a bookshelf can totally transform its appearance. Many built-in bookshelves are designed this way, combing open shelves from the waist up with convenient, concealed cabinet storage down below, where it can be difficult to see book titles anyway. Standalone bookshelves can copy this design, and whether they’re big or small, it gives them the look of custom cabinetry and slightly brings in the walls, making the room they’re in feel cozier. Plus, this really is a great way to discreetly store odds and ends in your living space or office.
In fact, bookshelves can have an impressive variety of different types of storage above and beyond the obvious traditional shelves. These little unexpected differences are what give old fashioned bookshelves their charm, especially where the different storage options mean unique and interesting woodwork. I’m particularly fond of bookshelves that incorporate unexpected items – like this wine rack – because they have a much more personalized look. Maybe more than that, they’re more interesting to look at, because they display a more diverse variety of items, turning a simple piece of shelf storage into a personalized display.
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I may have saved my favorite for last here because to me there’s nothing in the world more charming than a bookshelf with a library style ladder. Of course, these aren’t ideal for every home, and you need a bookshelf that’s quite large to really justify it. But a simple wood ladder is that one traditional, old fashioned touch that will really give your space that cozy, inviting, old-world library feel. Plus, this type of ladder typically folds flat against the bookshelf so it won’t get in the way, and on a very tall bookshelf it really can make it easier to find your favorite book – especially if you have a very large collection.
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What kind of bookshelf are you looking for? Do you have a ton of books you want to store, or are you looking for a shelf primarily for display? Let me know in the comments!