Bookcases are among the most useful pieces of furniture you’ll ever own. They not only organize your collection of novels, but also serve as a place to display art and accent pieces.
By adding a few bins or baskets, they also make the perfect spot to neatly stash odds and ends. Choose correctly, and you’ll own your bookcase for years (or even decades) to come. Here are some tips for finding the best bookcase for your home.
Bookcase Buying Guide
Whether you’d like just a few shelves to showcase decor or you’re looking to house a small library, when it comes to choosing the style of your bookcase, you’ll find yourself faced with dozens of options. Some of the most common styles include:
- Standard. Standard bookcases are the workhorses of shelving units. They’re typically made of wood or MDF, and designed with evenly spaced or adjustable shelves and a closed-back frame.
- Étagère. An étagère is more delicate than a standard bookcase, featuring an open back and shelves that are often made from glass. If a standard bookcase is designed for function, an étagère is all about form.
- Ladder or leaning. Ladder-style bookcases are designed to lean against the wall, often with “stepped” shelves that gradually decrease in size from the ground up.
- Corner. Corner bookcases are built at a right angle, making them the ideal shape for wedging into tight nooks.
- Scaffold. These bookcases get their name from their look: They’re fashioned from shelving suspended between two ladder-like supports.
- Cube. Cube bookcases are divided both horizontally and vertically to create cubby-like sections that are perfect for housing both books and storage baskets.
- Built-in. If you want to create a wall (or room) of floor-to-ceiling shelves, built-in bookcases are the way to go. This style will require more than just a trip to your favorite furniture store, however; you’ll need to work with a contractor to create a custom plan for your space.
Size is perhaps the most important factor to consider when shopping for a bookcase, since it will determine how the shelves both look and function within your space. Here’s what to consider:
- Height. Most bookcases range from three to eight feet tall. Consider both aesthetic and practical concerns when choosing height. Tall bookcases that fill up most of a wall typically look more expensive and formal; however, shorter ones offer the added functionality of a usable surface area on the top. This allows it to double as a media cabinet, buffet or workspace, for example.
- Width. The width of your bookcase should be considered relative to the height. If you choose a tall bookcase, purchasing multiple narrow units instead of a single large one will offer more flexibility to add or subtract storage space as needed. If you opt for a shorter unit, choosing something wide will make the piece feel more substantial.
- Depth. Most shelves are at least 12 inches deep to allow ample room for storage, but some bookcases, especially ladder or leaning styles, have narrower shelving. Consider what you’ll be storing on your bookcase before making a purchase.
- The space between shelves. If the shelves on your bookcase are fixed, make sure to measure the space between them to ensure that your books and accent pieces will fit. Adjustable-height shelves offer more flexibility.