Built-in bookcases are a striking addition to any home. They serve as an anchor and focal point in a room, and though they are by nature an integral part of the room’s design, because they offer so much shelving space, they are also incredibly flexible in how you style them. Before you install a built-in bookcase in your home, there are a few questions to consider.
What Is Your Built-In’s Purpose?
What is your goal in installing a built-in bookcase? Will it be primarily for display, only changing out seasonal decor every few months or so? Or will you use it as an entertainment center, with every DVD readily accessible? The purpose of the shelves will determine the shape. This first question may make calling your built-in a bookcase a bit misleading, since you are not limited to storing only books. In fact, though they are the traditional filler, you don’t have to store books in your built-in at all.
If you are a bibliophile, know that books need relatively shallow shelves for their display, but if you don’t plan to store the written word, deeper shelves may be required. Gaming consoles and equipment (especially if they will be in totes or bins) need shelf space that extends further back.
How High Can You Go?
Content-dependent sizing doesn’t just refer to the height or depth of the shelves. The height of the whole structure is determined by what you plan to store. You may think twice about making shelves that you need to reach regularly high enough to require a step ladder.
Height is also a matter of visual preference. Do you like the look of built-in bookcases that go all the way to the ceiling, or do you want to give your structure a large lip or shelf at the top? Are you installing a built-in so you can fulfill your dreams of having a sliding ladder in the style of Beauty and the Beast?
If you don’t want your built-in to blend into the ceiling, round the top of it or add crown molding. If you prefer, the top of your case doesn’t have to go anywhere near the ceiling. It can be incorporated into a desk or a window seat.
What’s on the Shelf?
Are you installing a built-in solely so you can have extra storage? If you are looking for a purely functional built-in, perhaps for storing wood or blankets, it may affect your decision to add cabinet doors to conceal your shelves. If you design a built-in that is purely decorative, displaying only knick knacks and bric-a-brac, you may skip the doors or make them out of glass. Such shelves are usually not as deep as those that sport bins or baskets.
A happy medium between the two gives you some design options. You could put fragile and delicate décor pieces on high shelves and storage for things like blankets and remotes on lower shelves. You may choose to design decorative shelves to be less deep than those you know you’ll use for storage. And what about light? Will you light your curios with installed LEDs or add lamps on shelves as part of the design. Either way, will you need access to outlets? If so, will the outlet be incorporated into the design or do you need to include holes for cords to feed through?
What’s the Shape of the Room?
Built-in bookshelves are not just for living rooms. While it’s a great spot for them, built-ins may also provide visual interest and convenience to kitchens, laundry rooms, children’s bedrooms, and more. Do you need to style around big things like the TV, a window, or a fireplace? Incorporate them into your design. Built-in bookcases look great dominating a wall, but if you have a creatively-shaped space, you may want to adorn it with an equally creative built-in.
Do you have an exposed staircase? Consider building shelving into the nook underneath or build into the stairs themselves. A similar effect can be achieved if you build into a room that has sloping ceilings because of eaves or a staircase above it. We also love to see built-in bookcases installed in the two walls that form a window bench. It makes a little library overlooking the outside. If you are feeling adventurous, build your bookshelves into the bench itself.
Should Your Shelves Blend In or Stand Out?
Do you want your built-in bookcase to blend into the wall or to stand out with a burst of bold color? For some visual interest, you could back the shelves with wallpaper or mirrors.
Add lighting, either built-in or lamps on shelves. Remember they will need power, so keep electrical wiring at the forefront of your mind during the design process. If you are feeling very bold, use this as an opportunity to create a secret door into a spare room or closet.
If you are looking to install a built-in bookcase in your home, give our qualified Out of the Woods team a call. We’ll happily brainstorm these questions with you so that you can find the perfect fit. If you are looking to update an existing built-in, we’ve got few secrets of our own to help.