Building A Better Bookcase


“A set of shelves for books set in a surrounding frame or cabinet.”

This dictionary definition of a bookcase quickly shows us how we are evolving as a society.  For those who do still relish the feel and smell of some pulp fiction, do you have bookcases dedicated entirely to the storage of these treasures?  If not, what are you doing with the empty bookshelves?

stack of books with pair of glasses on top

Perhaps you are like we are and currently do not have a single book on a bookcase in our home.

Does this mean we don’t have books?  No, everyone in our household has an e-reader crammed full with novels, audio books, newspapers and more magazine subscriptions than we can read each month.  This method of storage of reading material works very well for us.  It’s easier to read regardless of the lighting with an e-reader.  Traveling with a lot of material is a breeze and we all know how many books we can archive in something that is smaller than a single hardback book.  We still have a few cookbooks, photo books and the occasional hardback gifted to us that are scattered around to get our paper fix.

Does this mean we don’t have any bookcases?  No, we have several tall, open shelf “bookcases” we use for invaluable storage in closets.  We have open shelves in our cooks/coffee pantry.  Remember the post Do You Dread Opening Your Pantry Door? All of us use bookcase like shelves everyday when we open our kitchen and bath cabinet doors.  The concept of accessible storage is nothing new and will be with us for years to come.  However, having bookcases for books only is waning.

We All Love The Look Of A Built In Bookcase

Une balançoire dans le salon black floor to ceiling bookcasesBut, man oh man, none of us can pass up the hundreds of design photos that make us stop the scrolling and drool over a built in bookcase.  Just like this swing in the photo above, we don’t always “need” a bookcase but we “want” them anyway!  When we inherit them in a new house, do we always know what to do with them?

Designers Love Custom Made Bookcases

littleblackdomicile old guys rule built in bookcase

Oh yes, we love to design and have custom open shelving built for our clients.  Perhaps where our design firm is a little different from others is that when we suggest a unit it is because we know exactly how we want a client to use it.  In the project above, see the entire remodel project here, our client had a collection of items from her families apothecary business and many serving pieces she uses when she entertains.  The unit is impressive itself by its size and is such a conversation starter with all the interesting pieces.  Guests watching her pull off a platter and serve dinner walk away with a new appreciation of “use what you love and love how you store it”!

What To House On Open Bookcases

littleblackdomicile styling open bookcases

Last year we had the pleasure of working with a couple renovating a ranch style home in what I’d call a residential, country setting.  What they accomplished is more than a renovation.  They have given this home a new life.  Their talented carpentry helped them achieve one of their dreams of using some of the barn’s wood for a feature wall.  Enter a beautiful pair of flanking bookcases you see in the before photos above and enlarged in the photo below.

Yes! I Need Help “Staging” My Bookcases.

We get asked to “stage” bookcases, or bookshelves, in every project where these puppies are part of the architecture.  Notice we said “stage”.  This is because too many are watching Tv shows where homes are staged.  Staged to sell has somehow morphed into staged to live.  We find clients rushing to mass home stores and buying enough to fill up these coveted bookcases.  While some of this may be fun, most of the time it leaves unbalanced shelves housing items with little meaning.

We Want Your Bookcases To Be Full Of Memories


Motivational Monday

We want you to stop staging and start “styling” your bookcases with items that mean something to you.  Items that make you smile each time you look at them.  Items you can share the history with others and yes, items that you will actually use.  What?  But that’s not what we see in all the design magazines and online resources.  Maybe all you need is to virtually hire us and post your own photos?  This is exactly what our gracious clients are allowing us to show you today.

Take a peek at some of the personal items we added to the bookcases above.  Our client is interested in aviation.  In a drawer were these old instruments.  A design delight for dimension, color and unusual shape.  A personal joy listening to him tell me all about the history of these pieces.

littleblackdomicile styling open bookcases using family heirlooms

Next we relocated a pair of clocks from the mantle and our client quickly gathered his grandfather’s watch to complete 101 of styling of using collections of like items.

After less than an hour of “shopping” the boxes, cabinets and closets that housed things so eagerly waiting to take an important place, above are close ups of the newly styled bookcases that flank the barn wood wall.  Family photos are displayed to enjoy.  Empty frames are in place for scale and balance and can be filled when the right photo comes along.  Baskets are in place for “stuff” and containers hold vacation memories.  These shelves are now ready to change and evolve over the years.

littleblackdomicile styling open bookcases

Bookcases Styled With Meaningful Treasures

Every so often a design oppotunity will simply present itself.  This time the design element was too cool not to show you in more detail.  Our clients quickly got into the idea of personalizing their bookcases and showed me a family member’s old radio.  The radio is only a case now and did not have working parts.  Look closely.  Now it has the latest in technology and produces amazing sounds.  See the Sonos unit behind it that is about the same size?  Of course you don’t!  Because all you are looking at it that vintage radio you are admiring as you listen to both the music and the story behind this styling element.

littleblackdomicile styling open bookcases

Styling vs Staging In Interior Design

Learn what the differences are and how to benefit from both.

littleblackdomicile styling vs staging

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10 thoughts on “Building A Better Bookcase”

  1. Inspite of e-books, it’s fun to find old books with colored leather-bound covers and gold lettering to cluster throughout the shelves. They create “bones” and interest among the personal collectibles. A friend collects early American children’s books to make a theme. I collect old book about Maine: fact and fiction.

    1. Yes there is nothing like the intrigue of being a book collector and then working these treasures into what makes us smile each day! I have a weakness for old cookbooks. I have a copy of one that has all the Pub Food recipes Van Gogh ate where he traveled to paint.

  2. Hi Laurel, I admire your minimalist approach to physical books!! And now that you can focus more on the e-readers, how lovely to transform your bookcases into showcases for treasured possessions, Lxx

    1. Reading materials may be an area many are utilizing a more minimal approach without realizing it. That’s what I love about a less is more lifestyle…we all get to choose what works for us!

    1. Our client loves hers and what fun we had working with the things that mean the most to them!

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