Ideas + Inspiration

Living Room Shelving and Bookcase Ideas

In today’s modern living room, shelving and bookcases are more than just storage. They’re opportunities to add another element of design to your living room, display your worldly curios and, perhaps, a place to keep books. To help you wade through the variety of shelving options out there, ranging from built-ins to floating shelves to room-dividers, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide.

Side By Side

Two matching bookcases next to one another create continuity and fill a large wall with enough shelving to allow you to store books, perch framed art, add plants and cluster pottery together for a varied look. Most often, they're designed to sit next to one another and sometimes even interlock to create a more seamless look.

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Clearly Stylish

Not all bookcases need to be imposing pieces of furniture. A see-through bookcase is sleekly minimal and puts your books and favorite design pieces on full display. Just make sure you've peeled all of the tags off of them.

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Built-In Incentives

Often built around a fireplace or used as focal point itself, built-in shelving is the most seamless way to incorporate living room storage--housing everything from books, to art, to media like your television and audio components.

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Wall of Shelves

Creating a room divider by a wall of open shelving is a great way to define spaces while still allowing for an open feel between living room areas. A floor-to-ceiling option works for floating the shelves in the middle of the room, but you can also anchor shorter shelving to a nearby wall.

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Modern Furniture |YLiving
Architectural Shelving

A bookshelf is inherently structural. Which makes sense that some makers have given them an architectural look. Consider this A-Frame with cantilevered shelves for something outside of the box.

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Benches and Books

A low-slung wooden bench can act as a bookshelf, a coffee table and, when cleared out: an extra place for guests to sit. After all, isn't that what the best benches are for?

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SQ Bed from Artless | Yliving
Floating Shelves

Floating shelves allow you to add a wall full of shelving without taking up any precious floor space. Your classic single floating shelf is a nice minimalist touch, but if you're going for more of a built-in look, you can achieve that too with the right floating shelves.

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Know Thy Shelf

Bookshelves aren't just for books. And when they're in as prominent a space as your living room, you can use them as a way to display art, pottery and other trinkets you've picked up along the way.

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Gallery Wall Shelf

A shallow shelf or ledge can be turned into a gallery wall with a few well-placed pieces of framed art leaned against the wall. Vary the sizes of the art frames to created a layered effect.

Image via Dwell

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Reading Nook

So you've got a handsome, well-appointed bookshelf filled with books that would make Oprah want to join your book club. And should you ever want to read said books, you should have a nice reading nook nearby with a cushy seat, reading lamp and bowl of snacks. Naturally.

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Strand Book Storage

Does your zest for literature flow through your veins? Do books get your heart pumping? Is loving the written word written into your DNA? Then you should probably join a book club. And also get this bookcase shaped like the double-helix of a DNA strand.

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Reversible, Repeatable

Slim, free-standing bookshelves that can be doubled or tripled together give you room to play. These ones in particular can also be turned around to show solid fronts between shelves for a more stylized look.

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Classic Bookcase

If you're looking for a classic bookcase, try to find one with some updated styling. A small touch like asymmetric dividers set these apart from your typical bookcase, while still having a design element.

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Funky Floating Shelves

Floating shelves can be playful, especially when you're using them purely for aesthetic reasons. These have just enough room for a quirky nick-knack or two. Perhaps a small plant or other highly instagramable curation of things ready for their shelfie.

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Leaning Shelves

A contemporary and minimalist way to add shelving to your living room: leaning shelves. Their design takes minimal floor space and wall space to deliver as much storage as most free-standing bookshelves.

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Floating But Grounded

Floating shelves are great, but so is not having to agonize over installing them level. Some bookcases deliver the best of both worlds with cantilevered sides that seem to be floating while still having a traditional base.

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Color Story

A well thought out color scheme really ties a bookcase together. Black and gold is a classic look that never falls out of favor. Wood tones are another way to go. Find your color scheme and stick to it.

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Built-Ins That Build Around

Built-in shelving allows you to get the most shelving on a wall as possible, and sometimes that even means building around a doorway. Adding shelves up above maximizes storage and can help define transitional spaces.

Image via @sfgirlbybay

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Desk Shelving That Works For You

Sneak in some work space with a bookcase that incorporates a desk. Often an option with modular systems that allow you to add-on desks, bookcases and sometimes even credenzas.

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If you think modern bookshelves were only meant to house books, then you obviously haven’t flipped through Instagram or Pinterest or a design magazine lately. Not only has the “shelfie” trend taken hold, people living more efficiently in smaller spaces means their storage space and what they store in it–often on display—has to be just as well-designed as the rest of their place. Everything from art, to pottery, to plants, to books and more end up on these shelves. So you’ll want something that fits all of those things as well as your style.


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