Article Line Long1
Design

Hot Design Tip: Open Shelf Bookcases Create Visual Drama And Add A LOT Of Style (+ 30 Of Our Favorites)

Whether you are a maximalist, minimalist, book lover, or styling master, the right type of shelving can make all the difference in a space. Especially in a small space where every centimeter counts, you want to make sure you are utilizing vertical space efficiently but in a way that is not visually overwhelming. Bookcases are wonderful for storage and showing off style but sometimes standalone, enclosed bookcases are bulky and can take up too much room (and visual real estate). Don’t worry, I am not knocking bookcases (I’m a book lover after all) but I have been seeing a surge in wall-mounted, open bookcases and shelving happening right now and it is good stuff my friends. This style of bookcase can create the illusion of built-in shelving while also keeping the space feeling airy and open. Allow me to demonstrate…

design by lea johnson | photo by sage e imagery | from: lea Johnson’s basement reveal

Lea’s bookshelves (similar) in her basement reveal are a perfect example of applying wall-mounted shelving to create the illusion of built-in shelving. The wall-to-wall shelving looks architecturally interesting and they don’t take up any extra floor space. Win-win!

Hot Tip

Lea recommends using extra brackets as too much weight can cause the shelves to bow.

styling by annie portelli | photo by caitlin mills | via design files

This warm wood-filled mid-century home (via design files) proves that airy, open shelving is simple yet packs a punch and can work with so many styles. Even when filled to the brim with books, the area doesn’t feel overcrowded or bulky which is so important in smaller homes.

Hot Tip

Your bookcases don't have to be wall mounted to get the look. We just recommend they be on the visually lighter size and that you use at least two for them.

design by shanty wijaya | styled by a 1000x better | photo by jenna peffley

Shanty’s stunning remodel of this Japandi style home, also shows that a free-standing open bookshelf can have the same visual impact as a wall-mounted one.

The above home tour is what convinced me to go with this bookshelf for my living room. I really wanted built-in shelves for all my books and the wall-mounted bookcase was a great compromise and it gives off this “grandpa’s library” feel that I was going for. If you are looking for something similar, I highly recommend them as there are several sizes and height options so you can customize the shelves to fit your space perfectly.

design by bachman brown design | photo by max burkhalter | via clever

Again, the wall-mounted bookcase is so impactful because you can as much shelving to playing around with as you want but the openness makes it feel less massive and overwhelming. These shelves are styled bright and minimally which feels cohesive with the rest of the space.

design and photo by keyanna bowen | from: blue walls be gone! key’s totally transformed office reveal – maybe the most dramatic before & after ever (?)

And before we move on let us never forget the beautiful design and styling of Key and her office makeover!

design by julie rose for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a mid-century eclectic living room with kilz primer and paint

If you are short on storage and space, a wall-mounted shelf with a little closed storage can provide styling options and storage without being too visually bulky. Julie sourced this one from CB2 for this Madmen inspired mid-century living room reveal and it is perfect for the space and style. It complements the rest of the space without feeling too heavy in this corner since it has a relatively “open shelf” look. Another plus with this type of wall-mounted bookcase is the shelves will be flush with the wall even if you have thicker moulding, so not even a centimeter of space is sacrificed.

Hot Tip

A wall-mounted bookcase is perfect if you have thicker baseboards. This way you won't have that awkward gap between your bookcase and wall.

design by velinda hellen for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp| from: velinda renovated & furnished her “fixer upper” for under $55k…here’s how

Do you guys remember Velinda’s awesome DIY wall unit? She DIY’d them based off of this tutorial because she wanted a visually lightweight storage solution and it offered so much room to play with styling and by using baskets on the bottom shelf she created space for closed storage as well. A wall unit like this so is awesome for living rooms because you can fit your TV in the shelving as Velinda did which makes the TV less of a focal point.

design by emily Henderson design | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: in defense of the comfy sectional

Here in this living room reveal there’s a custom wall-to-wall shelving unit which demonstrates how the open shelving can be a piece of art/architecture in and of itself. This reveal is always a hit because of the awesome shelving but if you don’t have the budget or wall space for this type of unit, worry not because there are so many great wall-mounted and non-wall-mounted (aka renter-friendly) options on the market right now that can give off a very similar effect. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Alana Bookshelf | 2. Mesa Bookshelf | 3. Beckett 6-High Shelf Sable | 4. Baxter Etagere | 5. Gold Teak & Metal Bookcase | 6. 1970s Boho Bamboo Etagere | 7. 1970s Mid-Century Rattan Wrapped Etagere | 8. Antique Gold Metal Aaliyah Bookshelf | 9. Natural Wood 5-Shelf Bookcase | 10. Floating Lines Metal Wall Shelf | 11. Arco Shelf in Dark Walnut | 12. Irving Bookcase | 13. Shelf Loring Leaning Bookshelf | 14. Tall Natural Rattan Arched Nylah Bookcase | 15. Kalmar Ten-Tier Wall Mounted Shelf

I am absolutely ga-ga over the double arch detail of #11 and in fact, an arched bookcase is a simple, renter-friendly way to add an arch detail in your home. Conversely, #7 and #14 are really cool boho options and I could see #5 working with almost any style home.

If your home is feeling a little too boxy, #2, #6 and #12 are unique options to add some dynamic and movement to the space.

But wait, there’s more…

1. Helix Walnut Bookcase With Drawers | 2. Jenny Lind Black Bookcase | 3. Wall Shelving | 4. Springville Bookshelf with Drawers Black |5. Triple Modular Wall Shelf | 6. Kalmar Ten-Tier Wall Mounted Shelf | 7. Scout Bookshelf | 8. Solid Wood Etagere Bookcase | 9. Knox Tall Open Bookcase | 10. Stay Bookcase |`11. Helix Bookcase | 12. Diana 4 Tier Etagere | 13. Mid Century Danish Rosewood Wall Unit | 14. North Avenue Tall Bookshelf Charter Oak | 15. Modular Wall Unit

How special and cool is #2?? And at that price?? I might need it for my bedroom (which I am tentatively thinking will be heavily French-inspired). Now, if you are looking for a wall-to-wall shelving option #5 would definitely do the trick and #15 is extra versatile as you can mix and match the size and shelving options. Which one is your favorite?

What other roundups would you like to see from us? Meet me in the comments and let me know. Until next time! xx

Opener Image Credit: Design by Sarah Zachary |Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: How To Add The Right Amount Of Color For Every Room In Your House

0 0 vote
Article Rating

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

49 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
22 days ago

Thanks for sharing! I’d love a refreshed TV stand roundup, particularly ones that are long (over 65”) and affordable. It’s a rare find!

patty
22 days ago
Reply to  Homebybritt

I found one at the Restore for my son. $35!

SW
22 days ago
Reply to  Homebybritt

Seconded! Been looking for a few months but found nothing I like!

Amanda McCullough
22 days ago
Reply to  Homebybritt

FYI Dabito put 2 media consoles together and I LOVE that look …..

Addy
22 days ago

We moved to an older home with massive baseboards, and the room and board open shelving we got feels fresh and impactful. Love seeing all the books we have – it reminds me to read more and people usually comment on how pretty they look in the room.

i truly TRULY believe that bookshelves make a room. there’s just so much visual impact. I diy’ed “built-in” bookshelves about 7 years ago in our living room using ikea billy bookshelves and lots of trim to make them look built-in, and let me tell you, that is my absolute FAVORITE part of our home. It is such a feature wall and makes the house. when we move, i plan to do a wall of bookcases again, not only out of my love of the look, but also because we have SO many books and knick knacks. I don’t know if i’ll be DIYing them again, so i love all the options above! also, those inspo pictures are convincing me about the open shelving. This is the most recent picture of what the bookshelves look like (i’ve eliminated about 70% of the books because i’m styling to sell the house and i think it looks better with more space in the shelves. https://www.instagram.com/p/CN5hMwijir0/
and if you’re interested, this was how i did it (this is from when i used to do a blog):
https://honeymoonvintage.com/homeblog/2016/8/9/check-out-the-built-ins-on-that-one-theyre-totally-fake
https://www.instagram.com/p/CN5hMwijir0/

also, i’m now obsessed with the anthropologie one shown (#15 in the first set, #6 in the second set – same bookshelf, just narrower). aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! i need a sugar momma to buy me those stat!

SarahT
22 days ago

The shelves you built look faaaantastic!

Rusty
22 days ago

Fab-u-lous DIY right there, Lovely!

Reply to  Rusty

Thank you Sarah and Rusty 🙂

Maggie
22 days ago

As a follow up, please help give recommendations and ideas of what to put ON our open shelf bookshelves! Looking for creative ideas that are not too expensive!!

Rusty
22 days ago
Reply to  Maggie

Things you love!
There’s a post about styling shelves (maybe more than one post) a while back.

Jen
22 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

Did it talk about books & other stuff together?
My issue is the opposite of Maggie’s. I don’t need stuff to fill the space. I need space and styling ideas for my stuff

Rusty
21 days ago
Reply to  Jen

Yes. It was about mixing stuff, balancing etc. Def worth a look.

Emma
20 days ago
Reply to  Maggie

Mine are full of….drumroll…..books

K
22 days ago

Gah, I feel old because all I can think about is how much time you would spend dusting all these shelves and items. 😂

Shana
21 days ago
Reply to  K

As someone who loved open shelves enough to build three sets, I can attest that the dusting has convinced me never to do open shelving again.

Reply to  K

As someone with a wall of bookshelves, it’s true. so much dust. and i’m allergic to dust!

Sheila
22 days ago

I’d love a round-up of accent lighting to add a warm glow to dark corner of a room. Something that might look like an interesting art piece rather than a conventional lamp. An example is the brass perforated lamp from Article featured in Sara & Mac’s office/guest room. I’m using it on a timer with a lower wattage bulb here in my living room and I’d love ideas to brighten up a few other spots.

IMG_2791.jpeg
Rusty
22 days ago

Oh no! I’ve been trying to not lust after a particular boho open shelving, on wheels! Now this post makes me want it even more. Will life go on withput it? Yup. Would it solce a storagd problem and meld well into my home? Yup!
It’s singularly the only piece of furniture that’s really got me for when Mr Ex moves out in threeeeeeeee weeeeeeeeks!
I can’t afford it unless I don’t do a bunch of other stuff, or forgo eating for a month, but it keeps dragging my eyeballs back to the page I saved with its beautiful picture. Ooooh! 😹

MKP
22 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

Rusty, I hope you know there are a whole bunch of us out here cheering for the day when you are finally free! Hang in there. You are so close!

Rusty
22 days ago
Reply to  MKP

Oh! Now I’m teary. Thank you. That means sooooo much!
3 weeks to go! 😌

MKW
22 days ago
Reply to  MKP

Yes…you are strong. You are valuable. You are seen.

Rusty
22 days ago
Reply to  MKW

😌

Cris S.
22 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

I’ve been wondering about this and trying to calculate if it was in a couple of days or at the end of the coming month. You are in the ‘home’ stretch and you have lots of people pulling for you! And keep a look out for your shelves on your used sites (facebook marketplace and craigslist in the US – I don’t know about Australia). You never know what might pop up. Here’s to your endurance – you are in the last lap of this race!

Rusty
21 days ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Thank you 😊

Reply to  Rusty

ooooooh, you need it to celebrate then!

Mary
22 days ago

I would LOVE if you would do a post with the building details of the shelves y’all designed for “In the Defense of a Comfy Sectional”. 🔨🪚💪🏻

Rusty
22 days ago
Reply to  Mary

Mary, that’s the living room of a wealthy friend of Emily’s. They were very expensive. Click on that post for the details…they were custom I think.

Cris S.
22 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

I think between looking very close at the Comfy Sectional post and then Velinda’s link to the pipe shelving how to (and others on YouTube – which is where I learned to sew several different types of curtains) you could come pretty close to the custom shelves. It will illustrate the old saying that you can have only two of the options between quick, cheap, and level of quality (so, doing it yourself will be cheaper and may be good quality, but it WON’T be quick), but you can make what you want!

Suzanne
22 days ago

I love open shelving and have wanted to make the switch for 7 or 8 years, right when I started to see them show up more. We already have really nice glass door bookcases that prevent as much dust, so I can’t justify the switch. I do love the airy look though.

Aimee
22 days ago

my favorite open shelving is the IKEA Algot system which unfortunately they discontinued (of course). Easy to hang. Sturdy. Endlessly adaptable. And very clean lined. They have a replacement, but i haven’t tried it yet.

Jen
22 days ago

My request isn’t for a round-up, but for styling tips. Some of these bookcases are being used to store books. Others are more like display shelves for Knick-knacks. A few seem to have items that aren’t books stored on them. I need my shelves to do all of those, and often wind up with geegaws in front of the books. It usually looks cramped & messy.

How do you guys suggest we do this better?

Emma
20 days ago
Reply to  Jen

It sounds like you have too many books to also store tchotchkes, if you are having to stack them in front of the books. Time for a library purge!

Emma
22 days ago

Get the West Elm style look for WAY less – Ikea’s Vittsjo’s bookshelves look awesome and the price is very right ($80). We picked up ours on Craigslist for $25each

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/vittsjoe-shelf-unit-black-brown-glass-20213312/?gclid=CjwKCAjwj6SEBhAOEiwAvFRuKLgytaQflm-q_fKE7iy2GXHd7Z-RMO5PWCW4fcYsN2MAYGrIyzMp2RoCB2YQAvD_BwE

Rusty
21 days ago
Reply to  Emma

That’s a great bookshelf! Doesn’t look much different… and the price! 👍

Lane
21 days ago

I’d love a roundup of family/parent friendly furniture for living rooms and family rooms. Specifically, bookshelfs with lower cabinets or drawers for hiding (locks are not required as I can install magnetic safety locks) games, accessories, toys, toys for rotation, to keep away from children. Open bookshelves with baskets don’t always work in terms of minimizing mess and clutter (some kids take stuff out and misplace them, make a huge mess). I’m talking about some floor to ceiling solutions for display and serious storage.

Sandberg
21 days ago

I would love to see an example of a “bookcase” that is designed to store books and not bric-a-brac. Books would fall off the sides of these unless bookends are used everwhere, and those aren’t always the most stable.

Reply to  Sandberg

you could put books sideways on the ends to hold the books in. like, laying them in a pile on their back covers.

Sheila
21 days ago
Reply to  Sandberg

I have 3 of these Gallery Leaning Bookshelves from Room & Board that are packed with books. The only downside of these is that the top shelf is a bit narrow for big books.

Emma
20 days ago
Reply to  Sandberg

It’s totally normal to use bookends, especially since you rarely have exactly enough books to fill up the shelf perfectly with no gaps! I have open shelving on standards and I bought some streamlined metal bookends. I also stack books sometimes – usually only books in a series get stacked together because when I reread them I know I’ll be going in order and therefore won’t be trying to dig a book out of the bottom of the stack.

Kj
21 days ago

This place “Sunny Daze Decor” has reasonable open shelving. I have some of their patio furniture, decent quality for price. https://sunnydazedecor.com/collections/sunnydaze-indoor-shelves

Sandra
21 days ago

Do you have any tips on how to style it? Some basic rules maybe ?

Irene
20 days ago
Reply to  Sandra

Here are some older EHD posts:
https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/style-shelves-3-steps (plus, there’s a link at the bottom that goes to a post with pretty much the same text, but different artwork and comments.

https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/how-to-style-your-bookcase-if-youre-a-hoarder-a-collector-or-a-book-worm

Irene
20 days ago
Reply to  Irene

And I’ll stop searching now, because I’ve gone back almost six years, but how about this:

https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/1-bookshelf-4-ways-the-playful-scholar-and-a-vote (links near the bottom to the other three bookshelves).

Stephanie
21 days ago

If you like the white West Elm one (#7 in the second group), I highly suggest this Ikea bookshelf (the FJÄLKINGE). I’ve had them for years (currently have 3 in my small NYC apartment, for books and in my kitchen as open dish storage). Doesn’t look like Ikea – great size, only $150 and is adjustable if needed (we made one shelf bigger to hold our record player and records.) HIGHLY recommend!
https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/fjaelkinge-shelf-unit-white-60221683/

19 days ago

I have the CB2 shelves in every room in my house. I love them and they are such a space saver for my narrow rowhouse.

IMG_9200.jpg
Go To Top