Bookshelves never cease to amaze us. This piece of furniture is so flexible it’s basically the Olympic gymnast of home decor. One minute it’s standing primly in a home office — next thing you know, it’s doing a backwards somersault and landing gracefully in the dining room.
If you’re ready to flip your home decor on its head, take a look at our favorite bookshelf ideas. These decorating ideas range from practical to whimsical, and each one of them sets a high bar for style.
15 bookshelf ideas for organization and decoration
These design ideas and DIY projects will help you reimagine all your bookshelves no matter which room you use them in.
1. Get the look of built-ins for less
Line up matching bookcases side-by-side or add wall-to-wall shelves to create the look of built-ins without the high price tag. Pick a wall in your living room or home office, then look for a bookcase that comes in multiple sizes so it will be easier for you to match the width of your wall.
We like the Analiese bookcase for this because this modern minimalist piece comes in a 60 inch model and a 31.5 inch model.
2. Choose mismatched bookcases for an eclectic look
Adding bookshelf designs in different colors and styles, or using a combination of bookcases and cabinets can add visual interest to your space. Use this look in your dining room to display your favorite serving dishes and glassware in an eclectic style.
Here are a few combinations we love:
3. Add a closet rod for a DIY wardrobe
One of our favorite small bedroom storage solutions is to create a second closet with a bookcase. For this DIY bookshelf idea, you’ll leave out some of the upper shelves in your bookcase and install a closet rod instead. You can hang clothes from the closet rod, and store shoes or folded items on the shelves below.
Our favorite piece for this DIY project is the Skylar five-shelf bookcase. Its extra width and fully adjustable wood shelves make it an ideal option.
4. Put a bookcase in your closet
When thinking of bookshelf ideas, keep in mind that bookcases can offer so much more than book storage. If you have empty wall space in your walk-in closet, add a bookcase so you can organize your folded clothes, or follow a tutorial to create DIY built-ins for your closet. Although the tutorial uses an IKEA product, you can create the look with any bookcase you’d like.
5. Use bookcases as a room divider
This is a great bookshelf idea for a shared kids’ room, but it also works if you want to divide the living room into a living space and a work space. Look for a sturdy, freestanding bookcase — like this white and chrome style — that won’t easily topple over if someone bumps into it.
6. Design a cozy reading nook
Turn a cozy corner into a reading nook where you can curl up with your favorite page turner. Line two to three walls with bookcases, and add a comfy accent chair. For book lovers who want to create a super snuggly space, choose dark wood bookcases so it feels like your own cozy cocoon.
7. Create a DIY headboard
Encourage your little one to read with this DIY decor. You may need to push two bookcases together to match the width of your bed. But if you have a small bed, some large bookcases will be wide enough on their own. You can also hang wall shelves above the bed to create this look.
We like this four-tier shelving unit or this rustic oak wall shelf for this project because both are about the size of a twin bed. Once you’re happy with the design of your DIY headboard, mount the bookcases to your wall for safety.
You could also opt for a bed frame with built-in bookshelves, like the Briana platform storage bed.
8. Make your own curio cabinet
A curio cabinet is a place to display your collectibles. You can line your shelving with all kinds of bookshelf decor — from statues to framed artwork to potted plants. You can even act like an old-time explorer and design your curio cabinet around a naturalist theme: Add a butterfly shadow box, a terrarium, and some Audubon artwork. This is one of our favorite decorating ideas because it’s all about, well, decorating.
You can create this look with a traditional open-shelved bookcase or use a glass display cabinet, which are built like bookcases, but often feature a glass door to keep your collectibles dust-free while you keep them on display.
9. Organize your books by color
If you have a lot of books, you can use your book collection to create a focal point in your living room or office. Instead of organizing your titles by author or genre, organize them by color scheme. Put all of your books with a blue spine together, followed by green, then yellow, then orange, and so on. You’ll create a striking visual display.
10. Display your books backwards
If bold colors aren’t part of your minimalist design aesthetic, you can go in the opposite direction — literally. Turn those tomes around and display them with the pages facing out. This look complements neutral colors and sparse Scandi styling.
11. Bookend your workspace
Bookcases are a natural fit for a home office. One of our favorite ways to use them is to choose two matching bookcases and style them with a desk in between. This setup keeps your workspace contained to a single wall, which is ideal for home offices that are part of a multi-purpose room like a den.
To create this look, we love to combine two of the Delmar bookcases with the Delmar writing desk.
12. Add pantry space
If your kitchen is lacking in storage space, add a bookcase along one of the walls, place it beside your kitchen cabinets, or make room for it in the dining room. You can use it to display your dishes and glassware so that you have more room in your kitchen cabinets for pantry staples. Or you can create a beautiful display by putting your staples, like flour, sugar, dried beans, and grains, in decorative jars and showing them off on your bookcase‘s open shelves.
A bookcase with a cabinet, like this espresso and chestnut option, will give you the most flexibility for creating a pantry. You can store less aesthetically pleasing items behind the closed cabinet doors and place prettier pantry staples on the shelves.
13. Paint or wallpaper the inside
If you want to brighten up a minimalist bookshelf, you can paint or wallpaper the inside back panel. The ideal time to do this DIY project is right after you bring your bookcase home — and before you assemble it. Locate the piece that serves as the back panel, identify which side is the inside (the part you’ll see peeking out from behind the shelves), and then start painting!
If your bookshelf is already assembled, you can still master this project. Most easy-to-assemble bookcases are also easy to disassemble. Just remove the shelves and tape off the top, bottom, and sides of your bookcase so they don’t suffer any accidental paint splatter. Check out this tutorial for an in-depth guide to adding wallpaper to the back panel of your bookcase.
14. Frame your door
Doors are tall and thin. Bookcases are tall and thin. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
If you have space on either side of your front door, you can add entryway storage with bookcases. The similar heights will create crisp, clean lines. If you have room for a bookcase on either side of the door, you can even add a shelf above to connect the two pieces and create the look of built-ins.
Even if you only have a small amount of space around your door, you can pull off this look with a tall, thin piece like this rectangular bookcase.
15. Turn your bookshelf into a wet bar
This is one decor idea that will be popular at parties. If your home didn’t come with a built-in bar, add a bookcase to your living room or dining room, and stock it with your favorite spirits. Many wine and liquor bottles are beautiful enough to display on open shelves. Plus, you can add your decanter and cut crystal to create a look that’s all class.
You can transform a bookcase you already have or look for bookcases that have space for bottles and glasses built in, like this wall unit with a wine rack or this corner bar cabinet.
Love your shelf
The humble bookshelf can do a lot for your home decor — from organizing your closet to creating a focal point in your living room. But the first step to pulling off one of these clever bookshelf ideas is finding a bookcase you love. Browse our collection of bookcases or head to your local home decor store to find your next piece of furniture. Who knows? The right bookshelf could inspire some ideas of its own.
Where To Buy