Bookcase Buying Guide

A bookcase is a stylish, practical storage solution for many rooms in your home. This bookcase buying guide outlines the various types and feature to consider when making a purchase.

Bookcases 101

Bookshelves and bookcases are versatile storage solutions that can hold much more than just books. You can use bookshelves to store a broad range of household and office items, including movie and music collections, computer software packages, business files and even clothing. Bookcases are also ideal for showcasing family photos, decor pieces and valuable works of art. Most bookshelves are intended to rest against a wall, but you can get divider models that sit in the middle of a room to partition your space into separate areas. If you want a bookcase that serves as a decor focal point, try a larger tower design or a stylish open-concept model. With all the different sizes and shapes available, you can easily find the right bookcase to meet your storage and style needs.

Types of Bookcases


Shelf Bookcases

A standard shelf bookcase is a versatile piece of furniture that can add style and functionality to any room in your home. Some models are designed to stand alone, while others are stackable. This type of bookcase is available with or without doors. A shelf bookcase with doors is great for hiding clutter, while open shelves will showcase your books, movies, photos or decor. When buying a shelf bookcase, think about what it will hold. Heavier items, like hardcover books, may need stronger, shorter shelves to avoid the shelf bowing in the middle.

Divider Bookcases

Divider bookcases are typically eye-catching pieces with clean, sharp lines that help split rooms into multiple spaces. The extent to which you fill the cubbies helps determine how much privacy there is between the spaces. Another factor in determining the level of privacy is the height of the divider bookcase. You can choose floor-to-ceiling models for maximum privacy and shorter models for a more open environment. Some divider bookcases are low at one end and high at the other, creating an interesting staircase effect. In others, the cubbies are arranged in unusual patterns that turn the bookcase into a powerful visual focal point.

Ladder Bookcases

Ladder bookcases feature a slim, freestanding design that works well in tight spaces. The shelves are deeper at the bottom and shallower at the top. This creates the appearance that the bookcase is leaning against the wall like a ladder. A wood ladder bookcase can be a nice complement to a rustic design theme.

Corner Bookcases

As the name suggests, corner bookcases are intended for use in room corners. Most have a 90-degree angled back to ensure a snug fit. Since corners are often underused in furniture and design schemes, a corner bookcase can be both a space saver and a strong decor statement. Corner bookcases intended as design accents are often quite ornate with eye-catching shelving. You can use corner bookcase to smooth out the edges of your interior design and subtly change the overall shape of a room.

Open-Concept Bookcases

With their see-through construction, open-concept bookcases help create a sense of space that works well in smaller rooms. These bookshelves are frequently decor pieces in their own right, with a style that's minimal yet bold. The open shelves give you ample space for pictures, decorative pieces and, yes, even books. When shopping for an open-concept bookcase, think about how it will look in the room and what items you can place on it to make your new bookcase a conversation piece.

Headboard Bookcases

If you enjoy reading before dozing off in bed, a headboard bookcase will help you keep your books, magazines and devices close at hand and well organized. Designed to sit at the top of your bed, these bookcases also accent your bedroom decor while taking up only minimal space. Many headboard bookcases feature drawers to keep bedroom clutter hidden away. When shopping for a headboard bookcase, consider the material and style because you'll want your new purchase to complement your bed, side table and other room furnishings.

Display Bookshelves

Unlike standard bookcases, which store books with their spines facing outward, display bookshelves store books with their front covers in full view. This style is great for young kids because it lets them easily see the covers of their books, which are often decorated with fun images and colours. Display bookshelves are also a great space saver because the shelves are narrower than standard bookcases.

Bookcase Buying Tips:

• If you have older cloth hardcovers, a bookshelf with glass doors could help create a vintage look.
• If your bookshelf will hold heavy items, consider stronger shelving materials such as hardwood or metal
• A freestanding bookshelf positioned away from a wall shouldn’t be higher than four feet tall to reduce the chance of it toppling over. Taller bookcases should be placed against a wall and, preferably, have some sort of wall anchor
• Consider the finish of your bookcase. Latex paints chip easily but are also easy to repair. Lacquered and clear finishes are more durable, but more difficult to fix
• Long banks of bookcases can overpower a room. Try alternating bookcases and blank wall to help your bookcases fit more seamlessly into your space
• Enclosed bookcases tend to be darker. Unless your enclosed bookshelf has a light, make sure you put it in a well-lit room
• Some bookcases are designed to stack or fit next to each other. Choose this style if you intend to add to your book collection over time
• If your bookcase has removable or adjustable shelves, you could remove a shelf and turn it into an entertainment unit.

Bookcase Features

Material +

Wood is the most common bookshelf material. Darker woods and stains can be an elegant addition to a more formal or professional setting, while lighter wooden shelves will help brighten a room. Metal is often used in sleeker, more modern bookcase designs. If you're decorating a tight space, consider glass as it allows light to pass through, creating a sense of openness. Your material options also include particleboard and composites, which are typically found at the more affordable end of the price scale.

Dimensions +

Bookcases typically range in height from waist high to about 84 inches. The top shelf should be at most 78 inches, which is the maximum height the average-sized person can comfortably reach. Choosing a bookshelf width is usually a combination of style and sag considerations. Longer shelves are more likely to bow under the weight of the stored items. Bookcases come in different shapes as well, which can add to the look of a room. Always remember to measure your intended space before purchasing.

Shelf Depth +

Most bookshelves are 10 to 12 inches in depth, but you can find models as narrow as six inches and as deep as 24 inches. The depth you choose should be determined by the size and amount of the items you wish to store. Larger items, like older hardcover books or vinyl records, will need deeper shelves. Smaller paperback books can fit in shallow shelves, as can smaller pictures and decorative pieces.

Shelves +

Shelves for bookcases can be adjustable or fixed in place. In general, shelf spacing ranges from 7 to 15 inches. You'll often find larger spacing at the bottom and smaller spacing at the top to prevent the bookcase from looking top heavy, and becoming top heavy when loaded. Shelves can be closed on both sides or left open on one side, depending on the style. When looking at shelves, think about the weight of the items they will hold. Reinforced wooden shelving is a better choice if you are storing heavier items. Metal shelves, while thin, can support more weight.

Open vs. Enclosed +

Bookcases can have close or open backing, depending on the style. Choose open backing if you prefer an open-concept style. Bookshelves with drawers or doors will hide clutter from view, protect against sun damage and help keep valuables secure. Sliding glass doors are a popular choice for office bookcases because of their classic and professional look.

Colour +

Colour, along with architectural design and materials, dictate how your bookshelf will fit in with your space. Your options span the full colour spectrum. Choose darker colours for formal settings, lighter colours to brighten a dark space or fun colours like orange or purple for a kids' bedroom bookcase.

Legs +

A balance between furniture with legs and without legs is key to living room decor. A room with too much legged furniture can feel messy and less grounded. Too few legs and a room can feel clunky or too heavy. A bookcase with or without legs can help achieve the right balance so your living room furniture doesn’t appear too heavy or too light, but just right.

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Bookcase Maintenance Tips:

• Avoid abrasive cleaners and scrubbers on metal bookshelves, which can ruin the finish and permanently mark your bookshelf
• If your bookshelf needs to be anchored to a wall, always anchor to a wall stud and inspect regularly to ensure the mechanism is secure.
• Glass shelves are especially prone to scratching, so put soft pads under items to protect the shelves
• Consider placing felt pads underneath the corners or legs of your bookshelf to protect the floor underneath
• Avoid placing newspapers or magazines directly on wood shelves as they can leak ink that is damaging to the wood and wood finish
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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