Bookcase Buying Guide
Types of Bookcases
Bookcase Buying Tips:
• 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.
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.
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 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, 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.
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:
• 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