What is a Built-In Bookshelf?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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Just as the name implies, a built-in bookshelf is one that is built into the structure of a wall, fireplace, or other permanent house element. Built-in bookcases can be fantastic space savers, particularly in small rooms where extra space is at a premium. In addition to displaying books, they can be an excellent storage space for DVDs, CDs, small sculptures or vases, or even barware.

The easiest time to add built-in bookcases is during the initial construction of a room or house. At that time, it's usually very easy to include the bookcases in a design plan. Adding a built-in bookshelf to an existing structure may be a little trickier, but it is often doable. While skilled carpenters may be able to install a built-in bookshelf with ease, novice builders may want to consult a how-to guide or even a professional carpenter.

One of the most common ways to add a built-in bookshelf to an existing structure is to simply build a permanent structure out from the wall. This prevents the builder from having to tear out or demolish parts of a wall, which could damage the structural integrity of the house. Building out from the walls will give the look of a built-in without weeks of potentially dangerous labor. Since this type of bookcase will use the wall as backing, it will still usually take up less space than a freestanding bookcase.


An excellent feature of built-in bookcases is that they can be customized to fit nearly any space. Some people like to dress up arched doorways or entryways by installing bookcases to surround the door frame. Fireplaces and mantels can easily be ensconced in rows of bookcases, adding a library eloquence to the room. Even other pieces of furniture, such as a sturdy bedstead, can serve as the base for a low built-in bookshelf at the front or alongside the headboards.

When adding a built-in bookcase, it is a good idea to think about the objects that will be displayed on the shelves. Record collections or art books will require shelves of different size and depth than a collection of paperback books. In order to make a custom bookcase efficient, take some time to consider the display plan in order to determine the height and depths of the shelves.


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