17 Types of Bookcases (Definitive Bookcase Buying Guide)

Buyers guide featuring images and product links for a range of bookcases in every design and style available.
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Modern white bookshelf

Welcome to our buyers guide for bookcases! Here’s an inside look into the wide world of bookcase style and design, giving you the information you need to purchase the best model for your home and life.

The above example is a modern styled creation, mixing metal and white laminate in an angular, minimalist design to striking effect.

Follow along as we spell out the major design philosophies, build materials, and style options of this surprisingly diverse furniture category.

From the standard, wood, traditional bookcases your grandparents may have treasured, to the far end of exotic, asymmetrical, modern constructions, we cover everything you’ll need to make an informed decision when purchasing your own bookcase.  Be sure to also check out our small bookcase guide here.

Design

The first decision you’ll want to make when seeking a new bookcase will be what type of design you want in your home. This will greatly narrow the options down and allow you to focus on details like the material and style of your new furniture.

1. Standard

Standard design bookcases will be a large, single piece of furniture with an array of horizontal shelving, support walls, and a backing wall. They are often rectangular and tall, although not in all cases. The most common construction material is wood, but you may find them in every material available.

Standard design bookcases will be a large, single piece of furniture with an array of horizontal shelving, support walls, and a backing wall. They are often rectangular and tall, although not in all cases. The most common construction material is wood, but you may find them in every material available.

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2. Cube

Cube bookcases, as the name implies, feature a series of cubic spaces to store your books and things. The designs are either square or rectangular framed, to accompany a symmetrical array of cubes.

Cube bookcases, as the name implies, feature a series of cubic spaces to store your books and things. The designs are either square or rectangular framed, to accompany a symmetrical array of cubes.

3. Modular

Modular bookcases come in sets of 2, 3, or more. These are designed to interlock or rest against each other in arrays of your own choosing. Often appearing in cube-based configurations, these models are meant to be tailored to your needs, and can be added upon after purchase.

Modular bookcases come in sets of 2, 3, or more. These are designed to interlock or rest against each other in arrays of your own choosing. Often appearing in cube-based configurations, these models are meant to be tailored to your needs, and can be added upon after purchase.

4. Leaning

The leaning bookcase has a specialized design, dependent on balancing against a wall. The overall frame has a tilted look, while shelves stay horizontal when the frame is placed against a wall at the proper angle.

The leaning bookcase has a specialized design, dependent on balancing against a wall. The overall frame has a tilted look, while shelves stay horizontal when the frame is placed against a wall at the proper angle.

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5. Corner

The corner design bookcase is meant, of course, to stand in corners. with two full sides facing outward, the options for shelf placement are expanded. These are especially perfect for conserving space, or displaying art or delicate pieces in a place where they will not be disturbed.

The corner design bookcase is meant, of course, to stand in corners. with two full sides facing outward, the options for shelf placement are expanded. These are especially perfect for conserving space, or displaying art or delicate pieces in a place where they will not be disturbed.

6. Barrister

The barrister bookcase design was originally crafted to assist lawyers in the storage and mobility of their extensive law book collections. As such, they feature doors with often smoked glass to keep the books in place as the unit is moved.

The barrister bookcase design was originally crafted to assist lawyers in the storage and mobility of their extensive law book collections. As such, they employ doors with often smoked glass to keep the books in place as the unit is moved.

Frame Material

The next major decision you’ll make regarding a new bookcase selection will pertain to the build material. Do you want a classic wooden look? Something more modern and metallic? Or something else entirely? Let’s break down the options.

7. Wood

Wood frames comprise the most extensive and far reaching category of bookcases on the market today and in years past. The quintessential construction material, wood bookcases can be found in virtually any design and style.

Wood frames comprise the most extensive and far reaching category of bookcases on the market today and in years past. The quintessential construction material, wood bookcases can be found in virtually any design and style.


8. Metal

Metal construction allows for lighter weight designs, more shape options, and a look that easily compliments modern or industrial design. Often bookcases with metal frames will still use wood or, in this case, marble shelving.

Metal construction allows for lighter weight designs, more shape options, and a look that easily compliments modern or industrial design. Often bookcases with metal frames will still use wood or, in this case, marble shelving.

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9. Laminate

Laminate bookcases are, like any laminate furniture, overlaid with a protective layer, usually vinyl or plastic based. This design keeps the shelves and structure looking fresh, can be tailored into nearly any color, and can resist dings and spills.

laminatecase

10. Glass

Glass frame bookcases are mostly found with a metallic support structure connecting the glass pieces.

glasscase

11. Glass (continued)

More rarely found, but still very available are completely glass constructed bookcases, as seen here.

glassallcase

Style

The final consideration when choosing the bookcase that will proudly hold your household items for years to come, is the personal element of style. The traditional examples may be familiar, but the range of options available today goes far beyond.

12. Traditional

Traditional style evoked a timeless sense through classically proportioned construction, artful detail, and a solid appearance. Most often constructed of wood, traditional bookcases may boast filigreed accents and carved wood detail.

Traditional style evoked a timeless sense through classically proportioned construction, artful detail, and a solid appearance. Most often constructed of wood, traditional bookcases may boast filigreed accents and carved wood detail.

13. Modern

Modern style furniture harkens back to a specific period of mid-20th century style, focusing on often minimalistic yet eye catching shapes. Novel configurations are common, like the asymmetrical, backless design featured here.

Modern style furniture harkens back to a specific period of mid-20th century style, focusing on often minimalistic yet eye catching shapes. Novel configurations are common, like the asymmetrical, backless design featured here.

14. Contemporary

Contemporary design is not limited to any specific look or philosophy; it merely needs to be fresh, novel, and of-the-moment. These bookshelves will flaunt the newest design turns and evoke an experimental or progressive tone. Our example here features a freestanding ladder design, with an A-frame supporting ever-wider shelving.

Contemporary design is not limited to any specific look or philosophy; it merely needs to be fresh, novel, and of-the-moment. These bookshelves will flaunt the newest design turns and evoke an experimental or progressive tone. Our example here features a freestanding ladder design, with an A-frame supporting ever-wider shelving.

See more at Wayfair, Amazon and Houzz

15. Rustic

The rustic look aims for a pastoral, cottage-like appearance, with typically natural wood, broad, simple shapes, and an untreated, unfussy look. They can be rugged and beautiful in an old fashioned manner.

The rustic look aims for a pastoral, cottage-like appearance, with typically natural wood, broad, simple shapes, and an untreated, unfussy look. They can be rugged and beautiful in an old fashioned manner.

16. Coastal

Bookcases in the coastal design paradigm feature a natural look that differs from rustic style in that it’s aimed for an oceanic, beachside style. The materials feature a weatherworn or sun-bleached tone, while a simplicity of construction conveys an easygoing nature.

Bookcases in the coastal design paradigm feature a natural look that differs from rustic style in that it's aimed for an oceanic, beachside style. The materials feature a weatherworn or sun-bleached tone, while a simplicity of construction conveys an easygoing nature.

17. Industrial

Intended to mimic the look and feel of factory equipment, industrial style furniture often features bold, strong metallic construction and shopworn wood. These bookshelves will give a sturdy, masculine look to any space.

industrialcase1


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