A world of decor exists between the boards-on-cement-blocks bookshelf and the paneled library with its hushed housing of first editions and leather-bound tomes. Somewhere in there you and your books live together in amiable disarray. You need bookshelves. Your kids need bookshelves. You need your coffee table, floors and space under the bed back. But don't grab the first cheap particleboard solution you see. Bookshelves can be as varied, delightful and imaginative as the volumes lined up inside them.
Tradition With a Twist
Freestanding bookshelf units made from hardwood can be lined up against a wall to dominate a room or carefully positioned to fill an alcove or a niche between two windows. They'll corral your books, but the right shelf unit can do more than that. A system of unvarnished hardwood modules stacks for different bookshelf configurations but includes stair steps for your feline friends in the module design. Create a cat staircase on the front or the back of the shelves with the stepped units. A module at the top of the bookshelves has a built-in cat bed because cats are very literate creatures, and your library should serve as more than just a parking spot for the latest best-sellers.
Built-in bookshelves resolve a design problem when they are configured to an awkward wall space or ceiling slant. Made-to-order shelves can run from ceiling to floor with cabinets below for storage and upper shelves organized to accommodate the slant of a gabled roof or exposed ceiling beams. Build shelves along an entire wall and over a central doorway, creating a deep archway around the door and maximizing every bit of library space you can squeeze out of the room. Integrate the custom shelves with the rest of the decor by painting them to match the walls -- denim-blue walls in the den, white walls in the study or living room.
A bookshelf made in the shape of a United States map has plenty of straight lines in state boundaries for shelves, and odd-sized books will fit in the unusual spaces, like the Florida peninsula or paperback-sized Rhode Island. A London-based designer created the bookish map to mount on a wall like a real map with Hawaii and Alaska as small, separate units. Powder-coated flat pack bookshelves come in brightly colored steel units that mount flat on the wall in a random pattern of aqua, lime, orange and sunflower rectangles, or stack one above the other in a conventional rectangle. Laser-cut shelves look like contemporary wall art with incised abstract patterns until you fold down the patterns to hold books.
Topsy-Turvy Teacups and More
Board books and picture books need a home in the nursery that is as much fun as they are. A stack of oversize wood topsy-turvy teacups -- upside-down and right-side-up -- are painted in bright colors on the inside and all-white on the outside. The teacups are silhouettes, deep enough to house books and other treasures, but slim enough to push against the wall. A dollhouse with the open side facing the room and the furniture removed makes a perfect bookcase, especially if it's a Victorian townhouse with high ceilings. Older kids will be delighted at a wall-mounted bookshelf created from skateboards -- real, recycled ones with the wheels removed, or plain wood skateboard-shaped shelves.
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