Bookshelf Lighting Ideas


A bookshelf can hold more than just books, and when outfitted with specialty lighting, it becomes a place to stage valued art or decor in addition to your favorite reads. While you can quickly retrofit some of these lighting fixtures directly into your bookshelves or bookcases, others are better installed when you initially build the bookcase in your home.

Undermount Cabinet Lights

  • Sleek, slim and hidden from view when the bottom of each shelf has a wood lip, trim or wood reveal accompanying it, undermount cabinet lights offer some of the most inexpensive ways to light a bookshelf. These rectangular light fixtures, used in kitchens and places under cabinets where task light is needed, provide illumination directly below. Each unit installs separately, so place them strategically where you want the light to shine.

Lighting Tape or Puck Lights

  • Low-wattage 12-volt lighting tape makes installing lights in out-of-the-way places inexpensive to buy and run. Home improvement and hardware stores offer a range of lighting tapes at multiple price points to add lighting to bookshelves. Some of these products come with dimmers and use light-emitting diodes inside the tape instead of light bulbs. Sizes range from 12 feet to just under 18 inches. LED puck lights use three circular lights about 3 inches in diameter connected to a 5-foot cord.

Track Lights

  • Ceiling-mounted track lights give you the option to aim lighting where you want it, whether on a single shelf or to act as general illumination for the whole area. Make a decor statement with your track lights and built-in bookcase by using flexible or rail track lighting. You can choose from a variety of styles, including flower-petal shaped lampshades, traditional spotlights or a series of drop-down pendant lights.

Recessed Lights

  • If you've built a bookcase wall permanently into your home beneath a soffit, install in-ceiling can or recessed lights at 2-foot intervals in the soffit to create a balanced lighting effect. This requires opening up the soffit to install the can lights, which sit flush with the ceiling soffit, and adding the electrical wire to connect them to a light switch. The best time to do this is when you're building the soffit and bookcase.

Library Lighting Fixtures

  • Library lighting fixtures create an illusion of source-less lighting; when installed correctly, they are entirely out of the line of sight. This type of lighting involves using concealed lighting strips behind a wood reveal with small bulbs that attach to buss bars and brass support clips that run vertically and connect to a transformer via a wire. The extremely small 1 3/4-inch-long lamps come in multiple wattages and types, such as incandescent, light-emitting diodes and xenon.

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