Remember that scene in Disney’s Beauty & the Beast when Belle walks into the library with floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves? Would anyone else be perfectly content to spend the rest of their life there?

While the room in the picture below is way over the top, I do love the bookshelves. This is a Library with a capital “L”. It’s a real, working library. None of that “styled shelves” business. I could definitely live there.

Ornate library with large built-in bookshelves.But this is closer to my reality. No matter how many bookshelves we have (and we have a lot!), they always end up looking like this. We never have enough room. I think we’re getting close to a hoarding situation.

Built-in bookshelves overflowing with books.

Built-in Bookshelves

Even if you don’t hoard books, I think every home should have built-in bookshelves. It’s a great opportunity to add character and detail to a house.

Designing Built-in Bookshelves

Built-in bookshelves are a fairly easy DIY project. One of the first projects we completed in this house was building two floor to ceiling built-in bookcases. Sawdust Girl has plans for a really nice, full wall, floor to ceiling built-in bookcase.

If you are planning to DIY built-in bookshelves, here are a few things to consider:

  • Shelves should be 10-12″ deep and 3/4″ minimum thickness.
  • The maximum span of a shelf should be less than 36″. Longer spans will result in a sagging shelf.
  • If you plan on painting the bookshelf, you can use plywood for both the case and the shelves. However, you will need to cover the edges of the plywood with trim or moulding.
  • Consider making shelves adjustable
  • Use trim like dentil moulding and crown moulding to add character.
  • Consider installing bookshelves in an area that is otherwise wasted space, such as over a doorway, on a larger stair landing, or between windows.

Design Inspiration: Built-in Bookshelves

Not surprisingly, most modern homes don’t have an entire room that can be designated as a library. As I put this Houzz Ideabook together, I included images that featured built-in bookshelves in unexpected places, as well as wall-to-wall systems.

Did you find some inspiration?

Don’t forget to pin this for later!
Collage of library with built-in bookshelves.