Get This Look: Living Room Built-In Shelves

I think we all have those photos and ideas that we pin as just a dream — the spacious spa-like double bath, the lush interior greenhouse, the organized mudroom that is as big as your existing kitchen, etc.  If you’ve always dreamed of a beautiful home library but don’t have a space to devote to your books, today’s look is perfect for you! Install some living room built-in shelves and combine the library dream with the reality of your living space. I’ve got seven simple tips to help you bring the look home. (image via Better Homes and Gardens)

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Get This Look: Living Room Built-In Shelves | 7 tips for a stylish home library from #builtins #getthislook #library #livingroom @Remodelaholic

Create a Stunning Library of Built-In Shelves

1. Build It In

The built-in shelves around the doorway take this room from nice to niiiice. On top of the added architectural appeal, the bookshelves add much needed storage to hold your collection of, well, books. We teach you how to build your own built-in shelves here (or, for a corner bookshelf here). The molding is what makes the shelves amazing — add similar style molding to the doors and windows to help the whole room feel more cohesive. And if you really want to take the room to the next level, add an interior column like we showed here. Vavavoom! (And if the caulking worries you, check out my tips for making caulked moldings look amazing.)

2. Pocket It

Pocket doors are perfect for spaces like this. The wide doorway would either need an extra wide door or a set of double doors — which would either inhibit the traffic flow in the entry or block the bookshelves in the living room. But a pocket door slides out of the way, keeping both areas looking sleek whether the door is open or closed. Learn how to install a pocket door here

3. Style Them

We see photos of beautiful styled bookcases online and we say WOW! But then our own bookcases at home often end up cluttered and plain. These inspiration shelves have divided shelves, with a shorter shelf and a squarish cubby, perfect for decorating. Here are a few tips for putting together a stylish bookcase:

  • Curate variety and balance. An arrangement is more aesthetically pleasing when it contains a variety of sizes, shapes, textures, and colors — all working in harmony and balanced throughout the shelves. Even books can be a source of interest, either by using them to add height to a short piece or by turning them and stacking them in different arrangements. (Karen from The Art of Using shows seven different book stack styles she uses). If you have adjustable shelves, vary the shelf height to fit different items and add interest. Use items that mimic the shapes and colors of the furniture and decor around the room to bring it all together. 
  • Layer and group. A classic layered shelf starts at the back of the shelf with a frame, plate, or other thin items and then the other items in front create depth. OR create a more modern style by starting with a colorful shelf backing and using only a single layer of decor. For either style, our eyes naturally seek to group like items, so group similar shapes together in odd numbers to make an eye-candy display.
Simple Tips for Styling Bookshelves from | photo Emily Henderson via HGTV
photo: Emily Henderson via HGTV
  • Create open space. Keep the bookshelf from becoming cluttered by using a few large decorations — vases, twine balls, statues — instead of a multitude of smaller knick-knacks. Don’t pack every inch of the shelf with items. Let the books and decor breathe. Start with just a few items, and if, over time, it feels too bare, add new items a couple at a time until you find a balance you like. 
  • Include what you use and love. Let your bookcases represent you and your family by displaying those inherited knick-knacks, eclectic collections, and photos that you treasure. Include parts of the function of the room on the shelves as well, such as the drink tray you use for entertaining or your child’s favorite stuffed animal. 

4. Accessorize Everywhere

The built-in shelves make this room a fully functional library, but the decor keeps it from looking like a workhorse of a room. Keep the books tidy and add in some fun accessories on the shelves and in the entry. Love that long-neck lamp? Wayfair has a similar style. Gotta have that clock? Check out The Big Clock Store for a great selection with free shipping — plus you can get non-ticking quiet clocks if you prefer. 

5. Coordinate It

Fun, subtle furniture patterns on classic style pieces help the room feel comfortable while still being classy enough for even the most refined guest. Use similar tones to decorate on the shelves and in the entry to pull it all together. 

6. Make It Homey

A large ottoman tray holds pieces both decorative and functional, and can easily be removed to allow for feet on the ottoman. Build a beautiful parquet-pattern tray following this tutorial from That’s My Letter.

7. Put Your Feet Up

The large tufted ottoman helps reinforce the comfortable and informal style of the room while still looking classy — and providing some additional storage for games, magazines, or kids’ toys. Learn how to build a storage ottoman like this from This Old House

Get This Look: Living Room Built-In Shelves | 7 tips for a stylish home library from #builtins #getthislook #library #livingroom @Remodelaholic


Other living room built-in inspiration:

family room wall of built-in shelves, RemodelaholicOur very own work! The Park House Great Wall of Built-ins

living room built-in shelvesNew Port Richey Architects & Designers Bud Dietrich via Houzz

living room built-in shelves, designer Courtney Giles featured in Atlanta Homes Magazine

Designer Courtney Giles, featured in Atlanta Homes Magazine 

Designing another room? Try our other Get This Look ideas, such as


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Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

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  1. Great post! I’m a little obsessed with built-in bookshelves at the moment because we are in the process of customizing ours. It looks a little like the last inspiration photo you posted, except we are mounting our flat-screen TV in the center. You can see more of our process here:

    We’re working on styling it at the moment, so I love these tips. Thanks!