Whether you’re a devoted bookworm or a casual reader, bookshelves can be used to elevate any space—both stylistically and literally. In addition to adding height to a room, bookcases and étagères provide stylish storage and can be used to divvy up a room. They also have a knack for making you appear well-read! (And, really, who doesn’t want that?) But, despite their many benefits, bookshelves are large and tend to take up a fair bit of acreage. In small spaces, it can be especially hard to find a spot to hold your treasured tomes. Here, we delve into some prime places to put bookcases and what kind of shelves help save the most space.

Floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with tomes, a mid-century modern chair, and ladder fill this Lincoln Park residence
Design by Craig & Co. / Photo by Werner Straube

7 Spots to Place Bookshelves

Living Room

The most classic room to show off your books is, predictably, one of the most trafficked places in a home—the living room. If your home is endowed with built-in or recessed bookcases, put them to work displaying your favorite volumes. If you prefer a more minimalist aesthetic, install wall-mounted or floating bookcases. Aside from their more streamlined style, they don’t take up any floor space. Corner bookcases are also especially fit for conserving space.

Go double-duty by employing furniture that has built-in bookshelves. Whether it’s a couch with built-in, shelf-style side tables or a console with built-in shelves underneath, these multipurpose pieces offer the perfect spot to stow a couple of beloved books. Even the most space-efficient living rooms can still suffer from wasted space. Case in point? The backside of a sofa that’s been situated in the middle of a room. In these cases, a console with a built-in bookcase can be used behind the sofa. An army of textural books will lend interest to the sofa’s flat facade and add an eclectic sensibility. Similarly, benches with book storage can also add functionality to an entryway, hallway, or kid’s room.

A bookcase decorated with curios, books, and a piece of art provides background for a sofa with a cheetah print pillow atop
Design by Skin LLC / Photo by Andrew Miller

Home Office

With work from home becoming an enduring part of our culture, a comfortable home office has become even more important. Bookshelves offer the perfect shelf space to store paperwork, important documents, office supplies, and, of course, books! Floor to ceiling bookcases imbue an air of sophistication. Glass-paneled barrister bookcases are ideal additions to a home office as well. First used by attorneys in the 17th century, barrister bookcases consist of self-contained, glass-fronted units stacked atop one another. Move and stack the free-standing units around your office to suit your liking.

In this architecturally gorgeous home office, built-in bookcases are in between windows and behind wooden fittings.
Design by Elias Associates / Photo by Trevor Tondro


Have an extensive cookbook collection? Why not install bookshelves in your kitchen to show off that culinary knowledge? In a kitchen, employ a multi-functional kitchen island with built-in shelves, or tuck a narrow bookcase in between two appliances. If you’re lucky enough to have some extra cabinet space, showcase some of your titles inside glass door cupboards. Alternatively, you can lean a simple ladder bookshelf against a wall. Again, wall-mounted bookcases add storage space and create a chic, layered look. Just be careful not to keep your books too close to your sink, dishwasher, or stovetop.

A built-in bookshelf atop a kitchen island makes for the perfect place to fit in some leather bound books
Design by Douglas C. Wright Architects / Photo by David Sundberg, ESTO
A narrow, tall bookcase with cabinets on the bottom is fit in an empty wall space in this kitchen
Photo courtesy of designs by human.


A commonly unused space, stairwells provide the perfect nook to house a handful of books. Accent your main staircase with built-in shelving or simply stack a couple of paperbacks on a ledge. If you’re really committed to the look, have a carpenter install a small book-sized cubby underneath each step.

Framing a Doorway

Placing books around a doorway is another creative way to utilize space. Tall, thin bookcases framing a door allow you to show off your reads without utilizing too much horizontal space. Floating shelves set around a doorway can also be installed to achieve a similar effect.

Built-in bookshelves make up the wall in this eclectic and breezy living room designed by Sarah Walker
Design by Sarah Walker Design Studio / Photo by Sam Frost

In a Nook

Dedicate a space for reading by curating a book nook. Either place a small bookshelf in an empty corner with a comfy chair, or set up shop beside a sunny window. Book nooks are also superb spots for youngsters to cozy up with a children’s book. With their narrow shelf space, flat display bookshelves are especially suited to a kid’s reading corner.

This wall is made up of even cubbies, each with books and trinkets. A mid century modern accent chair provides sitting space
Design by Chimera Interiors, LLC / Photo by Erhard Pfeiffer

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Lead image: Design by Jamie Bush + Co. / Photo by Roger Davies


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April 4, 2022

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