5 Ways to Customize Your Mass-Produced Bookshelf

Mass-produced bookshelves. We’ve all got them, don’t we? (If your answer is “no,” I applaud you…and then turn to the rest of the world whose answer is the opposite.) There’s nothing wrong with a standard bookshelf per se – it holds books and treasures, makes things easily accessible, provides structure and storage. Those are all good things. However, the problem lies in the fact that they tend to be so…well…generic. Sterile. Devoid of personality or detail.

Never fear! I encourage you to keep these bookshelves in your home; you may simply make modest changes to customize them; thereafter, your sense of style will shine! Consider these ideas to get you started:


Unexpected Presentation – Granted, the traditional bookshelf is set upon the floor and filled with books. Period. That’s why I love this askew take on bookshelves! Hung diagonally, as you see here, or even mounted partway up the wall, your shelf will break the mold of “typical” and set your space apart. I think this arrangement, with the television mounted overtop a series of diagonal bookshelves, is particularly enchanting.


Beadboard Backing + Crown Moulding – While either one of these ideas would enhance your simple bookshelf a great deal, doing both of them create a completely custom look. Beadboard is perfect for a cottage feel; a nice textural element in an unexpected place (i.e., the back of a bookshelf). Moulding around the top of the shelf mirrors the polish of moulding around the top of a room…it’s just classy, that’s what.


Horizontal Layout – I’m not sure why, but when I think of a bookshelf, I instinctively think of a vertical frame filled with shelves. Which is why, when a unit is laid horizontally, I find myself quite delighted. This method actually doubles the usable space, as items can be placed within the shelf cubbies as well as on top of the unit. (Or, adorned with pad and/or pillows, the unit can become extra seating.) And don’t forget the casters, like those added here, for a chic industrial vibe.


Faux Built-In – Perhaps you actually crave the built-in shelf situation but have purchased mass-produced units for the interim. Good news! You can DIY a built-in look with your generic shelve by raising them up (perhaps mounted on some 2x4s) and adding baseboard moulding to the bottom. Depending on the height of your shelves and your room, you may want to extend the shelves to the ceiling and add crown moulding. Viola! Practically built-ins! Oh, and painting the back of the shelves is a sophisticated touch as well.


Top it Off – Bookshelves actually make a wonderful addition to a kitchen island or dining room table. To best integrate the shelf into the space, install a top (i.e., marble countertop or coordinating tile) that helps the bookshelf to “make sense.” This is a wonderful idea for storing all those cookbooks and/or other reading materials that are perfect for keeping the chef company.

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.



Published by in Bookshelves, on January 24th, 2013

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