Types Of Bookcases (Different Designs & Buying Guide)

Here’s our best types of bookcases guide including different designs, frame material ideas and tips on how to choose a perfect bookcase for your home.
White shelves with books and a mustard reclining chair Bookshelves bring in an old-world charm to any indoor space. They breathe life and personality into it as they showcase books that are quite telling about your reading preferences. Bookcases also come in a dizzying variety of designs and styles. 

This article is the ultimate buying guide if you’re currently in the market for bookcases. We’ll give you the breakdown on the different designs, frame materials, and styles to choose from.

Bookcase Designs

Picking out a design for the bookcase that you want to buy is the first major decision you’ll be making.

You’ll see that this easily narrows your options down as you would want to go with a design that’s fitting with your home’s décor or vibe. This also makes the decision of picking out materials and styles so much easier. 

Here are the typical bookcase designs to choose from and what sets them apart from each other.

Rectangular Bookcase

A wooden wall with rectangular bookcase A rectangular bookcase is somewhat traditional and is commonly seen in most homes all over the world. They’re manufactured widely so they can come in really affordable prices and they also come in a lot of different sizes and designs and even colors and finishes. 

Before buying a ready-made rectangular bookcase, it’s important for you to check out what the actual measurement is of the space.

You will want to make sure that you only get something that’s big enough for your storage needs but will still allow you to move freely within the room. As the name suggests, the shelves are shaped in rectangles, usually horizontally.

If you want something that’s simple and classic and somewhat neutral that can easily fit into any type of room design, a rectangular bookcase is a good option to consider having.


A cozy home decoration young room interior style yellow cube bookshelf red seat and cushion A cube design offers a symmetrical, almost geometric approach to the bookcase design. As the name implies, it usually involves a series of cubes or spaces that are cube-like, allowing you to place your books in them.

Cubes are typically equal-sided in measurements but there will be instances wherein they can come in rectangular frames. 

 A cube bookcase is considerably practical storage but on top of that, it is also something that offers more design and can at times even be a decorative piece for the space that you’re furnishing it in. It’s boxy and consists of clean and bold lines.

This makes it perfect as a multi-use furniture because it can also function as a divider. It can break up the space between your dining and living room, for example; or add dimension to a studio apartment.

It can double up as a table, or even as a main stage for your planters. It’s perfect if you need something that can easily transition in between designs and functions.


A modern white modular bookshelf on a white wall with a pair of books and a flower Modular bookcases are both functional and versatile. They can come in sets of 2 or 3 or so much more, depending on the amount of storage space you actually need.

These types of bookcases are great because they’re built to meld with whatever design you might decide to bring to the space. You can mix and match depending on your preferred function or amount of space needed. 

Another thing that’s so great about modular bookcases is that you don’t have to buy them all or decide all in one go. You can buy a piece along the way and then eventually add on to it as you see fit. You can move them around and reconfigure them depending on what you want or need at a certain time.

Design preferences aren’t always just one thing. They change at times and these types of bookcases kind of move along with how your decisions change because they’re changeable and they can keep up with whatever design transitions you may have. 

They can be tailor fit to your specific needs at any point in time. Even if you happen to have upgrade or redesigning plans somewhere in the future, these bookcases can move along with you.


White 4 tier corner wooden bookcase See this white 4 tier corner wooden bookcase at Pier 1 [sponsored link]

If you’re a bit lacking for space and you don’t really have a lot of elbow room to work with, a corner bookcase is something that can really work for you. On top of its contemporary design, it’s a bookcase design that also has a bit more structural integrity compared to the others.

Corners aren’t typically areas that get a lot of attention and making use out of the space maximizes it. it’s both a shelf and a decorative piece that can complement any design preferences you may have. Read more about how to decorate a corner in a living room for more ideas.

Corner bookcases are perfect for when you have to store stuff somewhere that doesn’t necessarily have a designated space in your home. Empty corner spaces don’t always have to end up looking bare and bland when you have corner bookcases around.

It makes your books and other home items easily accessible to you and it also makes for a perfect space to shelf your delicate pieces in as corners are usually out of the way and not that easy to accidentally bump into, especially in a space that’s fairly lacking in square footage. 

These types of shelves are open and multipurpose so if you’re ever in need of some extra vertical storage, this is definitely the way to go. It easily conforms to any design so you don’t necessarily need them custom built for you and like previously mentioned, they only take up vertical space.


A modern light interior with fireplace a cozy white armchair and a leaning bookshelf Leaning bookcases can be considered as specialized designs and they’re unique because they’re kind of dependent on the wall that they’re being leaned on.

The frames of a leaning bookcase showcases a somewhat tilted look while the shelves stay in place in a horizontal angle.

It’s a somewhat complex looking design but the dynamics are actually pretty simple. Still, the overall look and feel is sophisticated and elegant.

Leaning bookcases don’t take up a lot of space as they’re usually neatly tucked away against a wall so if you find yourself ever being a little short on space, this bookcase can definitely work for you.

It also has a very clean and minimalist feel to it so if you want something that lessens clutter and feels simple yet still beautiful, this is definitely something that you ought to look out for.


Industrial ladder shelf 4 tier bookshelf See this industrial ladder shelf 4 tier bookshelf at Amazon [sponsored link]

If you’re working with a space that’s a little more challenging with its square footage, then you should look no more and opt for a ladder bookcase right away. They’re like a simplistic adaptation of the leaning bookcase. 

The basic elements are pretty much the same, only that a ladder bookcase, although it also leans on the wall, a ladder bookcase is different from a leaning bookcase because it directly looks like a ladder with modified steps that have been replaced with shelves.

It’s a very chic and industrial take on minimalism while at the same time, it saves a lot of space as well as it doesn’t take up a lot of square footage while it’s propped up against one of the walls.


Sauder barrister lane bookcase See this Sauder barrister lane bookcase at Amazon [sponsored link]

Barrister bookcases were named, interestingly, after lawyers. This type of bookcase was originally built with lawyers and their functions in mind. Lawyers usually have huge collections of law books and there are instances wherein they need to move these massive collections. 

This is why barrister bookcases are built with sturdy frames and they’re usually enclosed, with doors either made out of solid wood or smoked glass.

This is for the purpose of keeping the contents securely in place while the furniture is being moved around. So mobility is definitely key in getting this type of bookcase built out. 

It has a very charming and classic design so if you want to go for something more formal and regal and sturdy, a barrister bookcase is definitely a great option to keep in mind when you’re looking for sensible bookcases to keep inside the house.

If you have delicate pieces such as first edition books and other fragile items such as expensive porcelain and china, a barrister bookcase will definitely be of great use to you and your space.

Tree Style

A wooden tree style bookshelf with multicolor books Having a tree style bookcase is kind of like mimicking nature indoors, with the added benefit of extra storage space for your books and other items that you might want to put on display. It’s a more artistic spin on a geometric bookcase, with its defining point being that the shelves are depicted as branches in different shades and sizes. 

Tree style bookcases look somewhat surreal and out-of-this-world and if you want to go for a dreamy, fantasy-like aspect to your indoor space, you can definitely get it done with a well-chosen tree style bookcase in tow.

It’s both artsy and minimalist and it is not only design-centric, it is functional at the same time. You don’t have to choose between form and function if you have a tree style bookcase around because it can deliver both.


Superjare 9 shelf tree bookshelf See this Superjare 9 shelf tree bookshelf at Amazon [sponsored link]

A book tree bookcase is very similar to a tree style bookcase design but the only difference is that it’s more symmetrical. If a tree style bookcase is built to look and feel like a real tree with the branches being used as shelves, a book tree design is more shelf-like in a way wherein all its arms which are used as shelves are all the same size. 

It looks like a structured tree with the shelves shaped out in overlapping Y shapes, where you can place your books and other items you want up for display on them. They’re quite artistic as well and they can be tacked directly on a wall.

Some types come in free-standing designs while others can be floating, which means that they can be installed on the walls themselves without ever having to touch the floor.


Kartell bookworm bookshelf See this Kartell bookworm bookshelf at Amazon [sponsored link]

Out of all of the bookcase designs available, a bookworm bookcase would have to take the cake for being the most fluid and flexible one compared to all of them. This bookcase is a perfect combination of artistry and industrialization. 

What’s really amazing about this design is that it can be changed and formed into a shape, whatever shape that you might fancy at the moment. It has the flexibility and strength required to take in up to 10 kg load per support so you can really tack on a lot of books and other decorative items there.

As the name suggests, it sort of resembles the shape of a worm and you can kind of circle it around and you’re guaranteed that it will be able to hold its form up. 

It has a really eclectic and industrial vibe to it and it consumes very little floor space. It works well with minimalist and industrial designs.


A clean and tidy modern living room design with sofa and a geometitric bookcase If your design preference is more on something artistic and unusual but also with a sense of class and culture, you really can’t go wrong with a geometric bookcase.

Its shelving options come in varying heights and widths so it makes it easy for you to store books in different sizes as well.

The organization potential of a geometric bookcase is unparalleled. Its usage also comes far beyond just storing books. You can display decorative pieces such as trophies, teacups, and other pieces you might want to showcase. 

If used in the office, it’s also perfect for storing different office supplies and materials that usually also come in varying sizes and heights.

It’s a great marriage between function and design because although it gives you all of the practical advantages of a good and trusty bookcase, it also brings in that extra wow factor that can really add substance to the space that you’re trying to define.

A geometric book case comes with start lines for the framing and different, asymmetrical shelving that makes it look fun and unexpected at the same time.

Bookcase With Drawers

A light cozy teen room with white bookcase with drawers a working desk and laptop on it If you like all of the aesthetics that a bookcase brings in but you’d also like to have a little bit of concealed storage space, then a bookcase with drawers is a solution that fixes that.

It’s a great place to stuff random clutter into if you have to fix up your space in a moment’s notice, but on top of the usual uses such as for books and items to display, it’s also a great way to organize files that you don’t necessarily want to expose out in the open. 

Think of it as a way of having a little bit of both worlds. You get open and closed spaces available all in one piece. It puts a good spin on both a natural or traditional look and something a bit more contemporary.

It can accentuate any home décor or vibe. It’s a refreshing yet functional take on your typical bookcase furniture and it’s perfect if you want something that gives you bang for buck value for your money.

Adjustable Bookcase

A modern interior with adjustable bookcase Adjustable bookcases are very similar to the rectangular bookshelves but the only difference is that the shelves can be adjusted in varying heights.

It’s great for when you have books that vary greatly in height or for when you want to have plaques, trophies, and other things on there that might require a considerable amount of height compared to your typical bookcase.

These bookcases are also buildable so if you want to customize your own and build it yourself or get it built for you, there are several ways to get it done with a little bit of handiness and creativity

Frame Material

Bookcase with some decorations and books The kind of frame material you’ll be having for your bookcase is another important decision you need to make when you’re in the process of picking out a furniture piece.

Most bookcases are valued for the kind of material that they’re actually made of which is why you need to keep this in mind to ensure that you’re picking something that’s really suited for you and for your tastes. Let’s break the options down below.


A modern study with a desk and a wooden bookshelf Wood frames found in bookcases are some of the most ubiquitous materials out there and they actually go far beyond just bookcases. They can be seen in all kinds of furniture pieces, really. So it only makes sense that the most common material bookcases are made out of would have to be wood. 

It’s classic and timeliness and what’s great about wood as a bookcase material is that it is also flexible. Check out our guide to the best type of paint for wood furniture here.

It can be styled into any type of design or build, can come in any stain and paint color imaginable, can come in all sorts of finishes, or if you’re into something more rugged, it can even come in with a bit of a rough finish.

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood shelf with ornaments in a living room with posters on a wall Engineered wood is basically a composite material that has been formed from combining fibers, particles, veneers, and other adhesives together. There are all sorts and types of engineered wood from MDF boards, to plywood, to particle boards, and so on.

They can come with surfaces that are enhanced with laminate layers, making them water resistant and enabling them to last longer once they’re turned into furniture.

The two main attractions of engineered wood being used as a material for bookcases is their affordability and their durability. They’re quite suitable as furniture material because they’re built to be resistant to moisture, which is a common enemy for furniture pieces in general.

They’re easy to manufacture which is why they’re so affordable and if you’re trying to get something that will last you for a long time without stretching your budget, then engineered wood should really be your go-to.


Living room interior with laminate wood bookcase Laminate bookcases can be made out of solid wood or composite and engineered wood materials. They have a special layer of vinyl or plastic that gives your bookcase surfaces that extra layer of protection.

If there’s one thing that you certainly wouldn’t want on your bookcases, or on any of your furniture, for that matter; are spillages.

Laminates make it really easy to keep them clean and in their top shape because you can just easily wipe them up. They’re also quite resistant to dings and stains, and other typical issues that prove as a problem to most furniture pieces these days.


Contemporary wood bedroom with built in melamine bookshelf Melamine is a material that’s basically made out of a certain type of particleboard that has been coated with a thin layer of plastic finish. Melamine is a common finish that’s also used as a laminate for kitchen countertops. It’s just slightly different to the usual laminates because it isn’t as thick.

Bookcases that are made out of melamine as its main material come cheap and they’re very easy to maintain and keep clean. They’re also quite durable so you’re rest assured that your investment will last you for a long time. 

Melamine comes in a lot of different colors but its most common one available is bright white, which is a neutral color, making it very easy to combine with the other colors and elements that you are planning to have in the room that you’re putting it in.


Home office interior with metal bookshelves a black chair at desk with laptop with leaves posters and ficus If you want something that’s sturdy but at the same time lightweight, metal is the perfect material to have in mind. Bookcases that are made out of metal are industrial, contemporary, and modern.

Metal can be easily structured into any type of design you can think of and they’re also less prone to rotting and other similar issues that more organic materials are prone to at times. 

Another upside to metal bookcases is that they require very little maintenance, if any. They can keep your books and other showpieces safe because they’re not exactly attractive to termites and other pests and on top of all that, they can be kept spic and span with nothing more than a good wipe.


A modern spacious library in cool style with a variety of decorations wooden with glass bookcase and wooden floors Glass bookcases very seldom come in as pure glass as glass can at times be fragile and breakable. For bookcases, it’s quite common to see glass shelves combined with sturdier wood or metal frames.

Having these bookcases in your space can create an illusion of airiness and openness. If you have a slightly smaller space and you’re worried that extra pieces of furniture might make it feel crowded. A bookcase that’s made out of glass can be an easily solution to get you out of that overcrowding dilemma.

Bookcase Styles

The last major decision you’ll be making when you’re deciding on what the perfect bookcase is for your space is the style. Here are the most common bookcase styles available and the merits that come along with them.


Office in classic style with marble table and traditional bookcase A traditional bookcase style is the kind that you’ve probably seen growing up in your parents or grandparents’ homes. Although this style has been around for quite a while and is quite basic, it serves its purpose well.

A traditional bookcase would most likely be made entirely out of wood and will have the standard measurements of the shelves being 32 to 84 inches high.

They’re bigger compared to the typical modern bookcases you see these days but make for impressive pieces especially for homes that have bigger spaces to accommodate them.


Contemporary bookcase with books and vase in it Contemporary bookcases usually embrace minimalism and their colors are more on the neutrals such as beige, whites, and grays.

Bookcases in this style are usually very sleek and they have somewhat intentionally hidden aesthetics that don’t really shine through right away until you actually pay attention to them.

This type of vibe has a no-nonsense approach to its aesthetics and makes you feel like everything should be in its place.

It’s a very Spartan and highly functional approach to organizing your books and other things that you might be thinking of putting on display in your bookcase.


Modern industry 4 tier metal and wooden bookcase See this modern industry 4 tier metal and wooden bookcase at Pier 1 [sponsored link]

Modern and contemporary are terms that are usually loosely interchanged but its main point of difference is that a modern styled bookcase celebrates the use of more natural and organic materials such as wood and other similar materials.

It usually makes use of earthier and warmer colors as well. Its main point is that it eliminates all sense of unnecessary detailing and sort of strips the design down to its functional basics.


A farmhouse styled bookcase is characterized by its homey and cozy take on aesthetics. It’s something that looks relaxed and laid back and also very comfortable.

Its style origins are inspired by country living. It usually capitalizes on natural textures and materials such as galvanized steel, wood, and different types of materials made out of natural fibers.


A black chair at table with computer monitor in bright home office interior with poster and rustic style bookcase Rustic styled bookcases are very similar to the farmhouse style but it stands out because of its rugged, shabby chic appeal to it. There are times wherein farmhouse design can also be categorized as rustic.

The terms are actually used interchangeably at times. Rustic bookcases feel very simple and unpretentious and they make use of a lot of natural materials as well, especially distressed wood and metal.


A big clock on industrial type bookcase with decorations in bright flat interior with black couch and wooden stool Industrial bookcases usually make use of raw materials with rough finishes, wrought iron frames, and other rugged but charming materials. They’re perfect if you’re into something understated but still elegant nonetheless.

It combines a rustic design with something contemporary and modern. It’s a type of aesthetic that’s both sturdy, masculine, yet still somehow upscale. 

The great thing about industrial bookcases is that they can come in all heights and sizes, depending on the kind of space you’re working with. If you have a small space, you can go with something more compact.

If you have a fairly large space, you can go with bigger industrial bookcases. Industrial bookcases also come with open shelves, making them perfect for showcasing not just books but other decorative items that you would like to show off in a space as well.

They make for great conversation starters especially when placed strategically in entryways, living rooms, or even in more private spaces such as your office, den, or even your living room. It speaks style and personality and a lot of substance into the space that you’re decorating.

How To Choose A Bookcase

Interior of living room with wooden bookcase and books There are a lot of elements you need to consider when you’re in the process of choosing a bookcase for any room in your home or office at any point in time. Check our guide of home office built in ideas here.

Here are some of the fine points to take note of before you go ahead with a purchase:

Size. You need to measure out the floor space as well as the height that you’re looking for in a bookcase. This will help you narrow your options down when you’re drowning in so many options.

It would also be wise to measure out the shelf space just to make sure that they’ll be able to take care of your shelving needs.

Design. The next thing you need to consider is how well it will fit in with the rest of the other design elements in your space.

The last thing you would want to have is a bookcase that sticks out like a sore thumb. You would want to go with a design that complements the rest of your space, not contradict it.

A black retro typewriter on a unique wooden desk a mid century modern chair and a renovated bookcase Style. You also need to consider the style that you’re going for. This ties in with your décor along with the type of vibe that you would actually like to achieve for your bookcase.

Material. It’s important to also look into what material you would like your bookcase to be made out of.

It all depends on the looks and the benefits that come along with them and what you would actually want to prioritize; whether it’s the classic appeal of wood, the sturdiness of metal, or the aesthetics of glass, or the budget friendly options of engineered wood, and so on.

Price. And of course, last but not the least, what you need to take into consideration is whether you can afford the bookcase that you’re considering or not.

Budget can weed out a lot of options for you and it’s important to go for something that gives you most, if not all of the things you need, without ever burning too big of a hole in your pockets.

For more related ideas, visit our gallery of built in bookshelves.

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Written by Kristel - Contributor

Kristel Coleongco is a published author and a professional leadership mentor with an MBA from the University of St. La Salle. She also sketches and paints, which stems from her interests in creative and fundamental interior design. She is skilled in feature writing and is recognized by the Philippine Information Agency as a national IWAG award recipient.

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