Shelving Solutions for Books
July 25, 2005 10:21 PM   Subscribe

Searching for modern, modular, attractive shelving for books.

Once again, we have outstripped the capacity of our present shelves, and need to expand our bookshelves. Many of the books are reference/art technique books; format varies from trade paperback to "coffee-table" books.

The only room left is just off the living room, so bricks & boards isn't going to cut it. We have a couple of units from Ikea that are about 5 years old, but Ikea no longer carries, them, or anything remotely suitable.

We rent a home with plaster and lath walls, so attaching anything to the walls is right out. Ideally, the shelves would collapse into a pile of lumber and/or metal for transport (like most of our nomadic furnishings).

I am willing to build or buy, so suggestions of kit solutions would be welcome.

What do you all do for book shelving?
posted by jimfl to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No Tools Bookshelves from Bed Bath & Beyond
Container Store
Solutions Back & Forth Tower marked down from $134 to $34
posted by IndigoRain at 10:58 PM on July 25, 2005

If you are looking for shelves that just carry books, you really want something strong. Books weigh a ton.

This is a thread on library shelves, they will hold the weight, but I don't know if they have the look you want.
posted by Marky at 1:21 AM on July 26, 2005

We have a couple of these in black/brown which are inexpensive and don't look half bad.
posted by anathema at 5:09 AM on July 26, 2005

I guess you already looked at IKEA catalog and anyway I would be careful if I was loading up big heavy books. Nothing irritates me more than bent shelves.

I have a shelving solution for my living room which I put together from 7 independent free standing bookcases. Each of them is about 18 or 20 inches wide I think and almost 8 ft high. They have adjustable shelves of course. I just place them next to each other from one wall to another and look very nice. They are also solid and strong.

I found them on sale for $100 a piece at a local scandanavian furniture store. These store are much more expensive than IKEA and tend to sell real teak furniture. However they also sell very good quality (better than IKEA for sure) MDF furniture from Europe. That is what mine is. I had to wait 8 weeks for the last case to be shipped from Europe. Check around to see if you such stores locally and may be you can get decent price on stuff like these.

If you rent your place I do not know how much you want to spend and also when you move you have to drag these. But I ended up getting the look and functionality I was looking for. My entire living room back wall now almost looks like a built in.

Also looks at tension loaded shelving system from Rakks and others such as ISS. They are very nice too. I may get some myself.

Also look for unfinished furniture stores near colleges and universities like we have here in Boston.

I am an amateur woodworker. So years ago I built an open style knock down shelving system. I never got around to painting or staining it. The whole point of it was to be able to move from one rental to another. It served well. But when I bought my own place I needed to reduce its height and I decided to make it almost permanent. Now only if I can get to paint it someday. It has been carrying a huge load of Computer books for quite a number of years now.
posted by flyby22 at 6:28 AM on July 26, 2005

On the pricier (and harder-to-find) end, there are some nice Danish retro wall units designed by Poul Cadovius that seem like they'd suit you. Examples here and here.
posted by cgs06 at 6:45 AM on July 26, 2005

If you're at all handy, you can DIY a set of attractive shelves on the cheap. Get a "Dual-Trak" shelf kit from the hardware store. Instead of mounting it to your wall, attach the tracks to a couple of 2x4s. Pop in the shelf supports, lay on some 1xs and lean it against the wall with the 2x4s facing into the room. The metal brackets are hidden on the backside of the 2x4s, which can be treated or painted however you want.

You could end up with something not entirely unlike this or this. If you want to spend more time on it, this is an interesting project as well.

Or, if you want to buy something prefabricated, these are teh ish.
posted by ijoshua at 6:55 AM on July 26, 2005

I can see the DWR design being a good DYI project, although in wood. Seen them in recent TV shows. But did not actually think about them till you posted the link. Thanks!
posted by flyby22 at 7:42 AM on July 26, 2005

Ikea's Billy are surprisingly sturdy for MDF. While a lot of Ikea's stuff is a bit flimsy, these are unquestionably designed to hold books. A couple of mine were pretty much filled solid for years and even the shelves of textbooks haven't bowed noticeably. (There are a lot of empty shelves in that picture because we bought two more when it came time to store my and nyxie's books together. I think we were still unpacking when that picture was taken, too.)
posted by mendel at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2005

Boltz has some nice steel shelving. I've got their CD system which is extendable. The book shelving looks a little less modular, but might surprise you. Cost can be prohibitive, but I bought the first half of my CD rack used and picked up an extension for it new from the site.
posted by safetyfork at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2005

Second the Ikea Billy option. I have two now in black-brown which almost looks like real wood instead of wood veneer and they are pretty snazzy. And yes, totally sturdy - they've supported all my math and physics textbooks for quite awhile now.
posted by mai at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2005

I can vouch for the RAKKS system. Although a little more expensive, it is very sturdy. I have 6 shelves (using a combination of the 6 inch and 4 inch parts to make a 10 inch shelf) and they are 48 inches long. They hold about 200+ books and I'm now re-upping for another set. It's not the cheapest system you'll find but it is the sturdier and, if you even have to move, it will travel well. The aluminium can withstand fairly hefty weights (for example, one shelf is only hardbound art books, while another is just dictionaries and we all know how much those can weight).

I for one would stay away from the Ikea shelves (burned too many times by shelves that just couldn't take the weight)...

You could also go retro and buy an old fashion bookcase :)
posted by TNLNYC at 7:52 PM on February 3, 2006

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