Where can I buy shallow bookcases?
May 9, 2015 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Bookcases all seem to be 10-12 inches deep. I want one that's 7-9 inches deep. Can you help?

Other dimensions would ideally be 2-4 ft wide and 3-5 ft tall but I'll take what I can get.

One option is a "media storage" unit for DVDs / CDs but those tend to be a touch too shallow, and not made for the weight of books. I'm using one now and the shelves are sagging forlornly, it would break your heart to see it.

If my best option is a custom built bookcase, can you recommend a place to get them made (I'm in NYC) and tell me anything else about the process -- time, cost, shipping/delivery etc? Maybe it's less of an ordeal than I'm imagining it to be.

(If anyone knows why bookcases are all deeper than the 90th percentile of books -- even hardcovers -- I'd be curious about that too.)
posted by neat graffitist to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this is a space issue or not.. if it's not and you just want the look of books that are sitting on the ledge..

You could buy a deeper bookshelf.. and then measure and buy wood and spacers that you could put at the back of each shelf.. or get creative and use plexiglass and fun backgrounds/decorations/fake flowers/lights in the space between the real back and the plexiglass. It might be cheaper then a custom built bookcase.
posted by royalsong at 8:35 AM on May 9, 2015

Check out the Elfa series at the Container Store. They have the wall-attached kind and a freestanding version (though I don't think the freestanding one is shallow enough for your needs). I have the wall-attached version and have some of them loaded up with old law school textbooks; after 5 years, they're still not sagging. Just make sure you use the right screws/anchors for your wall type.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:38 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

These shelves from Ikea are just under 8 inches deep. I also have some Danish midcentury bookshelves that are shallow, so you might try looking for something like that on Craigslist.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:57 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nobody really sells shelves that work well for paperbacks outside of library product catalogs (and those are very expensive, priced for institutional buyers.) Your best options are building yourself/paying someone to build them for you, or going with commercially-available DVD-size shelves and shimming and anchoring them so that they hold up better.

For reference, materials for my two sets of 8' x 4' plywood-backed paperback shelves cost a bit over $100, but a) I spent nothing at all on making them look nice and b) that was not in NYC, so I'd go well over that for the materials. Labor, depending on how half-assed a job you're doing/paying for, is probably at least a couple hours on the junky unfinished end. The nicer you want it, the more time and work. It is doable with just hand tools by a total amateur -- if that fits your decorating scheme.
posted by asperity at 9:01 AM on May 9, 2015

A friend of mine once got a stage prop bookshelf after the show was over. It was very shallow, and we had to nail it to the wall to keep the books from tipping it over.
posted by aniola at 9:09 AM on May 9, 2015

Best answer: (If anyone knows why bookcases are all deeper than the 90th percentile of books -- even hardcovers -- I'd be curious about that too.)

Because if they were only as deep as the 90th percentile of books, then 10% of people's books would have to be scattered about on the floor and dining room table and next to the couch and by the bed, etc. 10% of your books can be a lot of books and I would certainly find it annoying.

But if you have lots of smaller books, then you should google paperback bookshelves. Here's a site that sells some.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:26 AM on May 9, 2015

Wayfair items vary in quality/durability (the company is like a huge clearinghouse), but you can search the site for a bookcase by depth and height (tools on left side of screen).
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:40 AM on May 9, 2015

Seconding the Elfa series from the Container store. They have shelves that are 8 inches deep. They will (for free) help you design exactly what you want; they can even cut to size horizontally (with some limitations). You can pay for installation (although you will only need to screw in the top bracket, and they will include the type of anchors you will need as part of the process). It may even be as simple as 3-4 anchors in the wall. IIRC installation is 20% of the cost of the shelving. The freestanding version does take shallow shelves. They're also super easy to adjust for height.

If I sound overenthusiastic it's because I have thousands of books and only went to the Elfa solution in the last few years; I really really really wish I had done it years ago. Due to a door I had to put all of my science books on 8 inch shelves - there's a lot of weight and they work great. If you're interested in some pictures memail me.
posted by barchan at 9:43 AM on May 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Are there any of those stores there that make and sell pine shelving in all configurations?
posted by rhizome at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you do decide to go with Elfa, absolutely use their design service. Don't just use their online tool yourself or start throwing stuff that seems like the right stuff into your cart.

Basically you do an online chat with someone, describe what you want, they draw it up for you, you approve or suggest adjustments and then they put everything you need in a shopping cart for you. It seems like you could just do it yourself, but don't. All the pieces are sold separately and it's not always obvious what you need. For example, you might buy the brackets, but not realize that each bracket needs an end cap, or the kind of shelf you buy might not be compatible with the bracket you're getting, the legs don't necessarily come with the feet (if you get the stand-alone), or the spot you're thinking of putting it in might require something specific (e.g. baseboards vs. no baseboards can suggest different feet might be useful depending on your needs.

I have a walking desk made of Elfa, and it's great. But the version I had in my shopping cart before I hit chat to ask one little question would not have had the right parts to assemble properly. It looked the same but when the pieces came they would not have fit and they would not have worked and there would have been bits missing, some only aesthetically important (e.g. endcaps) but some functionally necessary (e.g. the right kind of feet for my narrow fit situation).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:02 AM on May 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

(If anyone knows why bookcases are all deeper than the 90th percentile of books -- even hardcovers -- I'd be curious about that too.)

Lots of people double up their bookcases. I have two large bookcases and both of them have two rows on each shelf, one in front of the other. It's not perfect but it's better than having four bookcases in a small space.
posted by littlegreen at 4:12 PM on May 9, 2015

Here's a place that seems to make/sell what you're looking for: Woodland Mills.
posted by jeri at 1:35 PM on May 10, 2015

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