Help I'm drowning in books!
July 30, 2021 6:54 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a set of bookcases - one tall one and two short ones. They should be made of wood and of decent quality.

I just moved into a new house and my sister convinced me to finally get rid of the bookcases that I'd had since I was in high school. Which was... 24 years ago. Good grief.

So now I have eleven boxes of books sitting in my living room. I unfortunately don't have time to leisurely browse estate sales and antique stores and the like, looking for the perfect bookcases. I need a home for these books NOW. Ideally I want one large bookcase (5 or 6 shelves) and two small bookcases (2 shelves each). I was casually browsing Wayfair but I can only find either big ones or small ones - no matching sets!

Basically what I'm looking for is a middle of the road set of wooden bookcases. Not ones that cost a thousand dollars each, but not ones that cost thirty bucks either. Basically I'd like to spend maybe $500-$700 for the set. I'd much prefer made of wood. Something like this is ok I guess... but then it doesnt have a matching tall version.

A couple caveats - I am not handy at all, so please no suggestions to build one myself, or adapt something else into what I want. And most importantly, NO IKEA. I hate IKEA.
posted by silverstatue to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Craigslist is the way to go. You can get some great bookshelves on short-ish notice.
posted by aniola at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

After years of meh-ing at every bookcase out there (whether too expensive or too crappy) for my bajillion books, I have settled into the Container Store's Java Solid Wood Stackable Folding Bookshelf as my go-to. Simple lines, literally zero assembly for the short ones (you take them out of the box and unfold them), and putting in a couple of screws to turn two short ones into one tall one. Plus they're made of actual solid wood, and not MDF or engineered wood or plywood. I have 400-odd cookbooks, mostly hardcover, across four of these bookshelves, and two of them are over a decade old, so I can vouch for their long-term quality and ability to bear a lot of weight.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:06 PM on July 30, 2021 [9 favorites]

400 cookbooks?! I'm impressed.

As far as OPs shelves, don't know where you live but have you tried Habitat for Humanities Restores? Hit or miss but I've found great furniture in some.
posted by DixieBaby at 8:49 PM on July 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

It looks like maybe you're in Brooklyn- here's a nice tall midcentury bookcase with free delivery on Craigslist.
posted by pinochiette at 8:56 PM on July 30, 2021

Gothic Cabinet Craft--solid wood, well built, & reasonably priced. I have several bookcases from them, including several short ones, that I'm very happy with. They have a showroom in Crown Heights / Prospect Lefferts.
posted by miles per flower at 10:05 PM on July 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

Yeah, if you're in NYC, GCC is a good way to go.
posted by praemunire at 10:18 PM on July 30, 2021

These Wayfair bookcases come in sets of whatever configuration you want. If you'd like something more contemporary, these come in two sizes. You don't need to be handy, just hire someone to put them together for you! (Craigslist or the assembly service.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:30 AM on July 31, 2021

I also came to mention the foldable shelves from Container Store. I have them in white. They’re sturdy and hold a LOT without any bowing (ahem, IKEA). I’m no longer in the phase where I move every year, but they’re pretty awesome for that, too.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:36 AM on July 31, 2021

Made from natural hardwood in a rich Java color
There's a very good chance that is from unsustainable Rainforest Wood. It is often a surprise to people that cheap furniture might be using Mahogany or other endangered species, but it's cheap because its unsustainable.

If you must have wood, look for the Forest Stewardship Council accreditation or just buy antique.
posted by Lanark at 7:18 AM on July 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

As with many things, we usually wish for perfect, inexpensive, and immediately obtainable. You can really only pick two. My preference is for perfect and inexpensive, which means I spend a fair amount of time on craigslist, FB marketplace, antique stores, estate sales, and driving around wealthy neighborhoods on my city's large item curbside pickup days. I primarily look for vintage pieces because they tend to be made of much higher quality materials, like actual wood and not laminated MDF.

If your preference is having them sooner but you're willing to spend some extra cash, check out Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrell, EQ3, and your local upscale wood furniture stores (for some reason these seem to always be just off the highways outside of town near wherever they sell jacuzzis. Idk, I dont make the rules).

If you're willing to forego perfection for cheap and immediate, Amazon will have something. Just pay attention to the ratings.
posted by ananci at 8:48 AM on July 31, 2021

Dania Furniture has the sort of furniture you seek. Over the years, they have been my go-to source for furniture that needs to be functional, sturdy, decent-looking, and reasonably-priced. After more than 25 years, I'm still using their inexpensive modular office furniture I bought when I started my business.
posted by DrGail at 9:53 AM on July 31, 2021

Response by poster: Sorry guys, I just moved to the Hudson Valley. So nyc stores won't help!
posted by silverstatue at 10:54 AM on July 31, 2021

Response by poster: Sorry, I dont think any of these will work... Any other suggestions? Remember I am only looking for a SET of bookcases, not just one good one! It has to be one big one and two small ones that match/are the same design. And I need to be able to have them delivered to me in upstate NY.
posted by silverstatue at 1:52 PM on July 31, 2021

On a phone now so can’t link but in a clutch get the short width ikea billy shelves. The short does not bow under book weight like the longer width. If you put it together as a unit of varying heights it looks less ikea and if you discretely screw the bookcases together so there is no gaps between it looks more bespoke. If you are wanting solid wood and something rustic that can be stained then the Ivar line in particular ones from 20 years or older since those were all wood. The ones now are mostly solid wood.

A few touches here and there and Ikea can be made to look less cheap and highly workable. If you are wondering imagine an 8000 book collection done with Ivar stained mahogany. Present design book collection of a few hundred in modified Billy.
posted by jadepearl at 2:23 PM on July 31, 2021

Sorry, I dont think any of these will work... Any other suggestions? Remember I am only looking for a SET of bookcases, not just one good one! It has to be one big one and two small ones that match/are the same design. And I need to be able to have them delivered to me in upstate NY.

Can you be more specific about the color or style you're looking for? Because Amazon has matched sets, as does Wayfair linked previously, but some more information would help.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:09 AM on August 1, 2021

Look in your area for stores that advertise "unfinished furniture" ... that will be your source for real wood bookshelves with a variety of sizes, designs and woods available. You can paint them yourself or have them painted for you.

This is an example.
posted by mccxxiii at 7:37 AM on August 1, 2021

Better Homes & Gardens has matching wood bookcases in your price range delivered from Walmart. The Glendale 3 and 5 shelf units seem to be what you're asking for?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2021

Since you are in the Hudson Valley I would suggest Hunt Country Furniture in Wingdale NY.

Their prices are higher than your range but they are made of solid oak or cherry in your choice of finish, and will last absolutely forever.
posted by leaper at 12:46 PM on August 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

A lot of Wayfair stuff is flat-packed, not exactly wood, and needs assembly. The Wayfair link in your post is to a "crafted from manufactured wood" ("paper laminate frame") Gianni 29.88'' H x 35.25'' W Standard Bookcase. The Gianni's central shelf weight capacity is 25 lbs, and the unit requires assembly. (Bookcases that are are wood, manufactured wood/engineered wood, engineered and solid mix, etc., have shelves with different weight capacities depending on materials and size.)

Also at Wayfair, drilling down for "solid-wood" bookcases in multiple sizes to create the set you want, Darby's Calixta Standard Bookcases (constructed of "manufactured wood; solid wood" with a weight capacity of 75 lbs) are available in multiple sizes (3 to 7 shelves, 36" to 84" H) and finishes, have straight sides so they can be grouped together, and are delivered assembled. Copeland's Sarah solid-wood bookcases are available in three sizes and five wood finishes, have a 40-lb shelf weight capacity, and require assembly; these seem to have weeks-long delivery windows depending on the finish?

For three "made of wood and of decent quality" bookcases for your new place, you may have to increase your budget for a retailer delivery or look into separate delivery-for-hire service for Craigslist, eBay, or other second-hand finds (Habitat for Humanity ReStores, for example). Or check Etsy and Chairish (both have "vintage/antique" as well as "made to order" categories), and get shipping quotes before purchase.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:11 PM on August 1, 2021

I don't have a specific recommendation, but I bought bookcases a few years ago. I went to a locally owned store that specializes in wood furniture. They had some samples and catalogs to look at. We picked the style and finish, they ordered the bookcases from their manufacturer, and we got them a month or two later. What we got might be a little bit above your price range, but they are solid wood and will outlast me. Maybe there's a story like that near you.
posted by maurice at 4:41 AM on August 2, 2021

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