Different Styles of Bookshelves

By Bailiegh Basham · August 24, 2022

    Different Styles of Bookshelves

     When decorating a room, the style of the bookshelf is not usually someone’s first consideration. However, your choice of bookcases can have a ripple effect across the rest of the space. It impacts the room’s available storage, influences how you choose to display various goods, and can set the tone regarding both color and decor themes. 

    This article will help you explore various styles of bookcases to help you find the right type for your home. 

    {attr:alt}Traditionally-Styled Bookshelves

    Quick, think of a wooden bookshelf! Chances are, it was tall, had a solid back and simple lines, and could be classified as a traditional bookshelf. This type of bookcase normally comes in solid wood (or an engineered imitation). A benefit of the traditional shelf is its ability to reach tall heights (if desired) and confidently house a greater number of items (like books) without the fear of them falling through the back or sides. 

    Most traditional bookshelves are relatively uncomplicated in their design, meaning they can work with various office decor themes, from Craftsman to contemporary. They can come in numerous wood species but, because of the shelving’s long stretches of uninterrupted planks, some homeowners choose hardwoods known for their eye-catching grains, like cherry, walnut, and white oak

    Traditionally Styled Bookshelves With the Twist of a Credenza

    A close-cousin of the traditionally styled bookcase is those with added wooden credenzas (enclosed shelving, normally located towards the bottom of the unit). Though the specific features will vary from one credenza to the next, common benefits include drawers with locks, desktop surfaces with keyboard pull-outs, and letter-size file drawers. 

    Traditionally Styled Bookcases With the Twist of Doors

    Traditional shelves with attached doors are sometimes referred to as “storage bookcases.” The doors come with either solid wood fronts or adorned glass panels, either translucent or aesthetically enhanced. This enables you to confidently squeeze more onto the shelves without worrying about visual clutter. 

    {attr:alt}Metal Frame Bookcases

    Metal has the power to make furniture immediately appear contemporary. Darker colors look industrial while silvery alloys give a fresh aesthetic. What’s more, most bookshelves that incorporate metal are open-backed, resulting in them appearing lighter than their traditional wooden counterparts. In fact, they are lighter, making for easy transportation from room to room, house to house. 

    While this style of bookshelf can be achieved with metal alone, it often incorporates glass or wood to add additional visual dynamism. 

    Metal frame bookcases are used more for display than storage, as their open backs make loading the shelves to the brim impractical. Additionally, they rarely have added features like doors or drawers. 

    {attr:alt}Leaning/Ladder-Style Bookshelves

    The earmarks of this particular style of bookcase are its open shelving and the slight lean of the side farthest from the wall, as seen in the included photos. However, ladder-style bookshelves come in a surprisingly diverse number of shapes. This provides visual intrigue and a generally modern aesthetic. 

    Ladder-style bookshelves complement smaller rooms not only due to using less floor space but also because their backless design adds airiness and makes the area feel larger. Their svelte silhouettes also mean that they require less wood in their creation, something which will reflect in both the price and the ease of moving. 

    While they have their many benefits, the downside of ladder-style bookshelves is their limited storage capacity. This unit is ideal for presenting plants, art, and miscellaneous goods, not well-cultivated collections of books. Therefore, these bookshelves may be suitable in bedrooms, hallways, and living rooms and not necessarily in offices. 

    Barrister Bookcases

    {attr:alt}In some ways, the barrister bookcase is the near opposite of the ladder-style shelves. While the latter has angles with open sides and backs, the former is dense, with each shelf enclosed behind a glass door. While ladder-style bookshelves are inherently modern, barrister bookshelves are classic by nature. However, the one element barrister bookcases share with their ladder counterpart is that neither typically climb to the same heights as traditional bookshelves.

    The glass front of this type of bookshelf presents opportunities for heightened visual embellishment, whether with leaded or cut glass, colorful accents, or mullions. Alternatively, it can be transparent without additional enhancements. When choosing a barrister bookcase, remember whether its intended function is to store goods in mass or display your more precious belongings. If the latter, keep any glass distortions to a minimum so the item’s details can shine through. 

    Barrister bookcases are surprisingly versatile and can certainly be used beyond the office. For example, some homes feature this style of shelving in the kitchen for displaying china

    Off-Center Bookshelf Styles

    An increasing number of modernly styled bookcases are embracing having shelving dividers uncentered, uneven from one row to the next, completely asymmetrical, or all three. The result is a bookshelf that comes across as organic yet polished, perfect for a Mid-Century or contemporary office. 

    Because this style refers more to the bookcase’s shape rather than its material or function, it’s hard to place generalities onto this type of bookcase. Whether you want something solid with lots of storage or more artistically inclined with an overall levity, you can find an off-center design to meet your specific needs. 














    Corner Bookcases

    {attr:alt}A corner bookcase can represent diverse styles, from traditional to ladder-silhouettes. However, all will carry a distinct shape meant to fit into 90° corners, enabling homeowners to use less floor space while taking advantage of pockets of the room that would otherwise be under-utilized. However, its shape doesn’t allow for ample browsing, suggesting that this type of bookcase may be best for presentation rather than storing a significant number of items. 

    Other Types of Bookcases

    While the above touched upon common types of bookshelves, there are certainly other options worth acknowledging. For example, cube-style bookcases are increasingly popular amongst young adults. Their modular nature and generally lighter, cheaper construction make them easy to reconfigure to meet new spaces, move from apartment to apartment, and replace as tastes evolve. Another favorite style amongst kids is tree bookshelves in which racks slant inward towards a central pillar, ideal for stacking books on top of one another. 

    However, Countryside Amish Furniture does not offer such styles of bookcases to our customers at this time, as these types tend not to be conducive to Amish woodworking. 

    Additional Considerations When Choosing Your Style of Bookshelf 

    The style of a bookshelf refers to more than just its overarching type, as color and decor themes are also influential. When choosing a unit, keep in mind:

    • What specifically do you want to display or store? Throughout this article, we’ve stressed that some bookcase styles are suited for mass storage needs while others excel at displaying limited but precious pieces (plants, knickknacks, etc.). Obviously, you’ll want to select the style of bookshelf that accommodates your original design goals, including whether you want to conceal or display the contents.
    • What material and level of quality do you want? Using "wood" as an example, there are different materials that can all take on similar appearances at first glance. However, cheaper wood knock-offs like veneer or engineered alternatives lack the structural soundness of solid wood. In turn, they may be the more practical choice for young adults with a low budget or home owners seeking a temporary solution. However, those wanting to invest in a stylish bookshelf that can last a long while would be smart to spend the extra on genuine hardwood. 
    • How to best coordinate the furniture’s colors and themes with the shelved goods and surrounding room. Let’s say you want to display a series of gold-colored frames alongside leather-bound books; in this scenario, a contemporarily metal-framed bookshelf would be wrong, as its metallic shelves could clash with the picture frames’ brassiness and conflict with the leather’s traditional vibe. On the other hand, walnut shelves with a deep stain would make the frames pop and enhance the class of the beloved books’ spines. 

    Additionally, unless you intend to make the bookshelf an accent piece, try to align its style to the room’s general decor. Common themes include French Country, Farmhouse, Mid-Century, Contemporary, and Rustic. Not sure how to classify a particular bookcase? Many of our bookshelves are a part of greater office or living room sets, enabling you to see other similarly styled pieces. And, when in doubt, remember that a simple, traditional bookshelf accommodates more decor styles. 

    No Matter Your Choice of Bookshelf Type, Countryside Amish Furniture Has You Covered

    Wanting a modern bookshelf with powder-coated steel legs and reclaimed wood? Check out the handsome Steeldel Reclaimed Bookcase. Or how about a traditional bookshelf enhanced with glass doors? You’ll love our Ansonia Sliding Door Bookcase

    The point is, regardless of your tastes or preferred bookshelf type, Countryside Amish Furniture has the ideal piece for you! All of our furniture is made to order from the hardwood of your choice, letting you further customize the piece. Explore our Amish-made, solid wood bookcases to start your hunt!




    Author, Baileigh Basham

    Bailiegh Basham is Lead Sales & Marketing Strategist at Countryside Amish Furniture. She's been a team member since 2014. Bailiegh is deeply passionate about furniture design and home decor.