Library Wall Plans

Bookshelves projectThe. Time. Has. Come. 

So, I've mentioned before that I've gone back and forth on this back wall in our living room. My heart has always said, "Bookshelves," but my brain was saying, "Do something else." Well, I gave it some serious thought and there is "nothing else". Ha! 

No matter how hard I try, I can't imagine anything more perfect than a big, floor-to-ceiling library wall! 

Here's some of my inspirationsβ€”

Home library inspirationThis first photo (via Design Sponge) has been on every home mood board I have made for the past 5-7 years. It's just crazy inspiring to me how the books fill the A-frame shape around the door. And since this space is so similar to our living room wall, it just seems crazy not to go for it! 

This second photo (via Little Green Notebook) has always spoken to me as such a great family space. I have considered the lights and ladder that she did quite a bit. (We decided to skip the ladder for now since we have a baby on the way, but I'm still considering adding lights to ours.) Everything about how this is styled appeals to me so much. 

Side noteβ€”if you want to add closed shelves to the bottom of your DIY bookshelves, definitely read her post

So, we're building the shelves now. After that I need to work on filling them. I have a two season plan for how they could be styled. And I'm off to hunt for cool vintage books that match our color scheme, with special consideration for finding children's books. 

I have bookmarked our local Nashville library sales, but where else should I hunt for books? 

Ugh! I am so excited about this project. It's truly a dream project!! I'll share more photos with you as we move along! xx -Elsie 

  • Love it! If you haven’t finished building yet, you might want to consider some closed cabinets at the bottom — really great to throw kids toys in when you’re having people over! we did similar built-ins to Little Green Notebook and I love them. Good luck! Love the blog πŸ™‚

  • I love the idea, except for the idea of buying books just for filling the shelves. I think you should only buy books you want to read.

  • Yay!!! I’m ridiculously excited you’re doing this. When you first asked about this wall I commented bookshelves even though I knew it was kind of an obvious suggestion that already considered. Your reply was of course you considered that but already had so many shelves in your house to fill. That made a lot of sense but I’m really pumped you’re doing it anyway and can not wait to see how it turns out. I know it’ll be amazing:)

  • Bookshelves would be my first, second and third choices. I agree with the others about closed cupboards below–great idea. I would even include drawers if possible. For all those “things” that you don’t know what to do with but that are too useful/essential to do without.
    On the other hand, do not by books by the foot in order to fill your shelves. There is a special place in hell for people who do that, thinking that all those books will make people think they’re smart. People quickly realize when somebody hasn’t read the books on their own shelves.

  • Check out local estate sales and see if there are any good flea markets with book vendors! They are both great places to find special or unique books.

  • This is going to look stunning! Such a great use of space. Maybe you could hang a few matching vintage framed prints in front of the shelf like I’ve seen done before. And my personal favorite place to shop for books is thrift stores. Found some pretty amazing vintage ones with awesome covers and graphics, as well as new editions too.

    Can’t wait to see it finished!

  • I agree 100% on this. It may take much longer for you to reach your end goal, but at least you’re surrounded by books that actually mean something to you.

  • I love this idea! We are in the process of turning our entire living room into a library. Estate sales, flea markets, and used book stores are great places to get bargains.

    Make sure to leave space for all the oversized design books you’ll find.

  • If you’re looking for books you actually want to read (rather than just decorative- which is fine too if that’s your thing! But be prepared for people to ask you about them when they’re admiring your shelves… just saying…) I highly recommend Book of the Month. It’s cool because you get one nice hardcover book each month and you can skip a month if none of them look interesting. The covers are often very well designed, too πŸ™‚

  • The final day (bag sales) of church garage sales are good for book hoarding. If you just want to fill your shelves, some used bookstores sell books by the linear foot to be used as props/decor.

  • Some of my favorites around Nashville are McKay’s in Bellevue area, Rhino Books on Charlotte in West Nash, and BookMan/BookWoman near Vanderbilt. There isn’t a guarantee for the best vintage books though it just really depends what’s in stock.

  • What Alanna and Kristie said. Why have stuff in your house that you don’t love or find useful?

  • I love this idea! I just had to get rid of my bookshelves, they were so full and taking up space in what used to be my art studio, now my kids’ playroom. I donated 50 books to the library and keeping my expensive art books in the garage. My son now is in a similar situation that he has a very full bookshelf. Any good ideas on what to do with kids books?

  • It is possible to buy books that you want to read AND still match your decor. One does not preclude the other. My books match my decor and I’ve read them all☺

  • If you have an idea of authors and/or titles of the books you want, you can search for used / antiquarian / first editions / etc online at sites like..
    AbeBooks
    Alibris
    thriftbooks.com
    bookfinder.com
    Powells
    I’ve bought from AbeBooks and Alibris for old/out of print books I remember from my childhood and had a great buying experience. And it’s a fun hunt!
    Oh… an idea… if you want that wonderful sliding ladder but don’t want it accessible by a little one, you could leave it attached to the high rail but make it foldable in the middle so the little one couldn’t reach. Or you could attach a removable perspex piece over the section they can reach so that it’s impossible to climb (akin to the attached pieces they put on the bunk beds in the showroom at Ikea so stop kids climbing). I’d love to see either of these as a DIY πŸ˜‰
    And low cupboards are a great idea. Our first used to pull the books off the shelves. I kid you not. They made a great ‘CLUNK’ and a great mess!
    Good luck! It’s going to be wonderful.

  • As an avid reader, it would be so sad to me to see bookshelves filled with books that you haven’t actually read or have no interest in reading. Get some book recommendations and get those books!

  • Such an awesome plan! Will be fun to see it filled up with books, and baskets for bebe toys XD and a book hunt sounds so fun! + you can always give away books later if you don’t want them anymore. πŸ™‚

  • If you are having a baby/receiving shower perhaps have a storybook theme. I had a baby shower like that. Everyone brought a favorite children’s book and wrote notes, advice, encouragement in the covers. It is a great keepsake and a way to find books you may not have otherwise purchased.

  • Check out how Emily Henderson styles bookshelves (with art) and take the pressure off having ALL books). Books will come to you organically. It will look awesome!

  • I would only put up books that I love. As far as the baby I would just buy books as they age. Build a collection then. For birthday and Christmas.

  • Betterworldbooks.com!!! Similar prices to thrift stores, free shipping no matter how much you spend (!!!) And a portion of all proceeda to go literacy funds. My goal was to read 50 books in 2016 and that sote saved my butt as I had a “hit list” but coulsnt always find them at thrift stores.

    And as for those who say not to buy books unless you read them, well this honestly sounds like a great excuse to peruse all those “100 books to read before you die” kind of lists and buy all the books you’ve ever wanted to read! Would be a fun challenge to actually get through them all!! I made my hit list from the bbc 100, standard high school reading lists and random recommendations and loved it. Happy reading!

  • I love the entire idea and I think it will suit you personally. I also like the idea of adding lights in some areas as well, but not straight across like in the second pic. I just love seeing all of the books like that too, but I know your planning on making doors. I think it’ll still look great. Check yard sales, eBay, Craigslist, Google search. I’m sure you’ll play this smart and not buy books you don’t intend to read at some point, but sometimes it’s nice to add fillers in there if the color of the spine matches your decor. 😊 I can’t wait to see the finished outcome!

  • I agree 100%….buying books just because of their color or just to fill a space defeats the purpose of a personal library. It would be so much more personal and fitting of the home if it were books that have meaning to the family.

  • In Nashville, McKays is an amazing spot for books. Be prepared to devote hours to your search because the place is massive.

    Good luck!

    Xo
    Liz

  • Yes! Except my thought is closed cabinets simply so you don’t have to reshelve books ten times a day because of a toddler!

  • I’m with you Amanda!

    Love betterworldbooks.com especially when they have their 15% off on 5 books or more sales.

    And great idea on buying books for a fun challenge like “best french novels” or similar… BTW I once rescued from the recycling bin at my condo an oldish encyclopaedia – with the sea as a subjct – for the gorgeous illustrations and ended up reading quite a bit of it. So never underestimate the power of having books on the shelves!

  • To me, the first one seems so overbearing. It’s like the books are the focal point of the room. If that’s what you’re going for, then great. But I much prefer the 2nd one. I like cabinets that close to hide bins and mess too. For cheap books? Estate sales. Always estate sales. You’ll get boxes of them for $1. Keep the ones you want and drop the rest in a library night drop…that way they can’t tell you they don’t want them but you know they are in a good home. πŸ™‚

  • Hey Elsie! So excited for your plans here. We are in the process of building built-in, floor-to-ceiling shelves on two walls in our living room too. Such a fun project! I know you said you’re looking for vintage books, and I don’t know if you specifically want the children’s books to be vintage too. But on your nursery post I left some suggestions for some of my favorite (new) children’s books. I’m a school librarian and co-own a young adult and children’s bookstore (Addendum Books in St. Paul, MN). Let me know if you’re interested in a longer list than I left before – I’d be happy to give you more suggestions! And I always feel that indie bookstores are great places to get recommendations. Is there an independent children’s bookstore near you?

  • Abebooks tends to be awesome to get second hand books – as well as the amazon marketplace. I tend to look on pinterest/google to find the prettiest edition of the book I want to buy, then look specifically for the one published in that year. πŸ™‚ (I’ve read this blog for years, but this is my first time commenting!)

  • I love the idea of floor to ceiling bookshelves. This is a dream of mine, and I already have enough books to fill it up! πŸ™‚ I think in addition to getting kids’ books, it would be a great idea to get books you’d want your daughter to grow up with. I’d pick up books for all reading levels, including some great YA fiction, and of course the classics that she’ll be able to start reading in Jr High/High School. My parents had shelves full of books that I knew I could choose from without asking, and it was really great. Also, I’d recommend getting some of those huge coffee table books with lots of pictures for when she’s a little bit older. I used to love looking through them and staring at the pictures; ones with subjects like Ancient Rome, or English Castles, or African Wildlife. Don’t get kids’ versions; regular ones are better. She’ll love the visuals, and gradually she’ll understand the text. She can grow with them. For me, it instilled a sense of wonder about the world and a taste for adventure. Have fun filling your shelves!

  • Your books don’t have to initially go with you color scheme to start out with, I find a lot of my books at thrift stores and use Laura’s tutorial on painting books, or I go old school and cover them with brown butcher paper and stamp the titles in black.

  • Love your insights on having books for different ages. I would read and draw ancient myths based on what I understood of the
    Iliad, Odissey etc:-)

  • I’m so excited for you, that’s going to look amazing! A good place to look for books is at your local library — they can sometimes have book sales where they are either purging old books, or selling donated books to raise funds. Some libraries (like mine in here in Philadelphia) even have used bookstores associated where the money goes back to support public programs and events.

  • Why not ask your readera for their 10-20 favorite adult, YA, and children’s books and go from there? It would make this a true ABM library instead of another curated blogger wall.

    Very very excited to see the results!!

  • This idea is spectacular, but please don’t rush to fill the shelves. I am a literature teacher with tons of books but my children are my true passion! This will be awesome storage and display shelves for all things kid-related as the years continue!!…children’s books on the lower shelves, keepsakes, projects she creates, photography, her arts & crafts sculptures from school, her finger-painted canvasses, her favorite wooden toys (that she will outgrow) displayed as art. Once your daughter is here, you will become deep in the throes of motherhood, madly in love with your girl, and looking back with a laugh at how you ever contemplated how to fill empty shelves with color-coordinated, unread books. πŸ™‚

  • I just love this blog so much haha. About a fortnight ago I decided to finally put in a bookcase around our doorway in the lounge room too. I had been thinking about it since we moved in three years ago and finally decided it is the only option!
    We’re planning to disguise our television amongst the shelves.
    I can’t wait to see how yours turn out xxx
    Alicia

  • And don’t forget Parnassus Books in Green Hills! Beautiful store with such a well curated collection. We always spend a wad when we walk in the door.

  • I don’t know where you stand on online book shopping because it’s SUCH a gamble when you can’t hold a book yourself, and then throw second-hand into the mix? Ah! SO http://www.thriftbooks.com/ is either going to be a hit or miss, but for the super low prices, I think it’s worth a shot. Good luck! πŸ™‚

  • I agree 100% with not buying books just for the sake of decoration. If you do that it just becomes clutter. It makes me anxious just thinking about it! I also understand not wanting to wait to fill it slowly and thoughtfully but surely you could start with first finding books that are meaningful to you, books you have either read and loved (as an adult or child) or children’s books (for the bottom shelves) like you said and also books that you WANT to read. I think books come varied enough in color and design that you could still arrange them aesthetically pleasing. Not every single thing in your home needs to follow exact color pallets least of all books. That’s just getting a little too matchy matchy for my personal taste anyway. I personally would be so much more interested in seeing a post about ways to decorate the shelves while you are waiting to fill them all with books that you slowly collect and I think that’s much more practical to your readers. 😊 I would love that!

  • How about diy book covers? You can pick books you love and books that you need and they could match your decor πŸ™‚ you could even make color classification for them and still get a pretty functional and cute look!

  • YAY book wall!!! Find some books at Goodwill, Salvation Army, yard sales, consignment sales, used book stores, Amazon and my favorite…bookdepository! πŸ˜‰

  • I would love to put something like this in my home study. I just redesigned and set up my home study using Furnishr (http://www.furnishr.com). They delivered a couch, some end tables, and a desk to make it more comfort and less business so a bookshelf wall would be the perfect addition. The only problem is, I don’t think I have that many books lol.

  • I definitely did consider them. The main reason I didn’t do closed at the bottom is because there are two rooms (right to the left of this, my office, and to the right, our den) that already have shelves like that and I wanted to have some visual variety. :))

    xx- Elsie

  • I’m not sure why so many people are worried it’s going to be all books we would never read. I’ve already started collecting and so far it’s a ton of gardening, cookbooks, 1970s craft books. All things I am very interested in.

    I’m sure I will buy SOME books just by color (from Library sales), especially for the very top since it’s 12 feet high up there, but that doesn’t mean it’s just a completely useless wall of books. Don’t worry!

    I guess I should have written this in the first place, but I am buying books that we are interested in. That’s why the bottom part is going to be mostly kids books. πŸ™‚

    xx- Elsie

  • Yes, Yes, Yes! Love McKays. If you’re even in Knoxville they have an amazing location as well.

  • Shameless plug – If you are looking for someone to do this for you, consider contacting California Closets! πŸ™‚

  • omg this is like a dreammmmm! can’t wait to see it!

    also have you been to Parnassus Books in Nashville? Great independent bookstore owned by Ann Patchett! show some love to indie bookstores if you can! <3

  • OMG yes!!! This will look so cool and I can’t wait to see how you style it! Having a library wall, or a bookshelf wall, what ever you want to call it, has always been my dream. I think it looks so cool and you will always have a book to read πŸ˜‰

  • Great project! But have you considered buying books for their content, instead of for the color of the cover? I’m definitely all into buying books with the purpose to read them, it’s a great way to decorate and you might learn something along the way too! It may even become a new passion! I mean, that’s the great thing about books: they not only have a beautiful cover, but there’s something inside as well πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to see the project finished, it will be stunning!

  • We did this very thing in our home. A lot of books are filler and a lot of books are favorites of mine. I never felt it odd that some aren’t ones I would read. I stuck those at the top πŸ˜‰ All of them are 1800s-1960s so to me it was just finding beautiful binding. I had been collecting old books since I was a child so that one day I could have a beauty and the beast room. Yeah I might not read them all, but I fail to understand why they aren’t considered decor like vases and found objects that people display. Beautiful binding is a work of art to me. Oh and here’s my shelf: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEjMGKvKaxb/

  • Oh and I forgot to say, best way to fill them quick is goodwill outlets first Saturday of the month when everything is half off. It’s a scary place and bring gloves but you’ll find tons of antique books for 10-15 cents. Completely worth the chaos of being there πŸ˜‰

  • I look forward to seeing what you decide to do. Will probably look great either way but I’d love to see an unending wall of books floor to ceiling.

  • I love the idea of a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf! As a bit of a bookworm myself, I’ve always wanted a space like that in my house.

    As for where to find books, I have ordered at least a dozen used books from AbeBooks.com. They have a great selection, they give a description of the condition the books are in before you order (all that I have received have looked almost new), they are very reasonably priced, and the shipping is quite low and sometimes even free. The only thing of note when you order is that they do ship from several different locations in the U.S., so if you order more than one at once they might be delivered at different times.

    And you said you have a baby on the way? I know you’ve mentioned that in a few other posts, so congratulations! I’m sure that will be a joyful and great learning experience for you and Jeremy. I’m excited for you guys!

  • Did Bookman/Bookwoman go out of business already?! They had books going for $1!!