Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little libraries: 23 small-space book storage solutions

One of the biggest tasks in unpacking and organizing my new place was getting the book situation under control. Both my roommate and I are big readers (I gravitate toward sci-fi and horror, my roomie likes her romance), and paring down our collections would just be too painful. I managed to cram most of my books and some of hers onto my one, giant industrial shelf – the pic above is one my roommate snapped while I was dividing my books by genre, author, and chronological publishing date. (I ALMOST made myself organize them by the Dewey Decimal System, but that was too OCD even for me.)

With the shelf full, our remaining books sit in bankers boxes in the laundry room. While trying to figure out how to store and organize the remainder of our library, I came across some great suggestions for keeping books in a small apartment.

If You Can Drill Into Your Wall...

Bookcases eat up space while at the same time remaining limited in the amount of storage they provide. In a small space, it's better to just ditch the standalone bookcase and opt instead for wall-mounted shelving – if that's kosher with your landlord. Wall-mounted shelves are highly customizable without the heavy footprint. Install shelves that run the entire length of the wall and all the way up to the ceiling to maximize available storage.

If you don't want (or can't) dedicate a whole wall for shelving, a shelf running around the perimeter of the room close to the ceiling provides out-of-the-way storage.

Get into those corners! This cool, industrial pipe shelving is a great DIY that makes use of usually-wasted space.

If you want to get some vertical storage but don't have a lot of horizontal space, using spice racks to store books facing outward keeps things close to the wall, not jutting out into the room.

Finally, if you've got some cool hardbacks and want to turn them into works of art, Umbra's "invisible shelf" makes your books appear to be floating midair!

Fake Built-Ins

Built-ins are so classy. They're also a great compromise between a standalone bookcase and a wall of shelving. You'll still have to drill into the wall a little bit for stability, but not as much as with wall-mounted shelves. They're also just that much fancier; you can add crown molding or paint the backs, like the beautiful blue below.

Non-Bookcase Storage Furniture

There are tons of furniture options for bookworms out there; name a piece of furniture and someone's made a version that will store your tomes! Some you can DIY, some you can purchase, and some (like the bookcase headboard above) can be a mix of both (with a little creative arranging thrown in).

Got a stack of books by your bed for when you're winding down at the end of the day? Brookstone has you covered. But available storage space like this leaves you in danger of tsundoku – the Japanese word for buying books but not reading them, and letting them pile up unread on shelves and nightstands!

Prove your small-space mastery by combing an already space-saving loft bed with storage in the stairs.

More for magazines than books, this fun DIY stool gives those old copies of Domino a second, useful life.

If you wish you could just live in a library, you'll be that much closer to your fantasy with an authentic library cart. Purchasing them new is kind of spendy, so check Craigslist or surplus stores for better deals.

With some creative repurposing, a giant wooden cable spool is turned into a wheel-o'-books.


These repurposed wooden crates are much, much cooler than cardboard banker boxes. You can always just dump your books into an appropriately vintage-looking crate, or you can get more creative by turning them into a coffee or side table. Either way, you'll get an inexpensive new piece with lots of storage.

Unexpected Locations

Don't limit yourself to the living room! Books can be stored anywhere, from the hallway to the bedroom to the kitchen to just any ol' place you can squeeze 'em in!

Stacks and Stacks

They're stacked like this on purpose, see? Magazines always show coffee tables or etageres stacked with elegant, arty books, so pick out your best-looking editions and pile them up! And don't be afraid of stacking them high or using the floor, either. If you say you did it on purpose, it's not messy – it's artistic.

Maximize the Shelves You Have

This is going to be one of my own next projects. My steel bookshelf has very, very deep shelves and I have books in rows two-deep. By elevating the back row, I'll still be able to easily see my complete collection. IKEA's EXPEDIT has quite deep cubes, so if you have one of those, the hack above would be perfect.


  1. don't forget cute or homemade pull/slide out open boxes/drawers under your bed, futon, the space areas-anything on legs.


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