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6 Useful Tips for Shelving Your Home Library

Home libraries are a real point of emphasis for our customers. The books you read and choose to keep and display are an important part of any home or apartment, and a major traffic point for residents and visitors alike. The following are a few general suggestions and thoughts relating to shelving your own library:

1. Go Floor to Ceiling

0609s017 Bookshelf

There are few things more satisfying to any reader than a floor to ceiling bookshelf, well stocked and well-loved. A wall of books, library-dense, personal and reflecting your history, your taste, and your priorities. At Smart Furniture we made sure to provide the materials and structures you need to achieve the book lovers ultimate dream library.

Floor to ceiling shelving reflects scale of course, but it also makes it worthwhile to seriously organize the books (and DVDs, CDs, what have you) you own in a meaningful way - when the canvas is large, categorization becomes more useful. Art books can have a shelf of their own (maybe a low one so you can organize from large to small, or maybe in the middle so their colorful spines and large names draw attention), your college textbooks another. Your favorite literature or your favorite authors can bunk together, or you could organize simply by height or color. Just don't alphabetize - you'll lose your mind.

A wall of books is also just that - a wall. The simple act of placing the shelving can completely remake a room or a home. That is especially true of free-standing shelving that is used to divide rooms or create new walls. Like any wall, the floor to ceiling bookshelf can be designed and customized (and with more than just books).

With Smart Shelves and other major units you can clear space in the center of the shelving unit for a television - and use surrounding cubbies for DVDs, video games, and other electronic storage. Or use a smaller open space to hold a stereo, and keep your music collection always at hand (and out of the way). Pictures in frames, serious art, fabric - anything you can imagine on a wall can be done in a fun way with a wall of books.

A wall of books is a great way to create spaces. For instance, in an apartment where two roommates are sharing a large bedroom space, a shelving wall is a personal and effective way of dividing territory. One set of books, media and personal effects on one side and an entirely different set on another. Book walls can be used in the same way to create offices, different sections of a living room, and anything else you can think of.

Floor to ceiling bookshelves are the ultimate luxury item for a book lover, and a great way to design and customize your home and your rooms even if you aren't. With the materials and low prices on offer at Smart Furniture, there's no reason to deny yourself. Get floor to ceiling, and get the best bookshelf money can buy.

2. Children vs. Adults

There is a very real difference in how the bookshelves and storage cubicles of a child and an adult are shelved. Let us call this the Suess-Salinger divide.

The child's bookshelf is one of their most personal spaces. It holds books that are loved not for their literary merits, not for their skillful characterization or measured prose, but for the characters, the voice, the thrill of reading them and having them read aloud. These are the kinds of books that will always have a place on a readers bookshelf, but will not often dominate.

The child's bookshelf should reflect the personality and character of the child and the books they read. Floating shelves, for instance, are perfect for the bedrooms of children. They are small in terms of vertical and floor space (few children need a large bookshelf), they are unique and playful, and they can be arranged at an appropriate height. They also come in a wide variety of styles and colors, giving the child a great chance to make some early decisions about what they do and don't like - about design.

The adult bookshelf is of course a horse (of course) of a different color. Here the reader displays their favorites, just as before, but as their taste has changed and matured so has their material.

Cat in the Hat Catcher in the Rye
Place Holder At left, a well-known "gateway" book

Here Stephen King replaces Nancy Drew, Ender's Game supplants Harry Potter. Here are books cherished not just for their pleasure but for the very things that make the adult world so alien and so alluring to a reading child - emotional fullness, love, sex, war, double meanings, things unspoken and unsaid - the stuff of great literature.

These shelves are not usually as jejune as those you would want to see in a child's room, but they certainly can be - they options are limitless, in terms of design and in terms of the books themselves.

Kids Bookshelves

It's important to curate both of these bookshelves not only to maximize their particular powers, but to have them relate to each other.

The well read child will inevitably take their first steps toward serious reading by investigating the contents of their parents shelves (or of the library shelves). So the advanced parent will arrange their own personal stache to be attractive and instructive to the child.

First, consider height. A young child (and indeed any human) will relate to what they see at eye level. What they do not have to make an effort to see, in other words - but that's a dissertation for another day. Place your classic reading material, as well as the books and novels you know your child might enjoy (and yet are particular to their age group/mental maturity) and plant those seeds where they can be seen. For a young reader there is nothing so thrilling as a raid of the adult bookshelf, unless it's a raid that succeeds wildly because of the exceptional and eye-openingly mature qualities of the book in question.

By shelving strategically the wily parent can curate a wonderful reading list for their child without ever pushing it on them or insisting on their ingestion or enjoyment. For just as nothing is quite so pleasurable to the reader as a stolen moment in the romantic climes of adult literature, there is nothing quite so deflating as to feel that there parents are little different than their language arts teachers. Don't insist! Merely show the way with handsome and artfully arranged bookshelves.

3. Style and Substance: Books, DVDs, CDs, Games

A bookshelf is, by definition, a shelf meant for holding books. Of course, we modern humans who have grown up or been swallowed by the digital age shake our heads fondly, even bemusedly, at the originators of language who suspected few other uses for those most sturdy and indispensable pieces of furniture.

Nowadays a bookshelf is hardly complete without an iPod charging station, a stereo, a row of CDs (LPs if you're awesome), and of course DVDs, Blu Rays, and an array of framed photographs, mementos, chotchkes, and what-have-you. Or is it?

Wonder Wall Shelf

Here a divide opens up. Are you a purist or are you a modern happening cat? Are you a modern happening cat with a purist streak who wants to appear literary? The options are as dizzying as the variety of objects with which you can stuff your shelf. There are a million ways to organize your bookshelf, but which one is right for you? And which one is right for the person you want your spouse, children and/or friends to think you are? An examination:

The Purist. Books only, books forever, books on books on books. Boom. Make sure that you have at least one special edition, and not too many hardbacks or you'll look just a bit too on the nose.

The Sinner. Mostly books, but with a few impurities thrown in there to let the people know you're fallible - you're real. An iPod charging stations/iPod player is perfect here, as are a few mementos from your world travels. A board game is a sophisticated choice.

The All In One. The charging station, the manuals and guides, the Blu Rays and DVDs - you've got everything and a bag of potato chips.

Gen X/Hipster. Oh you like records? Me too brosephus. Whoa, no way, you've got Animal Collective in here? Let's take a spin. Oh wow, you're into Douglas Coupland and Dave Eggers? They're cool, but have you heard of this guy Chuck Klosterman?

The Heretic. No real book presence - unless you count photo albums, flower pots, and the complete set of the Left Behind/Harry Potter novels.

4. Floating Shelves vs. Cases vs. Systems

Floating Bookshelves

Okay, let's get serious for a moment. The choice between floating shelves, standard bookcases, and major systems is probably one of the most important you're going to make (when deciding how to shelve your library). Floating shelves give you more freedom in terms of layout, height, positions, etcetera.

Standard bookshelves have the beguiling nature of a classic, and they come in so many unique flavors that's you can easily avoid the “boring” label. System bookshelves, like the wall of books discussed earlier in this article, or like some of the creations our customers have created with our Smart Shelves, are a big step to take and can be the central design element of the room they're in, or indeed the home or apartment they serve.

Floating shelves. Floating shelves appear to hang on the wall unsupported. They are a thoroughly modern way of creating bookshelves, and of storing everything from CDs to pictures to art to toothbrushes. They come in a wide range of materials and an even larger range of expressive styles. Glass shelving, wood shelving, metal shelving - shelving that melds all three together, shelving that seems to disappear into the wall.

Standard Bookcase

Floating shelves are an ever growing subset of the bookshelf market, and they really make a statement. They're perfect for smaller libraries, multi-purpose shelving systems, and homes and apartments where floor space is at an absolute premium. At Smart Furniture we carry a big selection of floating shelves, from design firms like Classique, Landa, Kartell, and Umbra. You can easily choose the one that's right for your home, or your design, and make it your own.

Classic Bookshelves. There's one thing you can say about a classic - it never goes out of style. And the same is true of the standard bookshelf. Of course, at Smart Furniture we have bookshelves that go far beyond the definition of "standard" - we have work by Steelcase, BDI, Blu Dot, Elemental Living, and more. All these brands speak to a personal style and aesthetic, while at the same time retaining all their essential functionality.

The classic bookshelves at Smart Furniture can extend vertically, horizontally, equally in both directions. Often the shelves can be set at a height you prefer, and the shelves customized in terms of color, stain, even material.

Shelving Systems. The mama-jamas, if you will. These are the bad boys who can help you organize your life, subdivide your home into a few different rooms or nooks, shelve practically everything you could think of, and be as customizable in terms of shape and size as you could possibly want.

Our Smart Shelves are the premiere example of this kind of unit. They're bookshelves, of course (and can help you build the dreamed-of book wall we talked about earlier) but they're much more than that. In combination with other elements they're also entertainment centers, frames for your art, photos and memorabilia, and a stereo system. The possibilities are limitless.

5. Adjustable Shelving

If there is one truism about book collections (or movie collections, or indeed any collection), it's that after the time in your life when you mother can no longer force you to cull, it's only going to grow. You're only going to keep adding to the amount of books (both read and to-be-read) that you've got, and there's no end in sight. Of course books aren't the only thing that you store in your bookcase. How do you make room for new framed photographs, new souvenirs and keepsakes, new potted plants, electronics, and so on? How do you plan your bookshelves to accommodate this simple fact of life? The answer is in adjustable shelving.

Yes, at a certain point you're just going to have to buy another bookcase. But in the short term a great solution can be found in bookshelves that can be quickly and easily adjusted to take on more volume. The Currency Tall Bookcase and the Savannah Bookcase are two great options. One holds 100 pounds per shelf, and the other, well the other is not quite as robust, or as expensive.

At Smart Furniture we're all about versatility, flexibility, and creativity. We want our products to be easy to manipulate as possible for each of our customers - we believe in putting design in your hands. Adjustable bookshelves are just one more way that we strive to hit that goal.

6. It's Not Paranoia If They're Really Judging You

You Cannot Escape The Postmodern Condition of Intellectual and Creative Self-Consciousness, So Do Not Even Try

Bookshelves are more than just a utility. They serve a valuable purpose of course in shelving your library, but they are more than that - they also display your library (and of course everything else you choose to display along with it) for all to see. Naturally, you want your shelves looking the best they can be.

In the post modern world, what you wear, what you display, and what you do all combine into an image. Most folks are pretty self conscious about this front, and do their best to project their idealized self out into the world for all to see. Bookshelves are just one more way that self-consciousness and public curation can combine to exercise control over how you organize and present your life. But (in this particular case) that's not a bad thing!

A well-curated bookshelf is a pleasure to the owner and a similar pleasure to the viewer. Your library can be arranged to tell a story, or to create a series of associations in the mind of the person looking on. It can be suggestive of your thoughts about reading and literature, and point viewers in unexpected directions. Most of all it gives everybody something to look at and talk about when it's the very beginning of a party and everyone is a bit uncomfortable.

Freud said that thoughts, when put side by side, are often very much like letters of the alphabet. If one thought is A, and other is B, they come together to make AB, a coherent or at least related whole. Your personal library is very similar. If you shelve it according to that kind of associative thinking, you can turn it into a kind of self-referential art project, and maybe even learn something about yourself you didn't know before.

Maybe you read The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger when you were in freshman English, and you loved it (that is the appropriate reaction). So you went out and searched for other Salinger books, and found 9 Stories and Franny & Zooey. You like them too, and now the three form a coherent thought on your bookshelf. Arranged by author but also by association - three letters that spell a word. You became very interested in short stories after plowing through those last two books, and you found an anthology - inside was the story Greasy Lake by T.C. Boyle, who you then realized was the greatest living 19th century novelist.

Leather Books
May your home library be filled
with many leather bound books

You started tearing through his (considerable) oeuvre, when you stumbled upon an audio recording of him reading the short story Bullet in the Brain by Tobais Wolff. So you flipped to Wolff and read his stunning non-fiction account of the Vietnam war, which lead to biographies of LBJ, Nixon, and Short Timers by Gustav Hasford, which was adapted into Full Metal Jacket. And on and on and on.

Of course you can also sprinkle your shelf with a hundred other personally meaningful items and valuables - souvenirs, electronics, photos, you name it. The point is a presentable and relatable bookshelf is a quality bookshelf, and when you're taking the time to put your library in it's place, you have an opportunity to make a personal statement, an art project, an effective filing system, or simply a conversation starter.

To the shelves!