Difference Between a Bookcase and Bookshelf

Bookcase vs. Bookshelf

Choosing a Bookcase or Bookshelf

Bookcases and bookshelves give you a place to store and display novels, family photos and other precious keepsakes. Although these furnishings serve the same purpose, they each have their own unique qualities. To decide between a bookcase or a bookshelf, you’ll need to determine which one fits your layout, suits your needs and complements your sense of style.

Overview

In this post, you’ll find tips to help you:

Choose between a bookcase and a bookshelf to provide a stylish boost for your layout.
Choose between a bookcase and a bookshelf to provide a stylish boost for your layout.

What’s the Difference Between a Bookcase and a Bookshelf?

Although many people use the terms bookcase and bookshelf interchangeably, these two furnishings have their own unique differences. A typical bookcase has three closed panels encasing your novels and trinkets on all sides, while a bookshelf usually has an open or ladder-style frame. However, you can also find closed bookshelves and open-frame, backless bookcases at some stores.

Most bookcases have a closed-off, cabinet-style frame, while bookshelves usually have more of an open design.
Most bookcases have a closed-off, cabinet-style frame, while bookshelves usually have more of an open design.

Bookcase and Bookshelf Size Differences

Since bookcase and bookshelf designs vary, you can find both furnishings in several different sizes. Bookcases are usually larger than a standard bookshelf, but some small bookcases have a low profile and stand at roughly hip height. On the flip side, bookshelves tend to have a sleek, simple silhouette and can either be tall, towering units or a single wall-mounted shelf.

Price Differences Between Bookcases and Bookshelves

Certain types of bookshelves and bookcases may be more expensive than others, depending on their sizes, materials and design features. For instance, lightweight metal or plastic bookshelves and units with light or dark wood veneers often cost less than pieces with delicate glass or solid wood frames.

The cost of your bookshelf or bookcase typically depends on the size and design of the unit.
The cost of your bookshelf or bookcase typically depends on the size and design of the unit.

Decorating with Bookshelves and Bookcases

Depending on the room you’re decorating and how you plan to arrange the furniture, a bookcase or bookshelf may be a better option for your design. Consider some of the following suggestions for selecting bookshelves and bookcases to outfit your rooms

Bookcase and Bookshelf Placement Options

Establishing an unchanging layout promotes a focused, efficient vibe in designated work and study areas. Larger bookcases are a common choice for decorating home offices, libraries or dens. You could also use them to keep your living room organized if you have an extensive literature, vinyl or Blu-ray collection.

Due to their weight and size, tall library bookcases usually work best against spacious blank walls. On the other hand, some low-profile units might fit behind a high-back sofa or beneath a wall-mounted TV.

Place your bookcases and shelves against a wall, leaving enough space between the unit and other furniture in the room.
Place your bookcases and shelves against a wall, leaving enough space between the unit and other furniture in the room.

Lightweight bookshelves are perfect for those who frequently rearrange their furniture to suit their changing style preferences, making them a smart choice for bedrooms. Compact bookshelf units also provide storage in small spaces like kitchens, and tiny reading nooks.

Bookshelf and Bookcase Types, Styles and Finishes

Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons of choosing a bookcase vs. a bookshelf, you can select a model that suits your needs and complements your interior design. Although bookcases tend to have a more traditional look while bookshelves usually work best in modern layouts, both these furnishings are available in various styles.

If you are looking to complement your chic contemporary layout, consider a light gray or striking white bookcase with mesh side panels and angled iron legs. Want a lightweight option for a classic at-home study or rustic condo den? Set up a tall brown or black bookshelf with an open slatted frame. Whatever your style preferences, you can discover bookshelves and bookcases to suit your tastes.

Depending on your interior design style and color scheme, a classic bookcase may be a more suitable option for your layout than a modern bookshelf.
Depending on your interior design style and color scheme, a classic bookcase may be a more suitable option for your layout than a modern bookshelf.

Certain types of bookcases and bookshelves might be a better option for your chic setup than others. Consider some of the following options to determine what bookshelf or bookcase design best suits your style and storage needs:

  • Barrister Bookcases: A barrister bookcase is essentially a cabinet-style structure with glass doors. Each shelf is a stand-alone unit, so people often designate each section for a specific item like leather-bound first editions, collector’s items and storage baskets.
  • Etagere Bookcase: If you’re going for a sleek, breezy look, an etagere bookshelf could be an excellent option for you. People looking to decorate their bookshelves with small trinkets and framed photos typically choose these open, lightweight pieces.
  • Ladder Bookcase: Sleek and chic ladder bookshelves feature three to five tiers between a pair of narrow beams. Despite their slim silhouettes, these furnishings offer plenty of space for small decor items like potted plants, lamps and folded throw blankets.
  • Corner Bookshelf: As the name suggests, a corner bookshelf has an angular design that makes it easy to tuck into a corner of your room. Sleek, clean lines and simple frame make them great for modest spaces like apartment living rooms and tiny home offices.
  • Floating Bookshelves: Need practical shelving for a limited layout? Floating or hanging bookshelves are the ultimate space savers. These wall-mounted bookshelves let you keep your floor space free for other furniture like poufs and ottomans, bean bags and small accent tables.
  • Cube Bookcase: Perfect for college students, cube bookcases help make organization easy. A collection of individual compartments lets you put books, photos, figurines, storage bins and baskets in their own designated spot.
Be sure to choose a bookshelf or bookcase with the dimensions and roomy compartments you need.
Be sure to choose a bookshelf or bookcase with the dimensions and roomy compartments you need.

Ultimately, your decision between a bookcase vs. a bookshelf comes down to personal preference. Both options are available in an array of finishes, various sizes and a wide range of casual and elegant designs, so finding the perfect pieces for you can be a breeze! Use the tips in this post to guide you as you shop for a beautiful bookshelf or bookcase for your home.

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