Another of our spring projects this year is moving our high schooler into our college kid's old bedroom, and turning her bedroom into a guestroom. We'll probably recycle most of the furnishings from the college kid's room for the guestroom, but it's time I replaced the ancient particle board bookcase he used for eighteen years with something a bit smaller and guest-friendly. Of course there has to be a bookcase in the guestroom; to me a room without books is boring and lifeless.
The problem with bookcases are that 90% of them are basically designed to resemble open-fronted rectangles, rather like refrigerator boxes with built-in shelves. Functional, yes, inspirational and/or decorative, not especially. While I appreciate the many utilitarian shelves I use for storing my collection, for a guestroom I'd like something different, maybe quirky or arty and more fun than a big box (without being so weird it gives our guests nightmares.) It would be really neat if someone designed bookcases with themes from genres, series or even individual titles, wouldn't it?
CustomFurnitureOnline.com's prices for their handmade furnishings are most definitely beyond the reach of my budget, but two of the bookcases on their site caught my eye. This first one reminded me of that old nursery rhyme that started off with "There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile . . . " Visually it's wacky, fun and appealing, and it looks as if it would fit in the same space as a traditional bookcase. I think this crooked charmer would work great in a child's room, too. My only reservation (aside from the hefty price tag) is the narrowing of each shelf at one end; you'd likely only be able to fit paperbacks or some low-profile art object on that side. Also the slanting of the books might bother some people who prefer to read non-tilted spines.
Another, smaller design offered on their site is this three-shelf unit that includes two front braces either carved from or carved to resemble tree branches. I liked this shelving unit because it is more suitable for limited space (the room we'll be making over is the smallest bedroom in the house.) The open sides and curving front braces also help it avoid that refrigerator-box feel; it made me think of the great treehouse from Swiss Family Robinson. I'm not particularly in love with the appearance of the wood they used for the backing and shelves, though, because it looks a lot like the cheap plastic veneer-particle board stuff they use for bookcases you can buy for thirty bucks from Wal-Mart. I think a darker wood would have contrasted better with the prettier front branch-shaped braces.
21st-design.com offers this unique Wintertree design bookcase that I instantly imagined right at home in any kid's library or school media center (the first book I'd put on it would be Where the Wild Things Are. It's stark enough to work just as well in some artist's loft in Soho, too. And wouldn't it be great if you could stretch a hammock between two of these bookcases? I'd probably spend every afternoon curled up there with a book. The problem here is the height; I'm guessing that short folks like me would only be able to reach the first two or three shelves. Also, stability -- unless the base is heavily weighted, it would probably be easy to to tip over and topple this tree.
Iroonie.com has one of the topsy-turvey bookcases that I've seen used by some publisher somewhere (can't remember off the top of my head now.) It sets the traditional bookcase on point, something we quilters do with patchwork to get a different perspective, so any of Jennifer Chiaverini's Elm Creek Quilts novels would look at home in this. In fact I can think of dozens of geometric quilt patchwork designs that would make wonderful bookcases. You'd need a lot of wall space, however, to accommodate a good-size version of this design because the base ends up being so wide. This time the incline of the book spines actually bothers my eye; I don't like the look of that.
Since my guy and I grew up by the sea, when I found this boat bookcase on Etsy I immediately felt lust in my heart. I like everything about it: the craftsmanship, the contrasts between the natural wood and the painted outer hull panels, the combination of functionality with art and the quirkiness of a boat-shaped bookcase. It's also a visual metaphor for exactly how books can whisk us off on exciting journeys. When you look at something like this as a theme it inspires you; you could literally build an entire room around this one bookcase -- and promises to be a lot more fun than just going with colors, patterns or furnishing styles. That said, as much as I like the boat bookcase, Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea is not the look that I want for this room.
So I'm still looking around, but I'm sure when I see the right bookcase I'll know it. Or maybe I'll design something myself based on themes from my books. I could do a spaceship with shelves for StarDoc, a suit of medieval armor for the Darkyn, a double helix for the Kyndred . . . makes me wish I was a carpenter.
What sort of bookcase(s) do you have in your favorite reading space? Have you come up with a unique way to make a place for your book collection? Let us know in comments.