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Bookshelves & Cabinet Furniture

The beauty of bookshelves and cabinets lies in their adaptability. They become whatever you want them to be in your home. Bookshelves can become room dividers, storage cabinets can become entryway solutions and both can be combined to create a modular home office set up. At Pottery Barn, we love to create furniture with multiple functionalities. We’ll give you tips on how to choose the best bookshelf or cabinet for your needs in addition to a few inspirational ideas of where to use the pieces around the house.


Before buying a bookshelf or cabinet, decide what you want to put in it. That will certainly determine the sturdiness of the piece. If you need a bookshelf for heavy books, you’ll want a piece of furniture with thick shelves. The thicker the shelves, the less they’ll sag or bend. Also consider the legs. Shelves with metal side bars and glass shelves are ideal for holding beautiful decorative objects, but less appropriate for reference books. Always consider using the anti-tip hardware that comes along with your purchase for safety.

Backed or Backless

When it comes to sturdiness, sometimes it doesn’t matter whether a bookshelf or cabinet has a back or not. A backed piece of furniture is more for keeping items on the shelf or in the cabinet and also for aesthetic reasons. Many backless shelves, also called open shelves, are extremely sturdy and able to hold heavy items. Always check the weight capacity of the piece of furniture you’re selecting. For example, an open bookshelf made of wood and iron can hold up to a hefty 200 pounds. Regardless of if it's backed or open or how much weight you’re putting on the furniture, also consider an anti-tip kit for a piece that you’re putting against a wall. Many shelves with backs also have cutouts for cord management when placed against a wall.

Space Considerations

Do you have a naked corner that needs to be filled? Turn it into a display corner with a multi-shelf solution and add onto it with straight matching ladder shelves to create an L-shaped wall of display and storage space. What about that empty wall in your living room? Turn it into a wall suite by putting two or more cabinets topped with bookshelves next to each other to make a distinctive piece of storage. Fill the lower half with heavier items such as books and dishes and create an artistic display on the bookshelves. For a home office, consider a modular wall suite with coordinating filing cabinets to create a full office suite with a polished, professional appearance. Cabinets can be configured to hold both legal- and letter-size files. The glides can be removed for regular storage.

To create a room divider using bookshelves or cabinets, consider either backed or open pieces. Create a wall suite to divide dining and living space, for example. Use a wall suite with bottom cabinetry to carve out an entryway in a home where the front door opens directly into the living room. Or gang together two or three 29" high double door glass cabinets and place them to create a half wall for an entryway. Place a sofa with a low back on the opposite side of the cabinets to hide the cabinetry backs. For an airier room division, use sturdy open shelving units and fill them with plants and well-edited and stable decorative objects that are safely placed on the shelves for partial obstruction between rooms.

Bookshelves and cabinets help make a house a home by displaying beloved objects and storing items for safe-keeping. A bookshelf offers clues about your personality and cabinets can help organize your life. Our designs make them even easier to integrate into your decor.