The bookcase is easily the most essential storage unit in any home. Although its name implies that it should be used for books, the versatile piece is also used to organize a variety of everyday items, from electronics and craft supplies to dishes and even clothing. Plus, they tend to be easy to find and affordable.
While built-in wall shelving systems may provide added storage space, their installation is far more labor intensive. And, you can achieve a similar "systems" look by placing a few of the same bookcases next to each other.
Even though the style and size of a bookcase depends on the room it will go in and what you're looking for, there are some general tips to keep in mind when shopping for one. Here are the basics below.
Think about material. From solid hardwood to metal, bookcases are available in a handful of materials. Wood veneers (boards made up of thin layers of wood) and plywood are commonly used -- and are the most cost-effective. However, materials such as metals (iron, stainless steel) and solid hardwoods (maple, oak and walnut) are sturdier, but they tend to be more expensive. The material you choose will also depend on the style of your room. Our pick: Wendel Bookcase, from The Container Store.
Double check dimensions. Bookcases vary greatly in sizes, so it's important to choose one that fits your room. Always take the dimensions of the room in which the bookcase will go. If there is a window, don't forget to measure the space between the window and the wall. Take these measurements with you when shopping and check them against the sizes of bookcases. The key is to ensure that a bookcase is sized so that it doesn't jut out too far from a wall, impeding traffic flow.
Adjustable shelves. Many bookcases come with adjustable shelving, which allows for a bit of customization. These are especially useful if you have large books or are considering placing larger objects in the shelves. Simply remove the shelf and take out the supports that hold it up. Our pick: Ameriwood bookcase, from Walmart.
Other uses for open bookcases. Open bookcases are accessible from the front and the back. In a spacious living area, a creative use for an open bookcase is to turn it into a room divider. Just place it perpendicular to a wall. Depending on the depth of the shelves, you may be able to to store more books this way with the spines facing out on both sides. Our pick: Expedit bookcase, from IKEA.
Consider doors. The best thing about bookcases with doors is that it keeps dust from collecting on whatever is inside. Wood doors are also great for hiding clutter, but if you're using a bookcase as a display for dishes or interesting objects like figurines and souvenirs, you may want to consider sliding glass doors. Our pick: Black Sliding Door bookcase, from Cost Plus World Market.
Click through the slideshow below for our favorite bookcases in the marketplace now. And let us know in comments what's important for you when it comes to a looking for a bookcase.