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Bookcase or floating shelves?

7 years ago
last modified: 7 years ago

Hello all,

Please advise us - we are thinking of adding builtins to our fireplace (both sides). We are torn between a bookcase or base cabinets with floating shelves. My wife wants base cabinets with floating shelves as it will be a "safer" choice but the carpenter we are going to hire has suggested bookcase (without cabinets) start from the ground to 8' high.

Please see pictures of our living room. What would look better? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks in advance.


1. Enclosed shelves + cabinets: [

2. Bookcase both sides of fireplace: [

Comments (21)

  • PRO
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    What a nice space. will look fab when done. Few things,,, that mantle. whatever you choose, have him do a mantle to match the woodwork you choose. That white thing looks dinky. I really like both of your choices. Perhaps the #1 with Walnut?

    #2 is ok, but unless you have a lot of books, I don't see it working there.

  • 7 years ago
    I would drywall in the 2 triangle spaces and then build bookshelves - beef up the fireplace surround and mantle
  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    thank you so much Beth. This really helps.
    PS. we saw your reclaimed wood ceiling, soo beautiful.

  • 7 years ago
    @12karatisa - thank you. we did consider this but dry-walling the entire height and securing all electrical for it will be a huge undertaking and costly too..
  • PRO
    7 years ago

    Thanks Ag. appreciate the feedback. I still can't believe we did all that!

    Do you have any other inspiration photos for book cases you like? are you using a TV in that room? Do you have another photo that shows a few more shots of the room and adjoining space?

  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    @Beth - added 2 more pics of the entire living space. Thanks!

  • PRO
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    wow. very pretty. lovely kitchen. I think I like the idea of Walnut. Warm, rich walnut would look beautiful on the sides. You need a rug w/some color and movement. and some pillows! Don't know about those drapes. while the color is fine, they just seem so heavy for an otherwise 'light' space. does that make sense?

    i pulled this one because the tones do match those drapes and look great w/the warm walnut.

    I just love green. I have a rug like this in turquoise and it just makes the room 'happy'. this tone plays nicely w/rich wood tones and your sofas.

    what if you did the fireplace in something like this, all the way up? Then had your wood on the sides? Look at the wood shelving in this pic. you could also do something like this (half way up)

    Plymouth Estate · More Info
    maybe do a small console to the left of FP (like they have here on the right) and shelves above it,,,,and then a bookcase or other shelving on the right side. Also some artwork would liven it up a bit.

    this is the type of wood I was envisioning. And next to the black on the FP? perfection!

    Modern House Remodeling Project @ Willows · More Info

  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Wow, Beth, you are awesome. We love your ideas! Lots to digest and discuss tonite :)

    @Beth - should we use light or dark tile on the fireplace? the 1st pic has very light tile and the other is dark, almost black.

    Also, we weren't thinking of 2 different built-in types on the sides - we like your idea for cabinets with shelves on the left and bookcase on the right. All in walnut :)

    The 2 sofas in this pic will probably be replaced very soon with sofas (Nova) and we will be redoing the fireplace as well.

    Extremely torn between stone or tile for the fireplace as you shared with us in the pic. What would you recommend?

  • PRO
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ag, you guys have such a unique space. I really like it. i feel w/that shelving you want and a little tweaking, it will just take it up a notch. I absolutely love the walnut (or dark grained wood) w/black. I actually have it in my bedroom.

    It lends more of a dramatic look. Is this something you really like? Or do you guys like more of the lighter, airy feel? The two FP pics above are opposites. I can't answer which one looks best, I like them both.

    I feel like the 1st pic blends w/your kitchen, but that doesn't mean you can't have the dark contrast either! Both would work. If you don't want to commit to such a dark tile, do the light one and maybe paint the walls on either side a very dark charcoal or the black. It would surely highlight the walnut in front of it. When you tired of it you can always repaint! It's a little safer then doing tile.

    found another black tile. this looks like a smooth face ledger stone in black ostrich slate. Bonus is it's inexpensive tile. (well, compared to other choices!) but again w/the dark wood. It's just so rich looking.

    Huntington Hills Estates · More Info

    But again. It's totally up to you and what you like.

  • 7 years ago

    @Beth - Your advice has helped us so much. We ordered our rug in the same shade/pattern you shared with us, we're excited to see the new color in our living area. Our carpenter is also going to start on the shelves (left) and bookcase (on the right) very soon.

    We will be replacing our curtains with window shades and our sofas will be gone, we will be getting this sofa instead: and the beige ones will be used in the bedroom and office.

    Which color of window shade will you recommend considering the built-ins are going to be in walnut color and the fireplace - which we can't decide but will wait until the shelves are in.

  • 7 years ago

    I feel like a low cabinet with open shelves will work much better in your space than two 8-foot bookcases that end way below the soaring ceiling -- all your examples are in spaces that don't have the lovely architecture that you have, and thus are working with different pros and cons than yours. This is one of the closest I could find:

    Marin Bunglow · More Info

    and, as you can see, they have sourrounding lines to follow, and are making no attempt at adding a symmetric element to an asymmetric space.

    Here's another relevant example -- their ceiling is still lower than yours, so maybe your higher "spaces above" will look less silly than these, but still, it gives you a sense of what you're thinking of doing...

    Contemporary Living Room · More Info

    This one has cabinets and shelves, which I think feels a bit less rigid in fighting the architecture, with no stiff top moulding.

    Grandin Residence · More Info

    Here's a more symmetric installation, but with a symmetric ceiling too (and again a natural aligning boundary nearby):

    Modern Rustic Refined Ranch · More Info

    Anyway, some visual fodder for your deciding. Hope you find just the right design!

  • 7 years ago

    I'm 100% with Bev on this one. Symmetrical chest/cases on either side with no shelves is so much cleaner (and less to dust!).

  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    @acm, @BeverlyLFADeziner, @CF - thank you all for your inputs. Certainly adds another dimension for us to think about and obviously its quite a nice way to spend much less to get a good look. We will hold the carpenter for a few more days, pick a readymade cabinet/table from pier1 and see and share how it looks. Thanks so much everyone!

    We have also ordered these pendants for the vaulted ceiling, hopefully they look good. Will share the pics as soon as they are in.

    What would be your recommendation for the fireplace and window shades? Tile or stone fireplace, light/dark window shades?

  • 7 years ago

    I very much agree with not getting bookcases if you don't have something meaningful to put in them, preferably lots of books that you love. In general, I don't recommend getting any kind of storage units if you don't really need it. You could even just do simple tables on the sides for a few choice items

  • 7 years ago

    wow Tems, wish I was good at photoshop, takes out so much of guess work. We are now debating for not doing the woodwork in the living room and use tables/cabinets instead with some art and family pictures.

    Our concern now is the fireplace itself - do we put a smooth tile or stone instead and what color? Should we do it all the way to the ceiling or only partially around the fireplace?

    Smooth tile:

    Parkwoods Home · More Info


    Bettendorf, Iowa - Jennifer Home (by Windmiller Design) · More Info


    X-Line 014 | living room · More Info

  • PRO
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ag, reach out to Danille or Rebecca P. over at I've ordered many items from there and just referred another Houzzer who is getting a roman blind from them. (please drop my name if you do,thx). Their prices will beat home depot or they will do a price match for you.

    There are so many options. Do you like the woven woods? Cellulars? take a look over there and see what you like.

    What if you a mid century modern console for the larger of the spaces? Since you like CB2,

    although, you could always look on Craigslist for an actual mcm walnut credenza or something. Just look around. That way you could do some nice art above it.(I actually refinish these guys so I know how cool it would look. you aren't near L.A. are you? lol)

    as for the tiling, I guess budget would be up to you. I think doing either way will be fine. Going all the way up is keeping more w/the modern feel. halfway w/a wood mantel lends a bit of the traditional vibe, with contemporary tones. Either one works.

  • 7 years ago

    I, personally, would not commit to stone or tile. I would use an accent colour and paint!!! Look..I just saved you $2000 + ! Tile and stone can get Paint can get dated too, except it's waaaaay less expensive and easier to change out. The problem with both tile and stone is that there are very few choices that are timeless...if you go for something 'trendy' you may hate it in 6 months..or worse..the following week. I would either paint the main fireplace or paint the walls beside it in a dramatic accent colour.

  • 6 years ago

    You could enlarge your mantel by adding another board -- wider so your mantel will be deeper -- and have that board extend beyond the fireplace on both sides until it reaches a wall ... to become your (floating) shelf:

  • PRO
    last year

    I’m with your wife. Given the multiple heights of the adjacent ceilings, bookcases that make a hard stop at 8’ will look awkward, IMO. Keep the shelves open so it flows better.

  • last year

    You already have so much white that I would suggest wood cabinetry with matching wood shelving to frame the fireplace. A rug in a pattern or color for the living room area would look good and add some color. And please do add some art above the fireplace and elsewhere.

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