Choosing Custom Built-in or Freestanding Bookcases
If you’re having difficulty choosing between custom built-in and freestanding bookcases for a room in your home, here are two fundamental questions to ask yourself:
Do you want to take your bookcases with you should you move or treat them as a permanent improvement to your house? What is true for cabinetry for your flat-screen TVs and media centers is also true for custom bookcases. Custom built-in bookcases will add beauty and value to your home but are best considered home improvements. Free-standing custom bookcases, like freestanding cabinets and stands for your TV, are recommended if you do plan on taking your investments with you.
Do you anticipate adding or subtracting shelving units to the room in the future? You should always plan your custom project to your needs but be aware that your needs may change. You can easily add or remove freestanding bookshelf units to a room. However, while you may be able to add or remove individual shelves to built-in bookshelves, adding or removing built-in bookshelf units would involve another custom remodeling project.
Beyond these two considerations, however, you should ask yourself: what kind of space are you trying to create with your custom bookshelves?
A formal library, for example, has a different visual impact than a reading area in a corner of a room. Wall-to-wall bookcases will give a room a strong visual definition, like these custom built-in Spalted birch wall-to-wall bookcases by Woodward Woodworks that replace neutral wall space and visually push into the room.
In contrast, a freestanding bookcase like this Mission style oak bookcase by The Wooden Knot can be a piece in the ensemble of a room. The wall and wainscoting of the room are visible around this bookcase. Although the bookcase still pushes into the room, the negative space around the bookcase marks it distinctly and brings a more open sensation to the room.
Does this mean built-in bookcases always define and push into a room and freestanding bookcases are always ensemble pieces that add a sense of openness to a room? Absolutely not. Whether you decide you want to define a room or add a piece to a room ensemble, both custom built-in and freestanding bookcases will give you options. Here is a lovely example of a built-in that functions like an ensemble piece. This custom cherry bookshelf with ladder by Hudson River Woodworks, LLC, was designed to turn an unused wall section into usable space without making the footprint of the room smaller. This built-in creates a discrete functional space that is also visually striking and distinct from the rest of the living room.
At first glance, the custom finished cherry bookcase by Sawdust Ltd. that defines this room appears to be a built-in but is actually a freestanding bookcase. The supports for the bookcase are in the front instead of the back so in case of an earthquake the unit will fall backwards towards the wall. The bookcase is held in place by pressure screws between the ceiling blocks and the support columns.
If you are considering custom bookshelves for your home, answer the big pocketbook questions first. Then, browse the CustomMade artisan galleries and see how either custom built-in or freestanding bookshelves can help you create the room you want.