A person’s book collection can tell you a lot about them – what they like, how they think, and even what’s important to them. But how books are displayed matters, too, both for the presentation of the books themselves, and for the appearance of the room as a whole. Industrial style bookshelves – that is, bookshelves made with simple open wood shelves connected by metal pieces or pipes – are both stylish and practical, with a casual, unpretentious appearance that’s perfect for a contemporary home.
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Bookshelves come in all shapes and forms, from basic, inexpensive shelves that are purely designed to get the job done to gorgeous, elaborately sculpted shelves and built-in units designed with aesthetics in mind. Industrial style bookshelves fall somewhere right in the middle. They’re simple without looking cheap, and elegant without being overly ornate or ostentatious.
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Unlike most antique style bookshelves where the finish work is the star, or modern bookshelves where an unusual design is key, the appeal of industrial style bookshelves lies in the materials used to make them. Simple reclaimed wood shelves are the star of the show, each with a one of a kind, natural patina of age that gives the shelves a sense of visual interest without any carved detailing or unusual layouts. The shelves are plenty big and spaced far enough apart for even very hefty tomes, and are wide and deep enough that the wood is still visible even when they’re heavy laden with books.
This type of weathered, salvaged wood is a darling of homeowners and designers alike right now for the simple reason that it combines a practical look and feel with just enough age and antiquity to toe the line between casual and eye-catching. But the metal parts of industrial style bookshelves are important, too. Usually made of reclaimed metal pipes or machine parts, it’s the metal supports between the wood planks that give these bookshelves their distinctive industrial look.
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The metal support pieces, whether they’re pipes or more standard posts or bars, have that gritty, slightly greasy, turn-of-the-century machine shop feel that’s so iconic of an industrial style decor. They make for a sharp contrast to ordinary bookshelves, which are almost always made entirely of wood, and which are generally closed on the sides and back. Using metal pipes and posts rather than more wood planks makes industrial style bookshelves look and feel more open and spacious. Industrial style bookshelves are also often mounted on wheels rather than fixed, so even when they’re locked in place, they feel more dynamic, interactive, and tactile.
There are plenty of designer industrial style bookshelves out there in a wide variety of sizes and designs. But like the cinder block-and-plywood shelves you might have had back in college, industrial style bookshelves can also be built from parts you can get from any hardware store: solid wood planks and piping. Unlike professionally made shelves, which use metal pieces to secure the wood shelves in place and to one another, if you build them yourself you’ll probably end up with a sturdy framework of metal pipes with planks sitting loosely on top, but the final effect is similar to designer brands and not a whole lot more expensive than the old cinder block trick.
For a slightly more permanent setup, you can also install an industrial bookshelf directly into your wall. These can be either purchased or pre-made, but rather than sitting flat on the floor or on wheels, the back of each pipe secures directly to the wall. The final look here is much more industrial, with hints of old fashioned radiators or exposed utility pipes, which is perfect for a posh loft or even a slightly more rugged cottage or farmhouse style. That said, you want to make sure your walls can support the weight of the books, which means placement and size will be limited to the location of your wall studs.
What do you think of this simple yet stunning industrial look? Do you like this new twist on the classic bookshelf? Let me know in the comments!