10 Jul 2016

How to Design Better Bookshelves

Companies that make and sell bookshelves miss several aspects that should have been obvious to them, if they cared about their craft.

To begin with, bookshelves should have more height, like 7 feet, to make the most of limited floor space. There’s plenty of vertical space, but limited floor space.

The shelves shouldn’t all be equally high, since most books are small. Only a few are big, so sizing shelves for the tallest books wastes a lot of space:

Instead, bookshelves should have some tall and some shelves, to make room for an additional shelf, for the same height of the bookshelf. Six-foot-high bookshelves can have six shelves instead of the five they currently have.

Ideally, shelves should be adjustable. A six-foot-high bookshelf can then have seven shelves. And if you prefer six taller shelves, you can collapse one of the shelves by placing it flush with the shelf below it. You’ll lose only an inch or so of vertical space. If it’s too costly to have all shelves adjustable, at least some should be.

The front doors should all be glass, with no wooden frame. The frame obstructs your view:

As many as six books were hidden behind the frame :

So, there should be no frame. The front should completely be glass. If that requires a sliding panel rather than a hinged door, so be it.

For that matter, the side walls of the bookshelf should be made of glass as well, for better visibility. And the shelves, so that you don’t have to bend as much to see what’s in lower shelves.

Many bookshelves have internal partitions for support:

These restrict how you can use the space, by diving it into two. If the narrow partition (the one on the right) is too narrow for what you want to put in it, you can’t do anything about it. Better not to have a partition at all, so that you can use the space flexibly.

If that means a narrower bookshelf, so be it. A narrower bookshelf is better because it fits in more spaces. You can, anyway, buy two of them if you need to.

A bookshelf with an internal partition is like two narrower bookshelves glued together — you lose the flexibility of placing the two parts in different places in your house. Neither do you get, in return, the flexibility of a wider shelf. So, get rid of internal partitions.

Finally, there should be no open shelves, since they accumulate dust.

In summary, bookshelves should be 7 feet tall to make the most of limited floor space. Some shelves should be short and some tall, so that you can fit in one more shelf in the height available. Ideally, shelves should be adjustable, so that you can fit in even more. The front, sides, and shelves should all be glass, so that you can easily find the book you’re looking for. Finally bookshelves shouldn’t have internal partitions.

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