When it comes to design, I always try to think outside of the box. And when it comes to bookcases, I, therefore, think outside of the books.

I see bookcases as an opportunity. Not only do I use them to serve as a part-time library, but a place to display those cherished collected pieces and to house objects that can provide functionality in addition to style.

In the furniture category, a good bookcase is a classic to me. And here I share three key factors that I consider when specifying these handsome giants.

Open Air Étagère

When design vocabulary bestows a piece of furniture that is named in French, it’s going to be something special. It’s not uncommon for me to appoint an étagère to a space when my grand plan is to enliven it with intensity and contrast. The open backs of these practical towers allow whatever is behind them to pop forward like artwork. In this case, the unit was wrapped in blonde rattan that chicly contrasts the verdant fern motif that blankets the wall. I made an additional statement in coordination with a vintage chair that is updated with a coat of black paint and upholstered with a chic, khaki-and-white geometric print.

By the way, when space allows, I’ll place not only one étagère but two on the same wall for extra impact.

Elegance in Organization

Last month, you may have read the post that I wrote about boxes and bowls. A bookcase is a perfect spot to place them. Sometimes these accessories are merely decorative, but there have been plenty of times when I’ve needed to disguise extra papers, unsightly household must-haves, and other things that are so much more manageable when beautifully corralled. And this is the time to have fun with materials. I have an affinity to natural materials such as raffia, bone, and wood such as the burled effect acrylic bowl here. But there are many occasions when I’ll select a piece that is lacquered for a bit of light refraction and shine.

Book Nook

We all have books. I love those that entertain me with a captivating story, and others that charm me with great imagery of design and travel. There are times when I will take bookcases and load them up, side to side, with a personal literary and photographic history. But for this vignette, I wanted to show a recent new coffee table collection that focuses on glamorous destinations around the globe. Also, when I use a bookcase to house a large number of books, I’m likely to mix their directions, some of them upright and some larger volumes stacked on top of each other. Sometimes the goal is to highlight a few favorites as I did here, so I use the stacking method. Plus, stacking books boosts a piece of artwork or other objects that will create a layered appearance.

There are pieces of design that we buy only for their good looks. Other pieces reach another level with function capabilities, too. That is the bookcase. Use it as a canvas. Change it around. As it soars to reach the ceiling, the bookcase should undergo many chapters of style.