Finding space: hallway bookcases

Like many people not on the e-reader bandwagon yet, DH and I have a lot of books.  In addition to being a graduate student, DH is also just a avid reader in general.  So we have lots of books–or at least it feels like a lot in our tiny 2-bedroom.  I wanted to share one of my favorite past projects, which we completed several years ago, that helped us turn unused space into storage for our large-ish library: hallway bookcases!

I’ve always loved built-ins for their beauty and ability to fit exactly into a space, so when the idea came to me to turn our regular boring hallway into a wall of bookshelves, I was very excited.  Here’s the hall we were dealing with when we first moved in:

At first I thought we would do floor to ceiling shelves because I thought that would maximize the space best.  However, once we measured everything out, we realized that the hall was not especially wide, and we were worried about being able to eventually move furniture out.  Plus, we thought it might feel a bit imposing to have gigantically tall bookcases in a short hallway.

We had to keep a few things in mind when figuring out this project.  We wanted to make sure that the built-ins didn’t feel out of place or too imposing, and we needed to make sure we could still easily open the closet door still.  I was a little worried that my dream wouldn’t be able to become reality, but after measuring and re-measuring, we figured out that we could do a very narrow set of bookcases (just a bit deeper than paperback size) and still open the door–and as long as we kept it just above waist height, we decided it wouldn’t feel too closed-in.

We had a local bookshelf builder custom-build and install the bookcases.  It actually cost less than we thought it would–and we saved money by doing all the painting ourselves (just like with the nursery built-ins).  Here’s what they looked after they were installed, but before we got to priming and painting them:

We painted them white to match the trim in the rest of the house, and painted the backs of the bookcases the same color as the wall to help them recede even more.  Once they were painted, we were able to load them up with all kinds of books and other things (things that aren’t too deep, that is!).  We’ve been really pleased ever since they went in.  I took this pic just the other day:

Not only do they store tons of books, but the lovely top gives us a bit of horizontal space to set things on.  We try to keep it clear, but from time to time it is helpful to have the space as a place to sort mail or hold things temporarily until they get put back in their proper place.

Thanks checking out one of my favorite space-finding projects to date!  What do you think?  Have you ever tried something similar? Do you also crave built-ins everywhere in your home?

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12 thoughts on “Finding space: hallway bookcases

    • Certainly! The hallway is just over 3 feet wide (3′ 1/2″). The shelves themselves are 7″ deep, and the finished top extends 9″. We had to accomodate the hall closet door which when open extends 2′ into the hall, which is why the bookshelves are so narrow. Let me know if you need other measurements!

  1. Love this and it has got my creativity flowing. I have a split narrow hallway that needs some life to it. Thank you for sharing your work. :-)

  2. Idea: What about putting a pretty box or basket for each HH member on top of the shelf to throw their “junk” in when they come in or out? My husband and I did this and it has saved a lot of searching for wallets, keys, sunglasses, etc! Since you can’t see into the baskets too easily, it doesn’t look so cluttered. You could also have one for mail before it’s sorted.

    • Hi Kathleen! Thanks for the suggestion! We do have a spot (in the entryway which leads to this hall) for mail, keys, sunglasses, etc.) but I have been thinking of adding something to the bookshelf to colect receipts–it seems that the top of the shelf is a magnet for receipts, oftentimes making it look clutered by the end of the week. Thanks for the idea :)

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  5. I love how you incorporated the floor molding into the back of the bookcase! That saved a teeny bit of room, but more importantly it meant that the bookcase was truly flush against the wall. It not only looks better, but nothing can fall behind the bookcase!

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