Listen, I know why you're here — the headline is a dead giveaway. You have a passion for design and home interiors but, like most of us, are shopping on a budget. You're willing to ball out on an investment piece but it has to be the right one; something that will elevate the entire room it's in so that no one notices the pillows you bought on sale and the blanket from three Christmases ago.
In my humble style editor opinion, a bookshelf is a fabulous opportunity for some design smoke and mirrors. If you're willing to shell out a few more Benjamins, a high-quality piece (which you can select from my edit of the best bookshelves to buy right now) will easily elevate your living room in seconds just by existing. You just have to pick the right one.
I've called out a few of my favorites below, but you be the judge. Just get those shelves set up and watch the vibe shift right before your eyes.
12 bookshelves that make your living room look more expensive
Livingetc knows design.
This modern bookshelf from Mermelada Estudio has a rich brown burl wood veneer an brass hardware that makes it look like a family heirloom rather than something you could buy from CB2.
Alternating marble and wood shelves comprise this tall minimalist bookshelf, whose open-concept frame looks luxe and airy. Decorate with brass and gold figurines and statues for ultimate elegance.
The extra half-moon at the bottom of this etagere bookshelf elongates the whole structure, adding an extra bit of lovely height.
Soft curves + dark oak and an open front = a rich wood bookcase that looks both classic and modern at the same.
If a bar cabinet became a bookcase or vice versa, it would create this brass wire bookcase from CB2 designed by VUUE. Four shelves are inside, two of which are adjustable, for you to display or hide away your trinkets and treasures.
Anything Jonathan Adler is automatically luxurious, but this ivory lacquer-coated and brass-accented piece is particularly elegant.
Sleek, clean lines, gold hardware. What's fancier than that? Add in a vase and some decorative trays and you're good to go. Plus, since it's an open design, it would also make a good bookshelf for a small space.
A nod to the 1960s and 1970s, the slatted doors on this subtly mid-century modern bookcase add some texture and rich visual interest to the room.
An expensive-looking bookshelf is often one that does not weigh down the space visually. Lean into that with this double-barred gold piece with clear shelves made of tempered glass, so sheer it looks like your books are levitating. (Plus, it's conveniently the second most affordable bookshelf on this list — but you wouldn't even know!)
A trick to make a room look bigger (and therefore more expensive) is to add a mirror. In this instance, a mirrored shelf sits below four clear glass shelves, reflecting back their contents and adding a touch more elegance.
The paned doors of this free-standing cabinet add an air of exclusivity to the items behind the glass. Makes everything look more expensive.
How can a bookshelf elevate a living room?
A bookshelf can easily elevate a living room because "beyond books, you can show off vases, candlesticks, and other amazing finds, especially one-of-a-kind vintage items," Alex Bass, founder and CEO of Art Advisory and Interior Design Studio Salon 21, told me. "It is all about how you curate it!"
How would you style a bookshelf to make your living room more expensive than it is?
To make your living room look more expensive, "I think a mid-century etagere with metal accents and glass shelving is a really easy way to elevate your space and make a bookshelf feel more luxe," Alex said. And if you're open to it, try investing in a "great vintage piece" so that the shelf itself looks higher quality and will last.
In Alex's home, she uses a "combination of novels and coffee table art books on my bookshelf, mixed with antique marble bookends and picture frames that hang on the front."
Be The First To Know
The Livingetc newsletter is your shortcut to the now and the next in home design. Subscribe today to receive a stunning free 200-page book of the best homes from around the world.
Brigid Kennedy is a style editor at Livingetc.com, where she is responsible for obsessively combing the internet for the best and most stylish deals on home decor and more. She was previously a story editor at TheWeek.com, where she covered both U.S. politics and culture. She describes her design style as colorful and clean, and in her free time enjoys reading, watching movies, and curating impossibly niche playlists on Spotify. She lives in New York.
12 Unique Ways to Style Books — How Designers Use Reading Material to Elevate DecorFrom vintage trunks to bar carts, suffice to say you won’t be missing your bookcase after perusing this chic selection of unique ways to style books
By Julia Demer Published
The Best Brooklinen Towels Are Currently On Sale — Run, Don't Walk to Upgrade Your Shower RitualDid I mention there are new limited-edition spring colorways within the best Brooklinen towels lines? Yeah, you better be quick! Your at-home spa experience awaits
By Julia Demer Published