Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Decorating With Antique Bookcases

Once upon a time only the wealthy had a need for books and places to store and protect them. Aren't you glad those days are over. If you did not have library room, bookcases were the perfect solution......and still are. Honestly I love any kind of book storage and display shelving whether it's built-in or free standing.  However, antique bookcases have a special place in my heart so they are the focus of this blog post. I love the fact that they are actually pieces of furniture and I find them an extremely handsome way to display collections of wonderful antique volumes.

People tend to lump bookcases and bookshelves into the same category even though they are two completely different types of display pieces. Bookcases are large free standing furniture pieces that feature multiple shelves, three closed sides, and usually but not always, glass doors. Bookshelves are basically a grouped set of wall-mounted shelves set up in ladder style.

The antique bookcase is usually more unique and architectural than open shelves. With their European flair these furniture pieces add sophisticated elegance to any room.

I hope you enjoy taking a look at the many different kinds of antique bookcases and discovering how you can create one of your own.

via Pinterest

The bookcase may have come in different forms throughout the years but it has been an integral part of the home since the 17th century.

photo by Simon Watson

The bookcase is a beautiful and versatile piece of furniture created not just for use in the library, office, or study. This piece is equally at home in the living room, family room, or bedroom.

Many collectors take pleasure in owning these great pieces of furniture as a way of preserving history so it is getting a bit harder to find them at affordable prices.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

This bookcase in my family room holds some of my collection of antique books. An antique bookcase can create instant traditional style with European flair.

Lisa Farmer-Eye For Design

I was looking for the right bookcase for over a year before finally stumbling onto this one. I especially liked the carved feet and ionic columns. When you are searching for yourself try to find one with old world character.

There are many styles to choose from. Hopefully this post will provide you with options that will help you select the best antique bookcase for you that will protect and showcase your cherished items.

Ormolu mounted brass and tortoise shell Boulle marquetry and ebony low bookcase.

Antique bookcases developed in several styles. The low bookcase created by French designer André-Charles Boulle was popular after 1700.

A Regency rosewood breakfront open bookcase with a brass gallery.  These low bookcases were all the trend of the day.'s photos on Flickr 

Within the next century, hundreds of models of both low horizontal and tall enclosed bookcases were available.

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Many antique bookcases featured beautiful carvings of musical instruments or with a country sporting theme of relief carved hunting dogs, game birds and foliage.

Now that's an astonishing piece of furniture. If you collect antique books, a French Gothic Revival bookcase like this is perfection for storing them. Would love to get my hands on this antique for clean up and display in place of prominence.

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A bookcase without doors is known in the trade as an open bookcase. This antique country French Baroque hand carved open bookcase is a wonderful example.

Introduced next was the bureau bookcase where the bookshelves were positioned above a cupboard base. One of his most famous pieces, the "Violin" bookcase, was made by Thomas Chippendale for the Earl of Pembroke in Wilton House, Wiltshire.
Upscale antique bookcases in deep wood tones or carved detailing instantly add a classic touch.

Most antique bookcases had glass doors to help protect volumes from dust and humidity.

Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini

Equally as popular was the secretaire bookcase, which combined a desk with shelving for books. This 18th century lacquer secretaire belonged to the Duchess of Windsor.

An antique George II secretaire bookcase in the home of Carol Lynn Forman.

via Pintrest

For those that desire a French country or Swedish interior the painted secretaire/bookcases are extremely popular today.

This is a remarkable piece of furniture that serves as a bookcase and a display for other accessories and collectibles.

A magnificent eighteenth-century walnut bookcase in the library of Axel Vervoordt's Palazzo Labeque. While most antique bookcases were either open or had glass doors some were outfitted with wire fronts which gave more of a medieval look to the cases.

Next we have some extraordinary painted antique bookcases.

I love this re-purposed armoire bookcase. Painting it and adding the wire front is more in keeping with a casual French maison style.

Coveting this sophisticated antique bookcase with arched tops, fluted pilasters. Painted or left natural, this piece would be a fabulous addition to any old world home.

As would this beautifully carved open antique bookcase.

For an elegant living room or a timeless office, this painted antique bookcase certainly makes the cut.

Twin painted French bookcases hold what appears to be vellum covered books and other collectibles in this interior by Tara Shaw.

Axel Vervoordt via

Another stunning French style painted bookcase.

I am not sure I would have painted this antique bookcase because of the wonderful linenfold carving on the doors that is at it's best when left au natural. The bookcase is stunning though!

Château de Thoiry

This is a beautiful antique bookcase. I have a natural wood case but am also looking for a painted one. Totally different but equally stunning looks. I love the way space has been made for the fireplace.

Just because most people store their China or other collectibles in an antique piece like this doesn't mean you can't turn yours into a bookcase!

Beautiful antique painted bookcase in this interior by Bunny Williams via

The World of Interiors, July 2009. Photo - Christopher Simon Sykes

An interesting bookcase like this seem to stir the soul of an avid reader.

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Madeleine Castaing via

And remember a bookcase does not have to be huge to make a beautiful statement. 

Just look for uniqueness.

Bringing Paris Home by Penny Drue Baird,

Heart be still at the sight of this amazing piece of furniture. An antique bookcase like this is truly a work of art.

A Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini interior via

Last but not least, when it comes to antique bookcases, a pair can make an incredible impact on a room.

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I love antique bookcases because there is room at the top for old world vignettes be it a collection of architectural elements.......

Geoffrey Bennison

or blue and white transferware.

Usually you would find a pair of antique bookcases flanking a fireplace.

But if you think outside the box you will come up with other exciting ways to use twin antique bookcases. On either side of a sofa is an awesome look!
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Chinoiserie fretwork adorns the glass doors of the bookcase portion of the antique secretaire bookcase in this interior. Whether your interiors are cottage,

french country,

KedlestonHall via

or to the manor born......go thrifting to find a well built antique bookcase with lots of character that might just need a bit of TLC. You never know what treasure you might come home with!

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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