I’m throwing this out there for debate… Please comment below and let me know what you think! Throughout the centuries, there have been many pieces of furniture that, having ceased to serve a useful function, have been abandoned in most modern homes. The flat screen TV rendered full-scale entertainment units a thing of the past. Large scale dining tables have been replaced by more comfortable, casual sets. Yes, I am saying that the bookshelf fits into this category, along with the tea table and the fainting sofa. Bookshelves in the living area are, in my opinion, rapidly becoming, if not already, obsolete, and I’ll give you 7 reasons why.
1) We don’t use the books we own. You got it, my number one reason we don’t need bookshelves is because the majority of us don’t need the very things they were meant to house. We have kindles, nooks, iPads, audiobooks, and every other device out there to replace our old paperbacks. Now I recognize that there are some holdouts who want their real paper copies. For those people, we have libraries. Unless you have space enough to have your own library, the bare fact is that most people don’t have the square footage to devote to something they’ll likely read only once.
2) Bookshelves are magnets for clutter. Let’s think of what people typically house on their bookshelves. Books that they read in college, maybe with bent spines in random colors. Assorted photos in non-matching frames. Random travel souvenirs. And around, on top, and in between all of this, clutter. Bookshelves are hideaways for all kinds of sins, except they’re not actually hidden away. They’re on display for everyone to see.
3) Bookshelves create shadows and darkness. Unless you’re lighting them (inside the shelves as well as out), bookshelves have the potential to create patches of darkness throughout your space. And, Without under lighting on the shelves themselves, the objects that you display, which theoretically are meant to be set forth for guests to admire, can be sunk into shadow, and might actually be harder to view than if they are simply hung on the wall.
4) Books are dust magnets. Unless you’re a scholar using your books on a daily basis, or you’re a collector with rare first editions, a book you’ve read that you’re never going to read again is no better than keeping a pile of rags in display space in your living room.
5) The spines of your books are not attractive. Period. Let’s think of your favorite work of art of all time. There might be a million different answers for a million different people, but I’d be willing to bet that not one person answered that question with, “the spines of the assorted books on my bookshelf.”. Unless you’ve artfully selected books for your shelves, in which case this article does not apply to you, your books are going to be randomly colored, the fonts may be strange, the spines may be bent repeatedly. If they are not attractive to you, why would you possibly subject your guests to them? The real world decision you have to make is between those books and that most favorite art print or photograph.
6) We have other alternatives to bookshelves to create height. Traditionally designers have used bookshelves to create tall elements in a room. However, draperies, tall plants, wall art, millwork, or closed cabinetry may also serve this purpose.
7) The alternative is 1,000 times better.Let’s see. On the one hand, we have our bookshelves with our leftover textbooks, dog-eared copy of the davinci code, random photos that are sunk in shadow, and random, indiscernible tchotckes, let’s consider the alternative. Suppose instead you use a low sideboard with doors to provide storage, allowing for light, breathing room, and wall space to mount a favorite print, or several prints leaning against the wall. You still have a surface for display to set out a plant, a vase, a few photos (in coordinated frames), a clever arrangement of tchotchkes, and ( dare I say it?) even a book or two if you like. There, that’s better! So what do you think? Are you ready to throw away your bookshelves, or do you still think they have a place in the typical living room?