What's that you say: You got lots of good books for Christmas, but now that the tree is gone, there's no place to stash them? Time to buy a bookcase or two.
Need to know: Exactly what will go into the bookcase: Books only? A CD player and speakers? A flat-screen TV plus DVD? All of the above? What you may actually need is a wall of bookcases, and it will be a lot easier to buy them from the same manufacturer, especially if they come finished from the factory. Unless you're using unfinished wood you'll paint yourself, buying one bookcase now, then adding more down the road may be tough to pull off stylishly.
Material world: Bookcases are made of all sorts of materials, some better than others. And for the better stuff, you will pay substantially more. Where the bookcase will be situated should determine what it's made of, especially if it serves as both storage and furniture. For example, if your living room has Mission-style wood furnishings, you don't want Swedish modern veneered particleboard or steel.
Size matters. You'll need to know the height and width of the space the bookcase will go into, making allowances for locations near radiators, heating vents, doors and windows, and under wall lighting. Some bookcases are designed to fit over baseboard trim. If the bookcase you want is taller than four shelves, you might need to have it right up against the wall for support, so how it fits is important.
And don't forget: Unless you're having the bookcase delivered, you'll need to make sure it will fit into your car.
Shape matters, too. Corner bookcase units are versatile and offer more shelf space than two standard bookcases fitted into a corner.
Be sure to ask: "How durable is this bookcase?" Particleboard can chip, metal can dent and scuff, wood can be knicked and scratched, and if veneer is damaged, it usually cannot be repaired. Think about the wear and tear you'll inflict on the bookcase and select accordingly.
Choices, choices: If you have more height than width to work with, you may want to consider barristers. Typically found in offices, these bookcases are stackable and have doors that flip up and slide back out of sight when access is needed. They can hold books as well as binders.
Ladder-style bookcases are more decorative than useful, but are good if you don't have a lot of books and want something for a smaller space. Etageres often are used as bookcases, but are designed more to function as places to display knickknacks.
Some bookcases are open on both sides and can be used as room dividers, in case you want to set off part of the guest room as a home office. Others have glass or wooden doors, for open and closed storage.
Good advice: If your bookcase will be sitting on a hardwood floor, you can buy felt floor protectors with adhesive on one side that prevent the bottom of the case from scratching the floor when it is moved. If you stand a tall bookcase on carpeting, you might have to shim the base to prevent it from tumbling forward, since carpet and underlayment are softer than flooring.
What will it cost? Depending on size, style and finish, bookcase prices can range from $35 to $1,200. Some reproductions of traditional styles such as Mission can cost several thousand dollars.
Unless you're handy and have the necessry equipment, it's usually more expensive to build bookcases than it is to buy them. If you're looking for a project and want to spend less, check used-furniture stores for bookcases you can refinish.