Every bookworm has the same dream: an enormous personal library, shelves groaning with beautiful volumes, maybe a rolling ladder or two, and enough space for every book you could ever wish to own.
Instead, the average reader has a home filled with piles of novels, walls covered in shelves, and the frustration of never seeming to have enough space for all your acquisitions. It seems that within days of putting together a new shelving unit, it’s filled to bursting with books you didn’t even entirely realize that you had—and it’s time to head out to pick up yet another set of shelves!
Luckily, some very clever designers presumably had this same issue, and put their minds to work to devise gorgeous and practical solutions to the problem of an ever-expanding collection. While some of these are conceptual, you can actually buy others to take care of your own swelling shelving. Hopefully, this idea catches on, and more furniture designers will start to create storage that grows along with our libraries.
1. The Nest Shelf (Nendo)
Created for the 2015 London Design Festival, the “Nest” shelf by Nendo expands to twice its width by virtue of two three-shelf units, one inside the other. The interior until slides out, allowing the shelf to be any size from just over two to just over four feet in width. At its slimmest or its widest, this looks like a simple three-shelf bookcase, but by varying the width you can create a huge variety of different looks, from slim sections on either side of the center, to one slim accent section in the center, to six equal squares. This is definitely one of the most flexible expanding bookcases out there, but sadly, it seems that right now it’s not for sale. Learn more here.
2. Platzhalter (Farsen-Schoellhammer)
Another conceptual design, this shelf definitely has something to say about stretching your shelves to the breaking point! Created for the 2007 Focus Award, the Platzhalter literally bursts at the seams to accommodate more books- but with the addition of hidden boards in the shelves that slide out to bridge the gap. While this looks incredible (and would definitely be a conversation starter!) it’s not the most practical storage solution for real life. Learn more here.
3. Expanding Bookshelf (Original Gift)
The first of our list that is actually on the market, this is also the simplest, and is an expanding combination of a bookshelf and bookends. This freestanding shelf will support your various books on a counter or windowsill, and slides apart to twice its width when needed. As the two halves expand, they create an extra two central dividers, perfect for supporting heavy books or just separating your collection. At only 63cm at its widest, it won’t be holding your entire collection, but it’s perfect to hold a small collection somewhere where a full bookcase wouldn’t be suitable. Learn more here.
4. Growing Cabinet (Yi Cong Lu)
A twist on the classic chest of drawers, this Growing Cabinet has an open front and drawers that pull to the sides to expand the storage space. One thing that this design has that others don’t is that each drawer can be pulled out separately; meaning that it’s possible to expand only the bottom half, or more on one side than the other. It’s a fantastic concept… but not the most practical one, as you would have to ensure that both sides are completely balanced – even if you were to remove a book! Learn more here.
5. Twin Bookshelf (Zeynep Cinisli)
This art project was created to represent Istanbul, with a bridge connecting its Asian and European sides. The two halves, when pushed together, make a simple white cabinet, but when the two halves are pulled apart, shelves appear between them. This beautiful project is surprisingly practical – the width of the shelves in between is variable, and the doors on either side create storage for less decorative novels (or anything else, assuming you own some items that aren’t books!). Learn more here.
6. Rek Bookcase (Reinier DeJong)
This incredible design looks almost like an art piece even when there are no books on it! A series of interlocking zig-zag shapes, each section pulls out to create box vertical and horizontal spaces for books – and because of the accordion design, the case can be expanded without having to pull everything off the shelves first. This huge shelving unit expands to over seven feet wide, and while it does collapse down to around two and a half feet, at its smallest, you can’t actually put anything on the shelves. Definitely a statement piece for a large space, this is still a truly incredible design. Learn more here.
7. Tangram Storage (Lago)
If you aren’t interested in pulling a heavy bookcase to a new size every time your collection increases, but you still want something that looks incredible, this collection of Tangram wall shelves is perfect. This range of wall-mounted shelves comes in a huge variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, allowing for infinite combinations that can always be added to. Start with a few small shapes, then, as your collection grows, simply add more shelves to the design. Based on a Chinese puzzle game, this storage will look incredible whether you use it for just a few visually stunning tomes, or cover an entire wall in interlocking shapes. Learn more here.