12 Reasons Why a Bookcase in a Dining Room Works

Why a Bookcase in a Dining Room Works

The dining room is for eating, and the library is for reading. That seems pretty straightforward. Why would you want to combine the two or mix them up? As it turns out, there are actually pretty good reasons to put a bookcase in the dining room. They have to do with everything from saving space to creating a unique decor.

These and other reasons are why a bookcase in a dining room works. If you do not want a bookcase in your dining room now, you probably will after you read this article. Keep reading to learn about 12 reasons why a bookcase in a dining room works. 

Can You Put a Bookcase in a Dining Room?

Yes, you can put a bookcase in a dining room. But it goes farther than just giving permission. It is your home. You can put anything anywhere you like. But the fact is there are a lot of good reasons to put a bookcase in a dining room.

Even in this technological age where everything is on a screen, bookcases, and the books in them, still resonate with people. Bookcases are:

  • Inviting
  • Comfortable
  • Relaxing

By putting a bookcase in a dining room you are saying to the people who come over, make yourself at home. Grab a book and read while you are waiting for dinner. Many of the other reasons that are listed below for having a bookcase in your dining room stem from this idea.

Adding a bookcase to your dining room is a great way to add interest to a space that is often purely utilitarian. You go to the dining room to eat and that is it. Even relaxed conversation happens somewhere else. By putting a bookcase into the dining room you can:

  • Create a different atmosphere
  • Define or open a space
  • Make use of available space

Bookcases can also affect the physical space of the dining area in homes that have an open floor plan, as you will see. They can even be used to turn the dining room into an escape. Read on to discover all the reasons why a bookcase works in a dining room.

Make a Statement

A bookcase is only going to work in a dining room if it is prominent enough to make a statement. It has to be big enough to:

  • Catch the eyes of the people entering the space
  • Convince them that the books are meant to be there

A four foot by three foot MDF bookcase from a big box hardware store is not going to cut it.

In order to do this you should have a bookcase that covers an entire wall, if you can. Also, your bookcase should be built in or at least be large enough to not be moved. The more noticeable and permanent looking a bookcase is in a dining room, the better it is going to work.

Flip the Script

People have certain expectations when they walk into a dining room. There should be:

  • A table
  • Four or more chairs
  • Maybe a buffet
  • Probably a benign piece of art

Putting a bookcase in the dining room flips the script by taking an object normally associated with one room and putting it into a room where people would not expect it.

When people’s expectations are thwarted, they have a chance to respond differently to the room, and when they see a bookcase in the dining room the result is often that the room feels more like the rest of the house.

A room that you can read in is often thought of as a room that you can relax in. If you can create that feeling in a dining room area with a bookcase, then the result might be that people have a more relaxing and enjoyable eating experience.

Start a Conversation

Having people over for dinner can sometimes be a stressful situation, especially if you do not know them very well. If you have a bookcase in your dining room you have the opportunity to create conversation starters.

Simply line the bookshelf with books you have read or ones that you would like to read. Chances are your guests may find a book and ask you about it or say that they have read it too. This can ease the flow of small talk.

But it goes deeper than that. When you read a book you are brought into different:

  • Situations
  • Ideas
  • Cultures

Books present you with a lot to think about. When the bookcase is brought into the dining room, shared reading experiences become deep conversations about what those experiences meant to you and how they made you feel.

Books in the dining room can also open up shared interests. If you are interested in travel, try putting your travel books in the dining room bookcase. It is a good way to start a conversation about where you have been and where you would like to go. A bookcase in the dining room works because books are not just about reading, but sharing as well.

Create a Multi-Functional Space

If you have a family and your kids are in school, then you probably face a situation common to parents the world over: homework on the dining room table. Your kids’ desks are probably cluttered with toys and video game consoles, or you need to keep an eye on their progress, so their migration to the dining room table is natural.

One reason bookcases can work is if you create a space for them to do their homework by including easy access to:

  • Reference books
  • Their textbooks
  • Novels that they are reading for school or for fun

That way what they need is right at hand and easy to put away.

Of course, these kinds of books are not always suited to decor, but if you want to create a relaxed kind of atmosphere in the dining room for families, having a kid usable bookcase is one way to do that. Also, in the case of the situation above, if you have a family over for dinner, your kids may find conversation starters for themselves.

Finally, if you are the kind of family that likes games after dinner, the bookcase in the dining room is the perfect place to store them (especially if it has cupboards at the bottom).

Bookcases Are Decorative

A bookcase can work in the dining room simply as a decor piece as well. That way you do not have to read any of the books on the shelves so long as you arrange them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. In this sense, books can be stacked and shelved according to color and simple designs.

Of course, it might be embarrassing for you if dinner conversation turns to your books and you have no clue what they are about, so be careful who you invite over. But for your guests who appreciate books as art without the burden of having to read them, this use of the bookcase will be very pleasing.

Define the Border

Houses with open floor plans can be great for creating a spacious airy feel with lots of natural light. But sometimes you want something to use to delineate which room is what. Perhaps you want to partially close the dining area from view so that you can leave the mess after dinner and relax a moment before cleaning it up.

Building a bookcase that extends perpendicular from a wall can be a way of creating a border that is not harsh or limiting:

  • You can have books on both sides of the bookcase giving both a sense of delineation and continuity, or
  • You can create it with an open back so that the border is drawn but light continues to shine through.

Or you can simply use the bookcase as a way to create a nook for the dining room to exist in. Books create their own little worlds, so it is fitting that a dining room with a bookcase should reflect that.

Bookcases Can Blend Rooms Together

You can always go for the opposite effect if your home has an open floor plan and blend rooms together with the dining room. This will work particularly well in spaces where the living room and dining room are essentially one long room.

A bookcase in the dining room works as the perfect tool for pulling the two rooms together as one space. Instead of trying to create a distinctive look for two rooms, you can celebrate the fact that the living room and the dining room are essentially one long room. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Build a bookcase along a wall that the two rooms share
  • Build a bookcase at the dining room end of the room

In each example, you are abandoning the notion that these are two separate rooms, and it is the bookcase in the dining room that unifies them but with a slightly different effect.

The Shared Wall

If you put a bookcase in the dining room portion of the shared wall, you have the option of setting it up so that it blends into the living room a little, either by extending it just beyond the dining room “border” or by building it around a doorway to the kitchen.

This encourages guests to feel as if the room is all one by visually seaming, as it were, the two rooms together.

The End Wall

The other way to unify the two rooms is to build or set up a bookcase at the dining room end of the long room.

This accomplishes the intended result a little differently. Instead of seaming the two rooms together, the bookcase acts as an invitation into the dining room area.

Create a Balance

With open floor plans, it is often to give the entire room a sense that one part flows into the next. Without that you can end up with a giant area that is just a big mashup of things. A bookcase in the dining room can really work for this kind of area if it is balanced against something else.

One way to create a balance in a large space is to put bookcases at opposite ends of the room. Typically in these spaces, the dining room is adjacent to the living room. Everyone expects the bookcase in the living room. You can make the bookcase work in the dining room by balancing it with the one in the living room.

In addition to that, you can make the bookcase in the dining room work by balancing it on the kitchen side of the wall with an open kitchen cabinet for:

  • Crockery
  • Bowls
  • Any kind of kitchenware that may double as simple display pieces (think ceramic)

Putting two sets of open shelves side by side on the same wall can create a sense that one room is dependent on the other.

Create an Invitation

This reason for bookcases working in a dining room is similar to the one mentioned just above, but it is applied to a different situation. Some formal dining rooms are set apart in areas that are not quite closed off, but not quite open either. This is usually accomplished by an opening in a wall that is:

  • Too big to be a door
  • Too small to make a half-wall

But it still feels closed off because most people have enough of their inner child left in them that the formal dining room still feels like an intimidating, forbidden place to enter. Because of this, it is nice to have a piece in the formal dining room that is welcoming. This is where the bookcase comes in.

By building a bookcase on the wall opposite the opening to the room, you create an invitation to enter the room. Of course, if it is a formal dining room, you will probably want to fill the bookcase with all your hardback editions of classics to dress up the shelves. But even so, books are always inviting. That is why they work so well in a dining room.

Create Another World

For the dining rooms that are completely closed off from the rest of the house by doors, the bookcase creates a unique opportunity to make the dining room feel like a completely different world. There is an element of pretending here, just like there is with novels. Using your imagination can make a bookcase work in this kind of dining room.

Depending on where your tastes run, you can use a bookcase to turn your dining room into:

  • An old-style gentlemen’s reading lounge (think British)
  • A rococo dining room
  • A Tolkien-esque inn

The bookcase or bookcases can help transport the dining room into the escape that you want it to be every time you go into it.

Make the Dining Room a Reading Room

Also, for those with dining rooms that are closed off from the rest of the house, there is a way to make this room multifunctional, but not in the way that was discussed in connection with your kids’ homework.

Turn your formal dining room into a reading room. It is the ideal space for it, and bookcases not only work for this space but are absolutely necessary. The only thing you may need to add are a couple of comfortable chairs, which you can do if you have the room.

Having the formal dining room double as a reading room is not as crazy as it seems. Chances are the formal dining room is:

  • The least used room of the house.
  • Opened it up for guests and special occasions
  • Closed down when dinner is over and everyone has gone home

Even if you have guests a couple of times a week, there is still a lot of time that the room goes empty.

In this example, putting bookcases on every wall gives the room a sheltered feeling that is great for both libraries and dining rooms, the former for providing quiet in which to read and the latter for providing a safe place to enjoy food and good company. So the two rooms are more suited for each other than you would at first think.

Economy of Space

The above reasons are good reasons why a bookcase works as an option in a dining room. But they take for granted that this is something that you may be considering. What if you are out of space and you just need somewhere to put your bookcase?

In that case, the above reasons are also reasons why putting a bookcase in the dining room works if you have nowhere else to put it. Sometimes you have limited room in your home and bedrooms are taken up with furniture while the living room is taken up with entertainment.

If the dining room is the only option you have left, you now have a variety of ways you can arrange it. However, there is one more way that you can consider. If you have high ceilings, you can use them to your advantage by building a bookcase clear to the top. Some bookcase systems come with ladders that you can use to reach the higher books.

Or you can simply apply all the things mentioned previously. You can use it to suit your family’s needs for school and also for pleasure reading. It can be a conversation starter and give you the option of doubling your dining room as a reading room.


Hi there! I’m Alex, the one behind this website. I ran and operated a Local Furniture Store in Southern California. The store opened in 2010, during the “Great Recession,” It is still thriving today; however, I have dedicated my time to helping our online customer base. My primary focus is to help you with all your furniture & mattress questions.

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