Here is the finished “built-in” bookshelf in the schooling room. I think it really looks built-in. The crown molding is an exact match and with a coat of paint it looks like it’s been there forever. We added the beadboard wallpaper on the outside edge and fluted vertical trim as well as an egg and dart horizontal trim at the top (to hide a gap between the shelf and the crown molding).
I have the books for preschool through year eight in here (three tall bookshelves and two small) and the high school books are in our living room along with our regular family books (four large bookshelves).
For the younger level books, I have them organized by year (mostly literature, biographies, poetry, and free reading to be read in a particular year according to the ambleside online list) – one year per shelf with the required books to the left and the free reading books to the right (all the other subjects are just mixed in together). Then we also have separate shelves for certain subjects that overlap years: nature study, field guides, experiments/science, Shakespeare, composer study (Opal Wheeler bios), picture study (large-format books with one artist’s work) mixed in with artist bios written for children, globe and large-format atlases, geography (I put some fiction here if is helps to understand what it’s like in a particular country or region), my shelf (Charlotte Mason books, teaching helps, and my CM notebooks – Book of Centuries, commonplace books, portfolio for prints from picture study), and a shelf for large picture books (on the bottom shelf so my daughter can reach them easily). Then I have two smallish built-in shelves that hold our history and biography books (arranged chronologically). I used to have biographies separate, but then I thought it made more sense to put them in with their time period — of course one book spans their whole lifetime, so the arrangement isn’t precise. I also have pulled artist and composer bios out – they now have their own shelves. I also pulled out the history and biography books for upper-level readers and put those in the living room (arranged chronologically on just two shelves).
Below are the two bookcases that came with the house. This one is on the left and it houses history and biographies up to 1800. On the bottom shelf I have a few history series shelved together.
This one is history and biographies 1800 – present
Now we go to the living room. These bookshelves are taller than the ones in the schooling room because there is no crown molding in here. The ceilings are really high – I think nine feet tall!!
I have a few shelves dedicated to a collection of works by an individual author (CS Lewis, Elisabeth Elliot, Sir Walter Scott, GA Henty, etc.) or a particular topic (homesteading and permaculture, cookbooks, family/wife/role encouragement, child training, theology (arranged alphabetically by author). Then, I have all the high school “school” books (which we are a loooong way from using) on the upper shelves (I need a step-stool to reach them).
This bookshelf (below) is the last one still waiting to be finished. I still have to do a bit of caulk and painting and then it will be finito! Our goal is to be completely done with all our “house projects” by July 4th (we moved in on March 15th and had a baby April 27th). Hopefully we won’t have any more bright green ladders in our living room or “tool piles” on the sideboard after this weekend!!
Since the books are in the living areas of our home, I have tried to make the shelves themselves look nice (they are just cheapo Ikea Billy bookshelves with some trim, crown moulding, caulk, and paint to make them look “built-in”), and I’ve tried to arrange the books with some breathing room and a few knick-knacks for visual interest. I want it to look like we love books and beautiful things, but not like we live in a library — even if we really do =).