Alternative Bookcase Ideas

Turn Flea Market Finds into Bookshelves

Make an alternative bookcase by stacking wall-mounted tables you cut in half.
DIY wall-mounted table bookcase. JAGwired/CC BY 2.0/brightened

Bibliophiles know you can never have enough bookcases. New volumes seem to appear faster than you can place them on the shelves. Good-quality bookcases range in cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the size, style, and maker. Inexpensive particle board bookcases tend to warp and sag over time -- and they don't look very stylish to start. Instead of blowing your book budget on shelves, try one of these alternative bookcase ideas.

Here are five flea market finds you can repurpose as bookcases:

China Cabinets

China cabinets can house more than dishes, and they're frequent finds at flea markets, antique malls, and consignment stores. They're ideal for antique and vintage volumes because the books stay protected behind the glass doors.

If you find a china cabinet in good condition, you can use it as is and place your books on the shelves. If the finish needs some work, you can refinish or paint it. If shelves are taller than most of your books, paint or wallpaper the inside back of the bookcase with a bright color or fabulous pattern. For a fun look with rustic or cottage decor, pop out the glass and replace it with chicken wire.


The old wooden crates once used to ship produce, ammunition and other supplies make fantastic DIY bookcases when you stack them, especially if you favor a rustic or industrial decorating style.

Depending on the number of crates available, you can house just a few or an entire wall of books. Use identical crates to create a tidy, grid-shaped bookcase. Or, mix different styles, shapes, sizes, and finishes for an eclectic, Tetris-like effect.

Secure the crates to your walls with screws just to be safe; you don't want your pet, child, or guest crushed if they stumble and knock over the stack.

Wall-Mounted Tables

For a fun look that turns your DIY bookcase into a focal point, cut a bunch of flea market tables in half, and then stack and mount them on the wall. You can use dining, sofa, cocktail, or end tables. You may need to shorten the legs of taller tables so you can fit more in your stack.

Use a vertical stack of identical tables for a matching look, or go wild and mix different table styles and sizes together. You can leave the original finishes intact, or paint the entire arrangement with a single color of glossy paint.


Turn an old freestanding ladder into a bookcase by cutting shelves to rest on the rungs. You can use a single ladder if you need the shelf space of a single bookcase. If you have a small wall's worth of books, balance longer shelves between a pair of matching ladders. Make sure you place the heaviest tomes in the center of the shelves, especially if you use a single ladder, and balance the weight on both ends.

Blocks and Boards

Occasionally I happen upon flea market booths or yard sales selling excess or discarded building supplies. When I do, glass blocks, cinder blocks and boards are sometimes among the goods. Glass block and board bookcases are actually quite attractive, especially if you favor industrial or contemporary decor.

The idea of cinder block and board bookcases isn't isn't new or unusual, but there are innovative methods you can use to disguise the utilitarian construction. Painting or staining the boards that serve as shelves is an easy fix. The exposed cinder blocks pose more of a problem.

If you place the solid side of the blocks to face the front, you can faux paint the cinder blocks to look like bricks. The effect is typically realistic; cinder blocks and bricks share similar textures. You can also build simple three-sided covers to slip over the cinder blocks. Build them from plywood or medium density fiberboard, and then paint or stain the covers to match the shelves.

Other options include covering the cinder blocks with batting and burlap for a rustic, upholstered look. Or, wrap the blocks with thin sheets of copper or stainless steel for a contemporary, metallic effect.