Beautiful Living Rooms With Built-In Shelving

White and cream colored living room with built-in shelving across from white sofa

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

Living room built-ins can add style and personality as well as storage. And because built-ins can be designed to cater to your household's specific needs, the options are virtually endless. This example comes from Crisp Architects,​ with photography by ​Rob Karosis. If you want to create closed storage, an open display area, or call attention to specific details custom built-ins can offer the perfect solution.

  • 01 of 20

    Maximize Space

    Custom A Frame Built Ins
    Foley & Cox

    A-frame houses can pose certain complications when trying to decorate and maximize space. The angle of the walls can make it difficult to use prefab cabinets without causing a visual break. In this case, custom living room built-ins can provide an excellent solution. Here they were brought all the way up to the ceiling, maximizing the space and drawing the eye upward.

    Interior design by Foley & Cox

    Continue to 2 of 20 below.
  • 02 of 20

    Two Tone Color

    Blue living room built-ins
    Scott Hargis/W Design Interiors

    Customization of built-in shelves doesn't have to stop with the measurements. Painting built-ins so that they contrast or compliment other colors in the room is a great way to add interest to a room and create a focal wall.

    Interior design by W Design Interiors, photographed by Scott Hargis.

    Continue to 3 of 20 below.
  • 03 of 20

    Keep it Classic

    Custom built ins in transitional living room
    Cory Connor Designs

    Traditional white built-ins with closed storage on the bottom and open on the top are so versatile that they can fit into just about any style of living room. Choosing a simple cabinet style will ensure that if your tastes change and you decide to redecorate, the built-ins will always fit in.

    Interior design by Cory Connor Designs

    Continue to 4 of 20 below.
  • 04 of 20

    Wraparound Shelves

    Contemporary built-ins
    DM Photography/Wendt Design Group

    The beauty of built-ins is that they can be customized to suit a home's or homeowner's specific needs. In this room from Wendt Design Group, the shelves wrap all around the room, providing a ton of storage and display space. A blank area was left above the sofa to allow for sconces and art. The contrasting color manages to create a focal point in the midst of all the shelves.

    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • 05 of 20

    Less is More

    Contemporary custom built-ins
    Angela Free Design

    Living room built-ins don't have to be overly decorative or ornate to make a statement. The streamlined silhouette of the unit interior design by Angela Free Design is striking in its geometric simplicity and adds to the overall contemporary feel of the room.

    Continue to 6 of 20 below.
  • 06 of 20

    Short and Sweet

    Family room with custom built-ins
    Linda Oyama Bryan/Orren Pickell Building Group

    When it comes to living room built-ins, there's no need to always build from floor to ceiling. In this case, made by the Orren Pickell Building Group, built-in cabinets were installed about halfway up the wall, beneath windows on either side of a mantel. They manage to maximize the available space while framing the focal point and not blocking the light.

    Continue to 7 of 20 below.
  • 07 of 20

    Highlight a Collection

    Seating area with custom built-ins
    Wilson Lighting

    Built-in shelving comes in all shapes and sizes. And they don't have to house only books. Treasured collections and shapely accessories can take center stage when displayed thoughtfully and highlighted with accent lighting. This example from Wilson Lighting shows it off perfectly.

    Continue to 8 of 20 below.
  • 08 of 20

    Architectural Highlight

    Custom wall-length bookshelf
    Keith Bruns

    Custom built-ins can be designed to highlight and complement architectural details, such as this one from ​Keith Bruns. Here the shelves were taken up close to the ceiling and match up with the widths of the ceiling arches. The finials at the top of the shelves act as a connecting force between the built-ins and the arches, making them appear almost as one unit.

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    Tall and Narrow

    Contemporary living room with narrow built ins
    Micheal Abrams Limited, Photo by Scott Shigley

    Sometimes less is more, especially in rooms where there isn't a lot of wall space. Tall, narrow built-ins as demonstrated by Michael Abrams Design can help frame a fireplace and reinforce a focal point while still providing some display or storage space. Accent lighting helps draw the eye to where it's supposed to go.

    Continue to 10 of 20 below.
  • 10 of 20

    Side View

    Contemporary living room with custom built ins
    Kristen McGaughey/Portico Design Group

    While symmetry is naturally appealing to the eye, it's not always the right answer. In this room by Portico Design, a built-in unit was installed on one side of the mantel to house the television and other items. Instead of the fireplace being the sole focal point, it becomes part of a triangle-shaped focal area with the art hanging above, and the television.

    Continue to 11 of 20 below.
  • 11 of 20

    Built In Seating

    Under cabinet built ins
    MK Development

    The term"built-in" doesn't just refer to shelving. Seating can also be a component. This built-in unit made by ​MK Development has the best of both worlds, with closed cabinets on one side and a built-in seat with drawers underneath on the other.

    Continue to 12 of 20 below.
  • 12 of 20

    Entertainment Center

    Custom bar and entertainments center
    Closet Factory

    Add drama to a living room with sleek and modern built-ins designed around entertaining. Media centers have been popular for quite a while, but home bars are quickly catching up. While they used to be relegated to dining rooms, basements and less populated areas of the home, they can now often be found front and center in the living room, as seen in this example by ​Closet Factory.

    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • 13 of 20

    Floating Shelves

    Modern living room with black built ins
    State Street Interiors

    Create a contemporary look with simple floating shelves. The lack of hardware and decorative embellishments keeps the look clean, while the dark color adds drama. A look by State Street Design like this is fairly easy to replicate using pieces of wood cut to size but to get the look to be sure to paint the back wall a similar color to the shelves.

    Continue to 14 of 20 below.
  • 14 of 20

    Architectural Detail

    Beach house living room with built in shelves
    Molly Frey Design

    Don't be afraid to add a little decorative detail to the living room built-ins. The back of this unit has a shiplap detail that adds a subtle coastal vibe. In this case by Molly Frey Design, the detail is architectural, but things like paint and wallpaper can also be used to great effect.

    Continue to 15 of 20 below.
  • 15 of 20

    Don't Be a Square

    Built in shelving with arches
    Liz Williams Interiors

    Arched built-ins with decorative trim add a feeling of elegance to this relaxing living room by Liz Williams Interiors. The arched shape provides a nice juxtaposition to the streamlined mantel while the trim adds a beautiful finishing detail.

    Continue to 16 of 20 below.
  • 16 of 20

    Think Outside the Wall

    Built ins under stairs
    Avenue B Developments

    Built-ins don't always have to be against a wall. Sometimes they can be incorporated into other areas of the room in a way that makes a lot more sense. These shelves that are built into a staircase are a great use of space by Avenue B Developments. They do not impose on the rest of the room and provide ample storage for books and accessories.

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    A Warm Embrace

    Traditional style living room with mahogany built ins
    Professional Design Consultants via Houzz

    Traditional built-in cabinets in a warm wood finish help give this old world living room a comforting and comfortable atmosphere. To create a look like this, make sure that the built-in cabinets wrap around a significant portion of the room. They act like an embrace, framing the seating arrangement and creating a sense of warmth. A good example would be this arrangement by Professional Design Consultants via Houzz.

    Continue to 18 of 20 below.
  • 18 of 20

    Go Bold

    Blue living room with built ins
    Ann Lowengart

    Bring some life to your built-ins by painting them a bright or bold color, such as this design by Ann Lowengart Interiors. While the style of these units is fairly straightforward and traditional, the intense, bright blue color gives them a sense of playfulness.

    Continue to 19 of 20 below.
  • 19 of 20

    No Frills Built-Ins

    Neutral living room with built ins
    Memar Architects Inc

    Sometimes simplicity is best. These no-frills, frameless built-ins by Memar Architects Inc​​ provide plenty of storage while reinforcing a contemporary aesthetic. The clean lines provide a nice contrast to the curved lines of the furniture, which is important for creating a sense of depth.

    Continue to 20 of 20 below.
  • 20 of 20

    Dark and Romantic

    Living room with stone mantel, built ins and wing chairs
    Eric Hausmann Photography/Insignia Kitchen and Bath Design Studio

    Dark built-ins can contribute to the sense of intimacy in small, cozy rooms. In this example by Insignia Kitchen and Bath Design Studio, they flank the fireplace and help call attention to the stone facade. Dark leather wing chairs with nailhead trim reinforce the masculine aesthetic.