Built-in shelving gives a wonderful upscale look to a home whether it is a Craftsman style gem or a contemporary living room with a wall full of built-in shelving. However, unless you are a master woodworker yourself and have the tools, workshop, time and talent to build such shelving, you’ll find it very expensive to hire a carpenter to do the work for you. However, there is a great option that is affordable and beautiful. Why not use freestanding shelves? While a single unit standing at the side of the room is not going to give you the same look, there are some creative design tricks that can help you pull off a great illusion.

The Importance of Color and Finish

In order to make freestanding shelving look like built-in shelving, you must match the color of existing woodwork. Freestanding shelves come in a vast array of colors and finishes, in both painted and natural stained options. If you can match the color of the shelves to your woodwork very closely, the shelves are more likely to look like they are built in. If you should have trouble finding shelves that are a perfect or nearly perfect match, you can purchase unfinished shelves and stain them yourself. For painted finishes, purchase white painted or pre-primed shelves and then paint them with the same paint that you used on your wood work. For the closest match possible, choose the same kind of wood as your wood trim, such as oak, pine, walnut, etc. This way the finishes will be identical.

Create a Custom Look by Combining Multiple Units

Many homes, both traditional and contemporary, feature entire walls filled with bookcases. This is a beautiful feature that allows for not only book storage but offers great display potential and the flexibility to easily change the display whenever you want. You can create a very similar look by combining several freestanding units on a wall. The key to pulling off this faux built-in look is to measure carefully and find units that are the best fit for space. It’s not likely, however, that you will find units that fit seamlessly but it’s easy to use wood trim to cover gaps between the units or the units and the wall. Choose trim that is similar in style to the trim on the units and then stain or paint it the same color; it will be nearly impossible to see the trim.

There are several ways to go about using combinations of freestanding units. You can go with units that fill the wall floor to ceiling and wall to wall or you can combine units of different sizes and shapes to create a customized look that adds function as well as beauty. For example, you can use two taller units framing a shorter one to create a custom media center. The shorter center unit can hold all your electronics and you can mount the flat screen TV on the wall above it. To make it look like one unit, add a long board across the top of the two units to work as a facer board; choose one with detailing like crown molding, for example, to create a finished look. Choose a design that mimics others in the room and paint or stain this facer board to blend with the units. Spaces between units or sections can be tied to your decor by decorating them with wooden art, large wall art or metal wall hangings.