My old apartment
Here we used two freestanding shelves to add architectural detail to the room, and display objects.
Industrial bookshelves are modern and add lots of character. I love them in almost any kind of space, and mixed with antiques or modern furniture.
Here is an example of bookshelves as room divider. They delineate a space without closing it off. I love the collection of globes at the top too! (See a related blog Obelisks on bookshelves at Obelisk Decorating)
I love Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia for a great selection of decorative, and architectural pieces. These two bookshelves are very smart looking. The one to the left is a massive 155" wide and 94" tall Regency style wood bookcase. The X-frames give it such character. There would be lots of room to pile this high with books, and art. This sold for $800 off an auction estimate of $400 - $600.
Add brass to the X-frame for an even more chic look! This circa 1950 wood and brass Regency style bookcase sold at Kamelot for $2,200 off an auction estimate of $1,000 - $1,500. Because this is open, it would make a great room divider.
For modern options, my go-to would be Wright Auctions in Chicago. This Edward Wormley open frame bookshelf is made of mahogany and brass. It's circa 1954, and measures 48 inches wide, and 76.5 inches tall. The design is subtle and very cool. This would look good against a wall, or between rooms. This sold for $4,375 of an auction estimate of $3,000 - $5,000.
This bookshelf was designed by Ico and Luisa Parisi (Italian, circa 1950). It's made of mahogany, walnut, and brass, and measures 44 inches wide and 49 inches tall. The design makes this a piece of art in and of itself. I would want to place this somewhere that the shapes can be seen from the side. This had an auction estimate of $7,000 to $9,000.
This bookshelf has wonderful carved shapes and details. This sold at a Copake Auction in Copake, NY for $675 off an auction estimate of $300 - $500. It measures 33 inches wide and is 63" tall. It's described as a carved 19th century folk art bookshelf. It has lots of interest.
I love this pair of corner shelves. I can think of all kinds of uses for them. Pairs are wonderful for adding an architectural element to a room. Think of these as flanking a sofa, and they don't necessarily need to be in a corner. These are described as George III style and made of mahogany. They measure 21 inches wide and 45 inches tall. These sold at a Copake Auction for $226 off an auction estimate of $150 to $250.
Think of bookshelves as an architectural element first, and then a place for books and art for added interest. Even if you're on a budget, you don't need to give up style. If you keep your eye out at auctions you will find something that adds interet, and is utilitarian at the same time.