Best Folding Bookshelves

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
341 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best folding bookshelves

Last Updated October 2019

All book lovers know the difficulty of parting with books, but there’s only so much shelf space available in any one home. Bookcases can be large and unwieldy and difficult to assemble correctly. One misplaced screw and you’ll find your books toppling off the shelf and onto the floor. A simpler and easier way to store books and knickknacks is a folding bookshelf.

Folding bookshelves rarely require any assembly, and they collapse in on themselves for easy storage. They also don’t need to be screwed into the wall to prevent them from becoming top-heavy like some bookcases. Instead, they are constructed to bear the weight of books in a balanced way. And when it comes time to move, you’ll be relieved that you only need to fold your bookshelf up to transport it.

Our buying guide delves deeper into what makes folding bookshelves valuable and must-have products. For our five favorite folding bookshelves, see the matrix above.

Some folding bookshelves may be referred to as étagères, which is a French word for a piece of furniture with open shelves for displaying ornaments or collections.

Key considerations

The main consideration when shopping for folding bookshelves is the construction material.

Wood folding bookshelves

Wood bookshelves are the traditional choice, and wood is an excellent material for a folding bookshelf because of its sturdiness. Books are heavy objects, and if the shelf isn’t strong enough to support them, it will begin to sag.

  • Hardwood: Folding bookshelves made from hardwood are unlikely to sag because of the high density of the wood. Hardwood options include beech, hickory, mahogany, maple, oak, teak, and walnut. These folding bookshelves are the heaviest type.
  • Softwood: Folding bookshelves constructed from softwood are more likely to sag under the weight of 1,000-page hardcovers, but they aren’t always a poor choice. If you mostly have paperbacks and plan on using some shelves for knickknacks, a softwood folding bookshelf will hold up nicely. These options include cedar, fir, spruce, and pine.
  • Plywood: Plywood is comprised of layers of wood veneer that are glued together. It’s not as strong as hardwood or softwood, but it can be used to construct a folding bookshelf. There are different grades available based on what type of wood was pressed into the plywood.
  • Composite: Composite materials refer to wood byproducts. Particleboard and medium-density fiberboard fit into this category. Wood chips are glued together to make particleboard. Sawdust and small chips are glued together to construct medium-density fiberboard. This is the least sturdy of all the wood options for folding bookshelves.

 

Metal folding bookshelves

The biggest advantage of purchasing a folding bookshelf made from iron, steel, or another type of metal is its durability. Metal will not warp or bend like a wood bookshelf can. Because it’s unlikely that the bookshelf will be exposed to water or moisture, there’s little chance of the metal rusting.

Iron and metal folding bookshelves provide a different aesthetic than wood bookshelves. They offer a more industrial or minimalist look. Often the choice between the two materials comes down to what best complements the room’s decor.

Bamboo folding bookshelves

Bamboo is an extremely durable material that’s known to be stronger than some hardwoods. It’s also lightweight and easy to manipulate, which makes it a good option for a folding bookshelf. Similar to a metal bookshelf, a bamboo option will provide a different look for the room.

Glass folding bookshelves

Some folding bookshelves are available in tempered glass. They fold up and store easily and offer a modern aesthetic. The cons of glass folding bookshelves are that they are difficult to keep clean, may break, and paperback books may slip off.

EXPERT TIP

Folding bookshelves don’t need to be limited to only holding books. Use them to organize any type of collection or for displaying family photos.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Number of shelves

Typically, folding bookshelves have at least three or four shelves. It’s rare that you will find a folding bookshelf with less than three shelves. The most shelves a folding bookshelf will have is six or seven. Any more than that and the height between the shelves will not be tall enough for a book to fit.

Consider the height of your current books. If you own mostly paperbacks, then the more shelves, the better. If you have a lot of tall hardcovers, you may want less shelves to ensure they will all fit. Also, the more shelves there are, the busier the bookshelf will look.

Height

A folding bookshelf must be able to fit into your room without touching the ceiling, and you must be able to reach the top shelves either by yourself or with a small step stool. The taller the bookshelf, the more imposing it can look. For areas that you want to seem light and airy, look for a shorter folding bookshelf.

The height of the shelves dictates how many shelves there are and what kind of books they will fit. Some folding bookshelves allow you to adjust the shelf height. However, the top shelf is usually a fixed shelf, which means it can’t be moved.

Assembly

Folding bookshelves require little to no assembly. Most come pre-assembled. When the folding bookshelf arrives, you simply remove it from the box and unfold it. Other folding bookshelves require some assembly, but you won’t need any tools. The shelves only need to be locked into place before standing up the folding bookshelf.

Stacked units

Some short folding bookshelves can be stacked on top of each other. This option allows you to choose the number of shelves and how tall you’d like the bookshelf to be. It’s possible to split the two bookshelves later on if the design of your room changes.

Corner folding bookshelves

Typical folding bookshelves are square or rectangular. However, there are also corner folding bookshelves available. These are usually smaller and more compact than traditional bookshelves. The shelves are triangular so that the bookshelf fits into the corner of a room.

EXPERT TIP

To add interest to the organization of your folding bookshelf, try alternately stacking books horizontally and vertically. This will break up the shelves and add depth to the room.


Staff  | BestReviews

Folding bookshelf prices

You can find inexpensive folding bookshelves for $40 to $70. These basic bookshelves may not be made from the highest-quality materials. They will usually have three to four shelves, and they are an ideal solution for a child’s bookshelf.

Mid-range folding bookshelves cost between $80 and $120. These bookshelves are typically more stylish and aesthetically pleasing. They are made from higher-quality materials and last longer than cheaper bookshelves.

The most expensive folding bookshelves retail for $150 to $300. These bookshelves are made from high-quality materials like hardwoods and are extremely durable. They should last a lifetime.

EXPERT TIP

If a certain room has a color theme, try only shelving books with complementary colors on your folding bookshelf. You might be surprised how much attention the books draw when they match the decor.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Always put the heaviest books on the lowest shelf of a folding bookshelf. They will help weigh down the bookshelf so that it doesn’t wobble or tip. If you put heavy books on a top shelf, a folding bookshelf can become top-heavy and topple.
  • When you add a folding bookshelf to a neutral room, the colors of the book covers will add a pop of color to the room.
  • Don’t have enough books to fill the shelves? Consider adding knickknacks, bookends, photos, or small succulents to add some character to the folding bookshelf.

Other products we considered

Besides our top choices, there were a few more folding bookshelves that caught our eye. The Comodo Folding Bookshelf is a four-tier shelving unit with a metal frame and strong chipboard shelves. It looks sleek and elegant, but the chipboard shelves might not be durable enough for very heavy books. On the other side of the spectrum, the Convenience Concepts Designs2Go X-Tra Storage Wide Metal Folding Shelf is plain and simple. It offers three metal shelves to store large coffee table books or magazines. This metal folding bookshelf is lightweight and easy to move around, but on the downside, it doesn’t have the look of a traditional bookshelf.

Don’t overstuff a folding bookshelf, thinking you can squeeze in that last book. Books need to breathe and mashing them into a full shelf can damage the spines and integrity of the books.

FAQ

Q. Do folding bookshelves have a maximum weight?
A.
How much weight a folding bookshelf can bear depends on what materials it’s made out of. The manufacturer should provide a weight limit in the product description for a folding bookshelf.

Q. What’s the best height to maintain between the shelves of a folding bookshelf?
A.
The average height between the shelves is usually seven to 15 inches. If you have adjustable shelves on your folding bookshelf, try to leave at least one foot of space between the shelves.

Q. Can I paint or stain a folding bookshelf if I don’t like the color?
A.
It depends on the folding bookshelf’s materials. Some woods can be stripped and restained, while others can only be painted over. Most metals can be painted.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Kailey
    Kailey
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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