Stuck On Décor Ideas? Here’s How To Light A Bookcase

A bookcase is a must-have piece of furniture in every home as it brings warmth to any room. We use it to store books, display decorative objects, pictures and sentimental items. The good news with this bulky piece of furniture is that it’s very easy to make it on your own. You can make one from pallets or build a tree bookcase by yourself, and then you can style it and match your taste.

a black room with a bookcase lightened with orange lights

But what if you are stuck on decor ideas? To have the right result, you need to know how to decorate shelves. Yet, there’s a simpler way to decorate your bulky piece of furniture and have a successful outcome. Luckily, we’ve got your back. We have prepared an easy tutorial to help you learn how to light a bookcase and a few lighting ideas to upgrade your interior design.

How to install bookcase lighting

Installing library lighting needs a few electrical and woodworking skills. However, you can transform both your bookshelf and overall interior design with the right guidelines. Here’s a simple and hassle-free tutorial to help you install your cabinet lighting.

Needed materials:

  • Boards
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Drill
  • Plug-in lights

Steps to follow:

  1. Add a 25cm board to the top of your bookcase. You need this to give your lights space to attach them.
  2. Next, add 2.5x5cm boards to the front of the shelves to better customise your unit.
  3. Now, apply a primer and then paint it to the colour of your choice.
  4. Once the paint has dried, drill holes to the board you have attached to the front of the unit and thread the cord through the back of the shelves.

And you are ready! You have just attached the cabinet lighting.  

Bookcase lighting ideas

Now that you know how to install bookshelf lighting, check out some DIY bookcase lighting ideas to create the perfect ambience for your book collection. Below we have 8 lighting ideas to help you highlight your unit and your dining room, living room, or any other room this unit is located in.

Fairy lights

Fairy lights are the best types of lighting to start with your first DIY attempt. There are different types available in the market: string lights and curtain lights and come in various sizes, light modes, and shapes. You can also find them dimmable to raise and reduce the lighting levels depending on the atmosphere you want to create in your living room. Place them under cabinets and highlight your book collection and your built-in bookshelves with the warm light.

a young woman selecting books from her bookcase, which has lit with fairy lights

Flameless candles

Candles are an excellent way to decorate your living space and bring a calming, cosy feeling of relaxation to any room. Opt for flameless candles to prevent accidents and spread them all over your unit.


Another simple way to light up your bookshelf is the lightboxes. You can find them in different shapes, sizes and prices. The best with these is that you can customise your own message and fit them in between books or in front of them. 

Led letters

Similar to the lightbox is the led letters. Also available in different sizes, shapes and prices. Use them as bookends or simply to create accent lighting for your bookcase.

Overhanging light fixtures

Overhanging light fixtures are similar to outdoor wall lights in design. They are small plugin spotlights you can install on the top shelf of your unit and direct the light down and over the built-in shelves.

You may also want to consider using battery-operated picture lights, which don’t require special installation, and they come with a remote control to adjust the dimming.

overhanging light fixtures on the top of a white bookcase


Lanterns always create an idyllic ambience in a room. They are also a great way to illuminate your bookshelves. Purchase mini lanterns, fill them with tea lights and spread them across your shelves.

Led strip lights

Led strip lights provide an even low-voltage light source. Led bulbs are measured differently than incandescent light bulbs and are more economical. You can use them to create ambient and display lighting on your unit, as well as your kitchen cabinets. Attach the led tape under cabinets to illuminate each shelf. The good news is that led strip lights come on a reel giving you the chance to create a different lighting design. Plus, you can cover the strip lighting inside a channel for a more polished look.

If you’re looking for a unique lighting design for your shelving units, you can try dark lighting. Hide it at the back of the shelf and add depth to your unit, lighting at the same time your glass objects and books.

installing LED strip into the niche of a bookshelf

Individual shelf-lighting

Illuminate specific objects on your bookshelf using miniature downlights. It’s very effective, especially if you have divided your shelves into sections. 

What to look for when choosing your lighting

Before purchasing and installing the lighting system, there are a few things you should bear in mind in order to get the best results. 


There are two types of lighting, led lights and incandescent lighting. The latter’s brightness is measured in watt whilst the former’s is in lumens. If someone told you that you need a 60-watt bulb, you would know what to get. However, it’s different when it comes to led lights. A 40-watt incandescent light bulb equals about 450 lumens. If you go for led lights, you better choose up to 800 lumens as it’s the best library lighting.

Light colour

LEDs have a certain colour temperature which is measured on the Kelvin scale. The lower the numbers, the warmer the light. The coolest lights have a bluish hue, while the warmest, more yellow tones resemble daylight. The tone you will select should pair with the atmosphere and colours of the room.

Directing the light

Finally, you have to decide how the light will illuminate your shelves and the items. You might want to outline the sides and the top of the unit or highlight the top of each shelf. That depends on the size of your bookcase. If you have a large one, lighting on top of the shelves might not be enough to light all the books. It might be better to use backlights or LEDs to highlight the items on each shelf from a hidden location in the front.

a wooden bookcase with many books, highlighted by warm light

Proper lighting will upgrade both your unit and your overall home decor. There are several ideas you can choose from. Choose fairy lights, spotlights or led tapes. The good news is that you can use the above ideas to light your kitchen cabinets, display china or even highlight wall art and pictures. Choose the right colour, brightness and direction of the light and create a warm, welcoming and idyllic ambience.

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