Sometimes the most impressive designs are almost accidental, evolving as if they’re living organisms.

There are some amazing bookcases out there in the world, but forget all of the ones you’ve seen for just a moment. Instead, consider the beauty of bookshelves populated with your favorite volumes … there is a case to be made, if you will, for simply letting these stand on their own and evolve visually as you fill them up.

(Above, Left to Right & Top to Bottom: John Barman, Eric Staudenmaier, Bill Kingston & Lili Abir Regen).

Design to Inspire recently gathered a series of photographs depicting relatively conventional (mostly built-in) bookcase designs of ordinary houses that, individually, might not look all that impressive … but taken together they are a bit like touring a library built over centuries in different styles. Here are some of the best pictures from the bunch, organized by style, material, tone and color.

(ILs and Jan Baldwin)

Classic Dark: These images could have been shot almost anytime in the past century (save for a few more recent pieces of furniture). Building floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall bookcases is not new… arguably, it was even more common before the advent of the internet. Do you find these ones cozy or overwhelming?

(M2 Interior Design and Simon Watson)

Modern Bright: There is nothing quite so successful but simple for adding color to a bland white interior as a well-placed, large-scale bookcase – the books do your work for you (especially if you do not trust your taste in modern wall art). Plus, there’s a never-ending supply of things to look at.

(Coburn Architecture,?Hus & Hem & Landstr?m Arkitekter)

Natural Wood: where white serves as blank and wood grain established mid-tones and visual orientation, books can add another finer-grained dimension to an otherwise cheap and elemental design like the ones shelved on these basic wooden built-ins. (Thomas Mayer and Jordi Canosa)