What is a Breakfront Bookcase: Definition and Characteristics

A breakfront bookcase is a type of furniture that features a central section that projects forward, creating an illusion of depth and spaciousness. It is typically divided vertically into three segments, with the middle section being the most prominent. The design of a breakfront bookcase is often associated with 17th century Europe, and it was originally used to store books and household chinaware.

Breakfront bookcases come in various sizes and styles, and they can be made from different materials such as wood or glass. They are often used as a decorative piece in a room, adding visual interest and sophistication. While breakfront bookcases were originally designed to store books, they can also be used to display other items such as art, collectibles, or china. In this article, I will provide an overview of what a breakfront bookcase is, its history, and how it can be used to enhance the decor of a room.

What is a Breakfront Bookcase

A breakfront bookcase is a type of furniture that is designed to display and store books and other items. It is similar in appearance to a hutch, with glass-fronted shelving on the top and cabinets on the bottom. However, a breakfront bookcase is typically larger and more ornate than a hutch.

Breakfront bookcases are often made of wood, and they can be decorated with intricate carvings and other embellishments. They may also feature glass doors and shelves to showcase items inside.

Breakfront bookcases are commonly found in dining rooms and living rooms, where they can be used to display fine china, collectibles, and other decorative items. They can also be used in home offices or libraries to store and display books.

One of the key features of a breakfront bookcase is its unique shape. The center section of the bookcase juts out further than the side sections, creating a “break” in the front of the cabinet. This design adds visual interest and depth to the piece, making it a focal point in any room.

Breakfront bookcases can come in a variety of styles, from traditional to modern. Some may have open shelving on the top instead of glass doors, while others may have drawers instead of cabinets on the bottom. Whatever the style, a breakfront bookcase is a versatile and elegant piece of furniture that can add both storage and style to any home.

Historical Background of Breakfront Bookcases


Breakfront bookcases have been around since the 18th century during the Georgian era. The design was popularized in Europe and was an extension of British breakfront cabinets. Early versions of antique bookcases featured a double-cabinet design. Chippendale breakfronts housed books with household chinaware, whereas large ones lined library or parlor walls.

Evolution Over Time

As time progressed, the breakfront bookcase design evolved. The central projection became more pronounced, and the two recessed sections on either side became shallower. The breakfront design was no longer limited to bookcases and was attributed to any furniture with a symmetrical, undulating facade consisting of three sections.

Breakfront bookcases were mainly made from mahogany, which was a popular wood choice at the time. The wood was durable, and its reddish-brown color added to the elegance of the furniture.

In the 19th century, breakfront bookcases were more elaborate and were often accompanied by a desk or a cabinet. The protruding middle section broke down and became a desk, which added to the functionality of the furniture.

Today, breakfront bookcases are still popular and are often seen in traditional homes. They are no longer limited to mahogany and can be made from a variety of woods and finishes. The design has also evolved to include more modern elements, such as glass shelves and LED lighting.

Overall, the breakfront bookcase has a rich history and has evolved over time to become a classic piece of furniture that adds elegance and functionality to any room.

Key Features of a Breakfront Bookcase


A breakfront bookcase is a large piece of furniture that is usually made of wood and is divided into three segments. The center segment is usually projected forward, which creates an illusion of depth and spaciousness. The top portion of the bookcase usually has glass-fronted shelves, while the bottom portion has cabinets. This design allows for the display of both books and decorative items.


Breakfront bookcases can be made of any material, but they are usually made of wood or glass. Mahogany, oak, and walnut are popular wood choices for breakfront bookcases. The glass used for the shelves is usually tempered, which makes it more durable and resistant to breakage.


Breakfront bookcases are versatile pieces of furniture that can be used for both storage and display. The glass-fronted shelves are ideal for displaying decorative items such as vases, figurines, and other collectibles. The cabinets at the bottom of the bookcase can be used to store books, dishes, and other items. Some breakfront bookcases also have drawers, which provide additional storage space.

Breakfront bookcases are often used in dining rooms, living rooms, and libraries. They add elegance and sophistication to any room and are a great way to display and organize your belongings.

Choosing a Breakfront Bookcase


As someone who is interested in acquiring a breakfront bookcase, there are a few considerations to keep in mind before making a purchase. In this section, I will discuss some of the key factors to consider when choosing a breakfront bookcase.


Size and Space

One of the most important considerations when choosing a breakfront bookcase is the size of the piece and the space available in your home. Breakfront bookcases can vary in size from small to very large, so it’s important to measure the space where you plan to place the bookcase and ensure that the piece will fit comfortably in that space.

Style and Design

Another important consideration is the style and design of the breakfront bookcase. There are many different styles to choose from, including traditional, modern, and antique. It’s important to choose a style that complements the other furniture and décor in your home.


The material of the breakfront bookcase is also an important consideration. Breakfront bookcases can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, and glass. It’s important to choose a material that fits the style of your home and that is durable and long-lasting.

Where to Buy

Once you have considered the key factors when choosing a breakfront bookcase, the next step is to find a reputable seller. Here are a few options for where to buy a breakfront bookcase:

Antique Stores

Antique stores are a great place to find vintage or antique breakfront bookcases. These pieces are often unique and have a lot of character, but may require some restoration work.

Furniture Stores

Furniture stores often carry a variety of breakfront bookcases in different styles and materials. This is a good option if you are looking for a new piece that is ready to be used right away.

Online Retailers

There are many online retailers that specialize in furniture, including breakfront bookcases. This can be a convenient option, but be sure to read reviews and check the return policy before making a purchase.

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