Good shelving (combined with the ability to edit what you own) can be the ticket to organized living — especially in a small space. Bad shelving (combined with a tendency to collect too much stuff) can sag, warp, and make your home feel shabby. Here are our best bests for shelving, including several classics and a few new entries.
Designed by Dieter Rams in 1960, this is a classic modern design: simple, modular, and stripped of unnecessary detail. It's long-wearing, can adapt to your home as it changes, and it's expensive, but worth the cost. They have a NY showroom and online shop.
Scandinavian Design Center
Like Vitsoe, String shelves are modular and modern. Mounted on a side panel track, they can range from wall-to-wall shelves to the tiny String Pocket (€ 100). These Swedish shelves are sold through Scandinavian Design Center, which ships internationally.
These solid birch bentwood shelves were designed by world-famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 1936, and they look just as good as ever. The 112 Wall Shelves ($470) also come in a white lacquered and black lacquered surface.
Atlas' AS4 shelving system is a more contemporary, organic version of the Vitsoe. They're not cheap, but are hand-crafted from solid wood with a steel framing system. Expect to pay around $3,000 for a full bookshelf, more for a more complex arrangement.
This system is a little different, since shelves can be mounted from either wall-mounted tracks or compression poles. Based in California, they sell nationally online. Prices are mid-range, and they're a lot less expensive than Vitsoe or Atlas systems.
Mash Studio's LAX wall mounted shelf ($690) is a really nicely made piece crafted from birch or walnut with aluminum doors that slide on a track. You can buy it through Design Public, All Modern, At Work Design, or other modern retailers.
Based in NYC, Henry Julier is an independent designer who recently developed the smart and space-saving Magneto shelf system, a set of four wall-mounted wood shelves backed with a magnetic mounting strip. Designed to be used against metal surfaces, the set is $175.
New this year, the Urbancase Ledge debuted at ICFF 2010. It's a wall-mounted shelf that doubles as a desk and/or media center. It comes in walnut or painted MDF, sells for $1,500, and is available through 2Modern, Velocity, and other retailers.
This company works primarily with architects and designers, but their wall-mounted shelves can be purchased through their webshop. Like the popular Elfa system, Rakks components can be mixed and matched to create a custom wall of shelving.
They're the sole U.S. retailer for Elfa, a popular semi-custom system of shelves and drawers that attach to wall-mounted tracks. They also carry other modular and wall-mounted systems, and they have an annual shelving sale, when they usually offer 25% off.
Online retailer Smart Furniture specializes in modern, versatile shelving — much of it modular. They sell the Cubit system, a series of cubbyholes which stack into easily changeable combinations. Pricing starts around $50 for a single Cubit kit.
Favorite IKEA products that show up regularly on the pages of Apartment Therapy include the Expedit, Lack, and Billy shelves. Designed to be unassuming, these shelves are inexpensive, but be warned: they're not heirloom pieces, and they tend to fall apart after one or two moves.
The Grove Furniture
They have a slew of unfinished, affordable, hardwood shelving. Though traditional in style, many of these pieces could find a place in a modern home. And since they're unfinished, the end look of each piece is really up to you.
McMaster-Carr Supply Company
This catalog retailer sells heavy duty and industrial equipment, including steel shelving. Their prices are reasonable for the quality, pieces are virtually indestructible, and styles can work well in an industrial/modern home.
Designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri, the Componibili storage system is made by Kartell from ABS plastic. It comes in either round or square shapes, and can be stacked on top of itself. Prices start around $100 and increase depending on the number of modular elements.
This space-saving bookcase is the work of designer Bruno Rainaldi, and it's a follow-up to his similar Sapien Bookcase of 2003. CB2's version, the Array Bookcase, sells for $189, is made of powdercoated steel, and comes in red and silver.
Room & Board
Their products are made in the USA from solid, modern materials like wood and steel. The quality is very high, pricing is generally mid-range, and designs are simple and streamlined. Shown: Copenhagen Bookcase, $999.
This online store is a good resource for modern classics, like the Eames Storage Unit 420 ($2,000). Designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1950, the series evokes the colorful Mondrian-esque "gridnik" aesthetic and comes in a few different formations.
Finnish Design Shop
Based in Finland, this webshop is "the largest retailer of online retailer of Finnish design products in the world." They carry several new designs by young talent, including some very cool (and pricey) shelves. Shown: Double Access Shelf by Inga Sempe, $6,441.
Blu Dot's Chicago shelves make use of the spaces in between shelves to double the usable surface area while maintaining a lightweight look. You can buy these directly through Blu Dot, or through retailers like Design Public and Amazon.com. Shown: Chicago 8-Box, $1,800.