Stylish stacks

Books can be a design element in the home, if something beautiful is holding them up

Focus On Bookshelves

October 10, 2004|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

They lean, like ladders propped against a wall. They float, with no visible hardware to show support. They seem to vanish, making objects on them appear suspended. They stand in the middle of the room, not at all where weM-Fre accustomed to seeing them.

The new look of shelves for books and objects of your affection adds a potent design element and versatility that stretches their use throughout the home. ThatM-Fs good news for those who donM-Ft have room for dedicated libraries or enough wall space for shelves to line a room.

That these bookshelves are more adaptable is evidenced in several dynamic features. Some are modular, a delightful trend that allows you to configure them to your needs. Although weM-Fve seen this for 25 years in the most simplistic form M-y cubes that can be stacked one on the other M-y the most recent designs are more sophisticated, both in materials and assemblage. When the elements are put together, they donM-Ft always look like stacked cubes.

The Cubitec shelving from Design Within Reach, for example, offers several looks, depending upon how modules are stepped. Crafted from a nontoxic polypropylene, the bookcase has a unique translucent look in white.

Another companyM-Fs modular shelving system has flattened the cubes M-y that is, rounded the edges. The Hive H2 shelving, manufactured by Cinal, has an undulating effect when itM-Fs silhouetted on a wall. Designed for staggering, the shelves donM-Ft line up horizontally in the conventional sense. Four vertical cubes connect with one shelf that connects to three cubes and two shelves, and on and on.

Other new-style bookshelves roll where you need them, as they sit on casters that allow mobility. And as far as shapes are concerned, the profiles may be less than conventional.

One unique solution for a healthy book collection is the Sapien bookcase available through Design Within Reach. Designed in two heights (83 inches and 60 inches), the all-metal piece is spare in form with a square pedestal base and back support for shelves that virtually disappear when books are stacked on them. ItM-Fs an engaging concept, especially viewed in multiples.

Sarreid Ltd., a North Carolina-based furniture manufacturer, has introduced a couple of revolving bookcases. One 360-degree model is elevated from the floor on a metal tripod base, and its two-tiered top has a painted finish with gilt detailing. The company offers a similar library table in a honey finish, and also what it calls a revolving book table. It has more of a table shape but provides book storage in a cage that seems to float between the surface and floor.

While both Sarreid bookcases are as traditional as it gets, the Visions bookcase produced by Creative Elegance is a compelling blend of traditional materials with modernity. Constructed of a flat piece of chocolate-stained wood, it features a pair of chunky vertical supports for frostedglass shelves that bisect them. The design is as much architecture as furniture.

Another architectural look is from Pottery BarnM-Fs fall catalog. The Lucas collection has Asian overtones, and at first glance, the low-rise bookcase may look same-old. But thereM-Fs something fresh about it. ItM-Fs backless, reflecting a trend toward openness that has made new shelves look lighter in a room, yet its thick partitions make it look as substantial as a built-in.

Also, the console doesnM-Ft have closed ends, which gives the framing shelves a floating appearance. The solid-oak piece, which is finished with a hand-applied espresso-colored stain, can be stacked vertically or placed side by side to make the most of space beneath windows.

The backless look is reminiscent of the etagere, the classic open-shelf tower that is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. A particularly fetching one was introduced by Interlude Home Inc. earlier this year at the spring furniture market in High Point, N.C. ItM-Fs an elegant version with a Far Eastern accent, consisting of seven graduated black cubes edged in gilt.

For some time, Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel have championed the use of ladder shelving, similar to open shelving found in libraries. This bookcase alternative allows the best conversion of books into still-life. Simply mix artwork, sculpture, framed photos, candles and favorite tchotchkes that inspire you.


Creative Elegance: 626-442-6900 or

Interlude Home Inc.: 888-525-6199 or

Design Within Reach: 800-944-2233 or

Pottery Barn: 800-922-5507 or

Sarreid Ltd.: 252-291-1414 or

West Elm: 866-WESTELM or

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.