Shelf life: Combining functionality and form

Kya deLongchamps stacks up some of the best shelving options for your home combining functionality with form — but warns to us to measure up well before ordering and also, to beware of cluttering.

Shelving takes storage on with a dainty footprint, whether back to the wall or walked out into the room as a fully framed-up divider. Choose independent pieces rather than built-ins and your investment can come with you when you move.

Before purchasing really think about what would not only look great, but answer your need. How ‘present’ do you want the system shelving or furnishing to be?

Hay shelves from €72,

Whole Wall Solutions

Floor to ceiling shelving and bookcases have been enjoyed from Georgian times in freestanding units with hefty cupboards to the base and in frames bolted to the wall and/or ceiling.

There’s an undeniable drama to taking hold of a wall in a fully structured grid, before you even put a thing on it. Book shelves give architectural thump to any room, deepen and insulate walls, effectively pushing the planes up and out to the eye — if you don’t overcrowd the shelf with too much chattering ballast.

Leave the wall and use the ceiling and floor for support as bold architectural partitions in an open plan room that’s just too yawning-wide for comfort. In a room divider, a system shelf bolted to the floor and ceiling will not rock with heavy footfall. The visibility from one side to the other will depend on the number of closed backs to the shelving and of course its contents.

Industrial and mid-century forms offer handsome plumbers’ pipe-style supports (or actual plumbers’ pipe — have a go, creatives) and elegant wood and metal uprights to glass or luxuriant timber shelves. Before climbing, consider what you could do on the lower decks.

A deeper shelf to provide a desk? Roomy blind storage, a niche for a low couch or a particular place measured out for artwork. Keep in mind that anything more than 180cm from the floor will be out of standard access.

Shortlist: Dale Italia for Dale 6 shelf unit in walnut, durmast oak wood and wenge wood €4,780, and Gunn (Dublin) for bespoke pipe-work and square bar-supported pieces in chunky reclaimed wood, POA, shelving systems from Chaplins,’s adaptable open storage system which can work in a dressing-room, office or living space, from €40 upwards for Algot/Billy/Kallax series at IKEA.

String kitchen shelving from €1,297,

Freestanding freedom

Create long, low horizons or sit the piece up as a more formal, isolated and independent element of furniture. How present and substantial you want the shelving to be, depends on its design all around, and the frame and shelving material depth. Banking freestanding elements on a completely level floor allows you to fill the space to suit (odd gaps between tall terraces — not attractive).

Decorative freestanding shelf units in bar metals and glass, gilded in copper, silver and most especially gold, are all over the high street and glossy European collections if you fancy a showcase for ornaments and neatly organised books.

Open frames allow light to flow in a smaller room, but without the side and back supports, don’t allow for contents to lean. Freestanding room dividers should be physically stable, crafted all round, with no sharp edges, and all larger pieces are best bolted to the wall with ‘L’ shaped brackets.

Shortlist: Kartell by Roberto and LudovicaPalomba in colourful semi-transparent plastics, €474String kitchen shelving (full unit). from €1,297, New Order collection from about €700, suppliers include www.lostweekend.ieCopenhagen free standing units from €1,500-€4,700, www.boconcept.comMetro ladder, €95, [url=[/url]

Organiser from €20,

Wall mounted

Horizontal and vertical lines sit best on walls while open and wire forms are on trend for floor-mounted shelving this year.

Floating shelves and pockets do away with upright supports and can be grouped companionably for functional spaces like the home office or bathroom, or to curate a single ornament or sculpture. Ensure wall mountings for timber-framed walls can support the load.

Modular shelving can start in a few shelves and build to take on whatever you throw at it or be pared back to a supporting actor role for display.

Consider a cantilevered desk section for light work like paying bills from your laptop. Vitsoe 606 Universal Shelving systems show just what can be done with good old track support to hold shelving and it’s intended for one shelf to a whole library,

Shortlist: String Plex by Nisse wall and combination shelving from €130, www.ambientedirect.comPocket Organiser in various sizes and colours, right, from €20, www.normann-copenhagen.comMDF Italia Randomissimow designed by Neuland, one piece sheet steel steps climbing the wall, from €1,160, for suppliers.Belted shelf by Cuckooland in buffalo leather and marble, from €80, www.cuckooland.comCubit (Germany) for theirrandom box systems,

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