Beyond storage: shelving systems as design elements
The shelves have a clear function: to organize, store and display. This simple yet vital role has made it a staple in every household, keeping the place neat and tidy by holding books, clothes, toys or any other items that would otherwise be scattered on the floor. Although typically found in closets, bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, shelves are useful anywhere extra storage space is needed. They are especially ideal for making the most of small rooms, which will always benefit from cleaner, clutter-free floor space. Responding to this crucial storage need and following a strict ‘form follows function’ approach, traditional shelving is often composed of minimal, flat horizontal planes fixed to a wall – a simple layout that is not particularly intended to attract attention. ‘Warning. As a result, people don’t tend to think about shelving ideas beyond storage, and in that sense the myriad design possibilities they provide are often overlooked.
Shelves definitely don’t have to be boring. On the contrary, they are one of the most interesting, functional and versatile elements that can make a difference in any interior. As design continues to evolve alongside new technologies and advanced manufacturing methods, these come in many different sizes, materials and shapes, even the most complex and unconventional. Thus, shelving systems can adopt a variety of uses that range from the subtle division of spaces to the dual function of bold pieces that enhance the aesthetics of a room. All it takes is a little ingenuity for these to transform interiors, either blending seamlessly into a particular architectural style or standing out and making a strong impression. To inspire you, this article explores unique ways to use shelving as design elements, with examples from the Architonic catalog.
Types of shelves and materials
Before delving into their architectural possibilities, it is important to know the different types of shelving available on the market. After all, their format will greatly define the effect they will have on a space. Hanging and floating wall shelves, for example, are widely used due to their simplicity and versatility. While the first is fixed to the wall by fixed brackets, the second hides the fixing material so as to avoid any visible support. Similarly, hanging shelves are suspended from ropes, pipes or other forms of support. Recessed shelves, on the other hand, are fixed to the wall in a nook or indentation, using the existing surface of the alcove as support. As their name suggests, freestanding shelves are not fixed to the walls, so lean against them or simply sit freely on the floor. They can also be stackable, foldable or modular.
In terms of materials, there are endless options and combinations to choose from. Wood – both solid wood and engineered wood like plywood – is by far the most popular due to its durability and versatility, as well as its warm, elegant and timeless appearance. Particularly suitable for heavy loads, steel and aluminum are distinguished by their solidity and their sleek contemporary look, ideal for an industrial style. Plastic shelving systems can also be quite strong and have a long lifespan, but since they work with lighter loads it is common to find them in smaller sizes (especially children’s bedrooms). Taking on different levels of transparency with a unique visual effect, glass shelves are commonplace in contemporary environments, although they are generally not as load-bearing as other materials. Tempered glass shelves, however, can be just as strong as hardwood ones.
Once the desired type of shelving has been defined, it is possible to experiment with shapes, layouts and colors to create various architectural effects. In this way, what was once a horizontal piece exclusively intended for storage becomes a versatile and multifunctional design element. Read on to discover some options through a selection from Architonic’s “Shelves” section.
Subtly divide a room
Fixed or mobile, the shelves can be used as partitions to divide rooms without compromising visual access. For example, to create an office or study space separated from the rest of the living room while maintaining the feeling of an open and unified space. It allows light and air to circulate and also serves as a visible point for all ornamental objects, combining storage, separation and decoration. The shelf does not need to reach the ceiling to achieve this effect; instead, it should simply be located where subtle division is needed. And, of course, the higher, longer or closed it is, the greater the degree of privacy.
Separate living spaces
Delineate the kitchen
Experiment with modularity
Modular shelves provide maximum flexibility to adapt to different needs. With virtually endless arrangements that easily take apart, reassemble and reconfigure, it’s possible to change the layout of the pieces and create unique shapes and color patterns. Simply add or remove modules to meet ever-changing needs; a bookcase, for example, can easily turn into an office or a lounge area simply by rearranging the elements. The typology is particularly suited to modern and hybrid homes that require adaptability, especially in common living areas, home office spaces and bedrooms.
Finish and fill the wall
Wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling shelving can turn a flat, plain white surface into an eye-catching design feature. As well as complementing the space (and creating additional useful space), they can fill the wall with patterns, textures, colors, plants, and decorative pieces that add character and aesthetic value to a room. . These shelves can easily give any room an organized look, integrating and grouping televisions, paintings and photographs into a convenient grid system.
Around the room
Shelf suspended from the ceiling
Extension of the wall
Improve a blank surface
Create a sculptural work of art
As long as they meet the necessary storage and display requirements, the shelving’s versatility allows them to take on striking, eye-catching shapes that function as works of art on their own. Whether through intricate layouts, unconventional geometries, material explorations, shading or texture, they can act as intricate wall art or sculptural pieces, decorating a space while creating dramatic impact. that instantly grabs attention.
Play with geometry
Sculpture inspired by nature
Clean architectural lines
Experiment with angles
For more creative shelving ideas, visit Architonic’s “Shelves” section.