Storage is an almost impossible task, especially when dealing with city apartments that don’t have basements, or perhaps even closets. Moving out of the pandemic, we also might find ourselves with more stuff cluttering our spaces than in early 2020 — results of quarantine consumerism. Shelving is vital, but the question becomes, what kind of shelving do you actually need?
Modular shelving systems, like Vitsoe’s sleek metal arrangements or the millennial brand Floyd’s colorful, expandable units, are appealing because they can fit in any space. But they are expensive and the infinite options can be intimidating. Who wants to deal with various kits and combinations when trying to just find a place to put stuff? What’s more, they require building and installation, and the arrangements can sometimes wobble.
West Elm and the Container Store sell cheaper versions of wall-mounted modular shelving that can be easily installed by professionals. Yet the shelves themselves aren’t particularly appealing, unless you’re going for a totally stark, minimal look. You have to embrace industrial aesthetics to be content with wall-mounted metal brackets and wire shelving elements.
When trying to figure out a solution for my enclosed apartment kitchen, where an empty wall beckoned for shelving, I looked through the modular options but ended up with freestanding shelves. And not just any shelves, but bookshelves, which turned out to be more than wide and deep enough for kitchen gear and cookbooks, not just paperbacks.
I discovered the shelves I finally bought at Room & Board: the brand’s Slim Bookcases. Their friendly, human scale and generous shelf height stood out in the in-store display. That the bookcase is made of steel means that its lines can be incredibly thin but still very structurally sound: they don’t wobble at all, because the entire shelf is welded together into one form. Two of the shelves now occupy that entire blank wall and have more than enough space for a rice cooker, flower vases, mixing bowls, and baking pans. It feels a little like living in a kitchen store.
The most fun aspect of Room & Board’s product is that it comes in a rainbow of colors, in the powder-coated steel version. I got the sage version, which is a dusty, organic green that feels more cheerful and visually compelling than any modular shelving system. There are 16 color options, ranging from saffron and tangerine to the soft-turquoise “Ocean” hue. You could call it Instagrammable — shelves aren’t usually glamorous, photogenic objects in and of themelves, but these manage to be both functional and beautiful.