I’m a major geek for modular furniture. The ability to buy something great, buy it once, and have it for the rest of my life has major appeal to me. In order to make this feasible, the item has to be extremely flexible, which means it has to be modular — composed off interchangeable parts which can fit in many difference places and scenarios.
One of the best places to go modular is with your shelving.
What Is Modular Shelving?
Modular shelving is an type of shelving system that is sold in components. These components can be used in a wide variety of configurations in order to customize the resulting shelving.
Typical modular shelving systems feature both vertical and horizontal pieces, with the vertical being either pieces that fit between shelves, hangers, or full-height posts. The horizontal pieces are usually the shelves themselves, but these can also be a desktop, drawer, cabinet, rack, or even a stabilizing bar with hooks hanging from it.
Modular shelves are usually called “systems? because they can be so much more than shelves.
Vitsoe 606 Shelving System
The most famous of all modular shelving options is the iconic Vitsoe 606. This is the gold standard of modular shelving, having been designed by Dieter Rams and continually made since 1960.
The system is sold as the “X” and the “E” depending whether you want shelving that is free-standing or wall-mounted. The free-standing X posts are expensive but quite striking in person. They can extend floor-to-ceiling and can be mounted to each, creating an really impressive shelving system.
This is an all-metal system with a wide variety of part, including cabinets, desks, magazine shelves, TV mounts, and more.
This system is attractive and well-made to the extreme, but it’s quite expensive. A standard Vitsoe shelving bay: 26 inches wide, 4 metal shelves, and 72 inches tall with wall-mounted E track will cost about $1000. Using the X posts will about double that price. And then accessories are quite expensive — those wonder cabinets that appear in all the catalog images start at $865 each.
So yes, Vitsoe is stunning but startlingly expensive. As a Vitsoe owner I can tell you the system is something you truly want to own forever, but getting going with it is a challenge. Also used pieces are extremely hard to find and rather expensive so there isn’t a good way to dodge the cost.
The String System of shelving has been in existence since 1949 and it remains an attractive, classic looking option for modular wall shelving. Designed by Nils “Nisse” Strinning, the system is a great fit for bedrooms and offices alike.
This system relies on wall-mounted or free-standing metal brackets and then it has a combination of wire and solid shelving that gives it a wide amount of variation in the look and feel of the final product.
One advantage of this system is that is the starting price is lower than most of the shelving of this heritage. The String Pocket wall-mounted shelving starts at under $200 for a 26-inch wide, 3-shelf unit.
Another advantage of the String system is that is has a more diverse set of accessories than you’ll find with the others. There are the shelves and desks you’d expect, but also fun items like a bowl shelf, knife holder, hooks, and wine bottle holders.
The Royal System of shelving, which was started in 1948 by Poul Cadovius and currently manufactured but DK3 is one of the most classic and conversation designs you’ll in the modular furniture. This Danish shelving system was relaunched in 2010 and allows for over 16 million different shelving configurations, so it has more than sufficient flexibility for any home or office.
This is a wall-mounted system, like the Vitsoe E tracks, but it uses wood shelves and wire brackets. The wood is MDF (medium-density fiberboard) with veneer over it so that it looks both high-end and classy. The shelving is on the thin side and can only support 35 pounds per shelf, with some apparent flex when doing so.
For pricing you can expect to spend about $1000 per 26″ bay. A 3-bay shelf system that is 96 inches tall and has 4 full-width shelves will retail for about $3500.
One downside with this system is that it has a design shift in 1985 so modern parts are not compatible with ones made before that date.
Part types include…
- Magazine shelf
- Desk shelf
- Cabinet with 2 sliding doors
- Cabinet with 3 drawers
- Cabinet with writing flap