Poul Cadovius and Cado wall units: History and collecting guide

We learn about the two very collectible types:
‘Royal System’ and ‘System Cado’

vintage cado wall unitContinuing my research into midcentury modern shelving systems, Cado “floating” wall systems are now also in my sites. Like the String System that recently profiled, Cados are Scandinavian-designed — and they are hot collectibles. Unlike Strings, you cannot get them new today, so you must be on the lookout. You know how I say that at estate sales, you need to look to the windows for potentially lovely window treatments? Well now, I add to that list: Look to the walls for potentially valuable shelving systems. Above: Christa’s Cado Wall System. Continue for more views of her Cado… for historical info about this wall system… and for shopping tips.

cado shelves

Christa’s Cado wall system:

Christa writes:

Hi Pam –

I don’t have the String system, but the similar, all wood version of the Cado system…interesting that such similar ideas all were designed at around the same time .

cado wall unitI ended up getting mine from CraigsList, but it did take months and months to find it.

The reason…well my wonderful mid century split level has some floors that are, well, wobbly if you walk to hard…especially the dining room. My vintage blonde china cabinet was great, except that every time somebody walked by it, it would sway and things would clank and clunk inside (it made me afraid for my grandmother’s china!)

So a teak Cado system, that attached to the wall ( they have floor standing ones as well) Solved the problem. Too bad the wobbly floor itself is not so easy to fix!

This type of system is so flexible (actually have Elfa in my daughters room and our study) and can work just about anywhere you want to put it!

cado shelf unitsI took these a while ago, I have done some “tweaking” since I took these,  especially with the Viking glass, ( LOVE Viking Epic…I have gotten slightly addicted) I got some more pieces, I move things around…it is a constant thing.

I have another wall-mount and one other cabinet for the Cado, but as you can see, two bays were all I had space for or need , but I have them safely tucked away in case I change my mind and want to put this somewhere else.cado shelf unitThe “down side” to this (the Cado)…actually getting it on the wall…if your measurements are not PERFECT, the dowels on the back of the cabinets will not go in the holes.  I learned that my studs are not straight in the walls…as if I got the upright in a stud at the top, it would not go in a stud at the bottom.  It took about 4 hours, 3 people,( myself, DH, and a very patient and tall friend ) several bruises each and much cursing to get it up.  I would assume that when the system was new there was some sort of template, so you could easily get things lined up, but those are long gone I fear.

Thank you, Christa, for sharing these photos and advice. Your home is drop dead gorgeous!! Readers, check out Christa’s etsy shop, The Red Retro Shop, here.

About the Cado wall system

I went searching all over the internet trying to piece together a timeline history of the Cado system. The timeline is incomplete, I note* where I am missing info or am confused.

  • According to the 20th Century forum, the official name of this design is the Royal System. Although then I read there was also a design called System Cado. Confused*. In any case, these were designed by the Dutch architect Poul Cadovius, and manufactured by Cado, Cadovius’ eponymous company.
  • I found a Wikipedia entry for Poul Cadovius. It appears to be in Danish, and the translate pop up is not popping. However, I think I can read that Cadovius died just last year, 2011. He lived to age 99! I also am going to guess that the Cado wall unit was spotlighted (introduced???) at the Milan Trienniele in 1957? Can anyone translate for me?
  • I scanned the Wiki on Danish Modern Design – and he does not seem to be mentioned. It is interesting — the Cado wall units seem to be very popular — very well known — but there is very little information I can find overall on Poul Cadovius, Cado manufacturing, and the history of these units.
  • At Made-Good – a site about Danish design — they describe the impetus of the Royal System:  “Poul Cadovius, was in the fifties looking for a furnishing system which would give a maximum of comfort, underline the personal atmosphere of the interior, was easy to assembly, offer a lot of combination possibilities and made the living space larger.” They add that, “In the late 60s [1964, another post indicates] he (Cadovius) (als0) bought the famous manufacturer France and Sons and produced many more furniture under the label of Cado.”  Cadovius/Cado went on to produce a variety of other furniture designs.
  • This Design Addict forum says the first Cado was a freestanding system — they have a photo — and that it was designed in 1955. Design Addict also has a classifieds section that indicates that the Cado system was available in a number of woodgrains — teak, walnut, mahogany, rosewood… — as well as white. You can also see the variety of components.
  • The Good Mod adds that, “These systems could be ordered from catalogs and furniture stores in the 1960?s – 70?s. There were many different types of cabinets, shelves, lights, standards or uprights and styles. Whether you needed a desk, a table, a stereo cabinet, china cabinets or a chest of drawers, you could customize the system to fit your needs.”

From Roche-Bobois

  • Looks like Roche Bobois started distributing the Cado system in 1962. [I'm confused about when Cado manufacturing came into the picture.] Note, they say it marks the end of conformity in shelving sizes, “The break in conventional sizes has just begun.”
  • On this forum I read that there are two designs of the Cado system — one with metal fixings, one with wood. Here is an edited excerpt: [One design] has the metal fixings and supports which hang in the sides of the wall battens. Here is a clear example. [The other design] has wooden supports with angled wooden dowels in the back which fix into angled holes in the front of the wall battens. (Christa has this all-wood system; here is another clear example. The joinery involved means these systems are often considered more desireable. This also means it’s a nightmare to put up as there is zero tolerance. The [system with metal fixings] is much more forgiving and is easier to find. *Still confusion over which was called Royal System vs. System Cado. Confused*.
  • I cannot find any information on when sales of the Royal System ended.
  • Interesting article — more info about Poul Cadovius’ career here. A photo too. Scroll to “The Story Behind Circulhuset” about half way through the PDF. In short, she says Cadovius was a well-known and prolific designer, with 400 patents. She also says that Cadovius had gone bankrupt by 1981.
  • abstracta tableBut golly gee, looky here, the Cadovius’ Abstracta modular shelving, designed in the 1960s, still is for sale — looks like it’s manufactured in K-zoo! That’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Elvis still lives, btw. The Abstracta appears to be mostly targeted at the retail display market, but there are a few pieces designed for home: The cube table! Of course, we all recognize the cube table!

And… how’s this for some loveliness — a video that shows the original turntable and speakers:

Cado wall systems buying guide:

My tips:

  • Cado systems seem to be well known among dealers and collectors. They are very recognizable to the infomed — which now includes you. However, that means, that if a dealer or collector gets one in-hand, he or she will price it accordingly — likely starting at $1,000 or more, depending on the pieces available and the condition.
  • If you are looking for a bargain, I’d say try estate sales and vintage stores, especially those in smaller cities or towns where they be fewer buyers tuned into the mid mod. Look to the walls! Keep your eyes peeled! I tend to think that Cados were pretty popular back in the day — they are out there to be discovered.
  • You can also watch craigslist. Search Cado, teak, danish modern, midcentury, shelves, wall unit… etc. Mix up your terms. For example, I spotted this unit for sale in the New York City area, and the seller gave me permission to feature the photo here:

Cado wall system with desk, $1250 (link now gone):  Beautiful and practical Danish modern teak wall system designed by Poul Cadovius. This system as shown in the photos is particularly rare as it comes with a separate drop-leaf desk. The condition overall is in good condition with a few scapes and bumps that comes with age.

  • You can also find Cado wall units on ebay and etsy — but you will likely not be able to see what you are buying in person, of course.

So there you have it: Cado wall systems. Paol Cadovius, well done!

Readers — I welcome your additional info and insights about Cados.

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Comments

  1. says

    Regina:

    Pam’s right but if you can’t find it, either toggles or Mollys will do it.
    Molly bolts just make far less of a mess, and since it’s a sheer weight load, they’ll be fine.

    Plumb level the first vertical, set it in and then use a shelf to make the correct space to the next vertical (as well as keep the shelf level) and set the next one. Just takes 4 or 5 arms….

    Steve

  2. Fred Peters says

    I have a 4 section walnut Cado system that stands on tension poles. In addition to shelves it has a bar, desk and stereo cabinet. I also have wall mount poles stored away. I’d like to know if any walnut 8″ shelves with brackets are available.

  3. Karen Shoop says

    I need a living room wall unit for my stereo components, TV/DVD player and about 10″ worth of records. Would also like a couple floating cabinets and a slanted forward shelf for magazines. I have looked at vintage wall units and LOVE the look of them, but none of them seem to have enough storage for my needs, so I am guessing that I might have to go with something new for a custom fit. Does anyone have any ideas for me?

  4. Karen Shoop says

    I did not mean to be vague, but I guess what I was hoping for was recommendations of companies that do new ones, as from what I have seen, nothing vintage out there has enough capacity for my storage needs. I know about ISS already, are there any other companies that anyone knows of?

  5. says

    Are Cadovius units marked anywhere with his name. We have one in our shop and it’s stamped ‘made in Denmark’ on the backs of the cabinets. Is that all they’re marked with? And ours has what appears to be a space to insert a tv, there are grates on the top and bottom, but we can’t find a similar picture of it anywhere. You can view a photo of it on the front page of our website, the slide show. We’d appreciate any info/help.
    Thank you
    Kim

        • says

          Hey Kim:

          The photo you show is not a Royal System/Cado system.
          Both of those “systems” are usually wall hung but never free-standing case goods.

          Sorry!

          Steve
          (an old Lake Swanzey camper)

          • says

            Thank you for getting back to me Steve. Do you know what that system could be? I am finding freestanding Cado systems online when I do a google search but none quite like ours.
            I do appreciate any help.
            Thank you,
            Kim

            • says

              Kim:

              First of all, freestanding Cado/Royal Systems are fairly rare. Both product lines were designed basically to be wall hung. There were “leg” products produced to make the wall products stand by themselves but the case goods were not finished on the backs so they were not so hot! Or popular.

              So watch out. Cado may not be Cado!

              Sorry but I have no idea what you have in your photo. In the late 40’s and into the 70’s many Scandinavian factories, and in Italy, as well as some in Canada, produced teak case goods for export to the USA, so it’s a crap shoot on this one.

              Steve
              of Swanzey in the 40’s!

          • JD says

            However, it is System Cado that was available the end of the 70’s thru the 80’s. Our stores carried the freestanding uprights for use as either wall systems or room dividers. The cabinets were the same as the wall mounted minus the pegs and a finished backing was available depending on the use. I sold a few, not many, because the uprights, if I remember, were solid wood (either teak, walnut or rosewood/palisander and were quite pricey. My biggest sale was over $40,000 for four bay unit with all cabinets–c. 1988.

        • says

          Kim:

          By the way, I finally got your rolling slide show to stop and took a long look at what you have. It looks to be a quality piece, and in fine shape, so I’d hunt around for an old guy who has handled teak for years to get an idea of what you have.

          I’ve not been in New England for many years but there used to be an import house over in Hadley MA and several in Cambridge MA….never mind several in Manhattan. There are also several “Scan” stores in the Tampa FL market…

          Good Hunting.

          Steve

  6. Alfredo Catani says

    I sold so much Cado back in early seventies that I won a free trip to factory in Denmark .Cadovious hosted and gave us all tours of factory as well as dinner parties. He was so gracious and had a magnetic personality.Great guy,great trip,wonderful memories!

  7. Alfredo Catani says

    Forgot to differentiate between Cado and royal system.Cado shelves are supported by wooden brackets and Royal System shelves are supported by metal wire brackets. The systems are not interchangeable.

    • David dru says

      Alfredo,
      What was the spec for how much weight or load one could safely put on those wood slats? On mine i am able to get one of those slats (middle one of 5) screwed into a stud with the others into the drywall with molly type bolts rated for 100 lbs each.

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