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On the hunt for vintage treasures: String Shelf System by Nils Strinning

Designed in Sweden in 1949
Find them vintage or still buy them new today $$

string shelf photoBrainstorming storage ideas for my home office studio remodel, I have become mildly obsessed with midcentury wall storage systems. So, I was immediately entranced when I saw this photo, above, uploaded by Jan in our new gallery of photos of 300 reader living rooms.
string shelf systemShe called it a “String Shelf”. I went to investigate and sure enough, String Shelves are a Big Thing.  The String System was created by Swedish architect Nils Strinning in 1949. He had created the Elfa wire storage system three years earlier, and built upon that idea to design bookcases for a design competition. He won, the system was put into production, and it’s still available today. Moreover, I think these are a great item to watch for, vintage, where you might find a fabulous deal now that you know what to watch for.

string shelf system

string shelf systemYes, the String shelf system is still available today, made in Sweden by String Furniture. The company website, with lots more info, photos and details on all the designs is here.

In addition to the classic String System, they also seem to have innovated with other designs playing on the same concept. Above: String Plex (for plexiglass sides). Pretty!

And, there is String Cell, above, with its little bead-like things on wire. All the rooms shots here (except for Jan’s at the top) are from the String System / String Furniture website. Yummy!

Where to buy String Systems: You cannot buy direct from String Furniture — you must find a local or online retailer. I did some basic poking around the www, and in the U.S. it seemed like Finnish Design Shop was a good place to start.

string shelf pinkBe forewarned, the pieces are not cheap. The cute, basic little string shelf (shown in pink, above), starts at $149. The small, sliding door cabinet is like $500. Use your search terms — shop around.

Look for vintage String Shelf Systems

This seems to be a great item to hunt for, vintage at thrift stores, vintage shops and estate sales now that you know what to look for. String System Shelves — very collectible. Don’t you want one now?

Thank you, Jan, for turning me on to them!

  1. Chris says:

    Hi there, we have recently inherited a shelving unit which was manufactured by WHB in Germany circa 1965 which is similar. We were wondering if anyone knows if spare parts or fixings are obtainable for t. It’s a big ask considering it’s over 50 years old, but someone may know something and we would love to use it in our home. Thanks in advance

    1. Valentinas says:

      I’ve recently bought a rather massive set of WHB shelving myself. I know I’m 4 years too late but the German Ebay has a lot of components for it these days that are pretty affordable (still not cheap!), definitely worth checking out.

  2. Brianne says:

    I JUST found these shelving systems at an estate sale, for practically nothing. They weren’t going to sell them because they didn’t want to deal with removing them from the walls in the garage. After finding a screwdriving and volunteering to do the removal they came home with me!

  3. Carrie says:

    Ladderax is another one to look for, tho they are also quite pricy. There are some great pieces on eBay right now!

  4. Stacey says:

    I’ve been thinking of installing double-track shelving ever since I saw some nice configurations in the decorating books I have from the 60s. They are not as attractive as these string shelves, but you can configure them any way you want (staggered or parallel), they carry a lot of weight, and they are inexpensive! You can attach them to a large piece of wood, stained or painted in a different color than your walls for contrast. Anyways, I like Rubbermaid’s offerings on track shelving.

    1. pam kueber says:

      I’ve been thinking about this, doing some online research as well. Seems like super-cheap componentry — the coated wire part — is about the same quality as super-expensive componentry. Maybe spray paint and real wood shelving would make the difference. This is ripe for experimentation.

      1. Jean Gough says:

        In the house that I grew up in, (a lovely ranch that unfortunately my parents upgraded!) we had a shelving unit that my Dad built in. It consisted of walnut shelving supported by a double track support system with large L brackets holding the shelves. I wish I had a picture, but they were really nice and a simple shelving solution.

  5. Christa says:

    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 .
    I ended up getting mine from CraigsList, but it did take months and months to find it.
    The reaseon…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 grandmothers 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 flexable ( actually have Elfa in my daughters room and our study) and can work just about anywhere you want to put it!

  6. Marion says:

    you can purchase the sides and shelves separately, so the shelf can be whatever you want….

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