Designed in Sweden in 1949
Find them vintage or still buy them new today $$
Brainstorming 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.
She 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.
In this short biography about Nils Strinning on the String Furniture website, Kerstin Wickman, professor of Design and Handcraft History, the University College of Arts, Crafts & Design, Stockholm, explains the importance of this system in midcentury modern and Swedish Modern design history:
Certain things become so strongly associated with an era that they become timeless. this is certainly true of nils strinning’s shelf system, string®, which was designed in 1949. it may seem strange that something as simple and humble as this little dainty light shelf with its thin side panels has become one of the twentieth century’s foremost design icons. the reasons are several; the thin packaging is simple and cheap to transport, the shelf is easy to assemble, the shelves can be quickly repositioned, shelves of various depths can be combined and books are held in place by the side panels, it is stable and can be extended in all directions. whether the wall surface is large or small string® is functional. it’s the side panel which gives string® its character. elegant and clean-limbed are the coloured threads, a slender ”ladder” ascending the wall, ingenious, variable, flexible… it’s not strange that post-war europeans, who were thirsting for freedom, adored string®. particularly the young, those who had begun to be called teenagers.
Yes, 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.
Be 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. I could only find one unit for sale on etsy.com: String System currently on etsy.com, $1,495 — thanks, Vicky, for the tip. I could not find any on ebay. But, I bet there were lots purchased back in the day — and that you can find them 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!