For Form and Function: Make It Modular
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For Form and Function: Make It Modular

The beauty of modular shelving is in its flexibility.

By JENNIFER TZESES
Thu, Sep 16, 2021 2:11pmGrey Clock 3 min

Modular shelving is like a life-sized open-work puzzle that can be configured and re-configured depending on the space.

Whether stacked on top of each other, side by side or used as separate pieces in a room, the beauty of a modular unit is in its flexibility.

“Modular shelving adds the ability to style a room with chic accessories and storied mementos,” says Hillary Kaplan, principal designer and owner of Mimi & Hill design in Westfield, New Jersey. “It is also an easy and accessible way to add more storage to any room.”

With a wide variety of styles and materials available in the marketplace, there is an option to suit every sensibility. Here, tips from the design pros to expand your display horizons.

Materials Make a Difference

“Pieces picked up on travels, personal photos and family treasures find the perfect home on these kinds of shelves. As big fans of symmetry, we tend to use a lot of étagère-style shelves and pieces that can combine and expand to fit spaces with a semi-custom feel. This way, they feel more deliberate and integrate seamlessly with the larger design scheme. Wood is always durable and excellent for multi-use, but we love Lucite shelves that float or white shelves that let the pieces take centre stage.

“Often, the awkward space between a pair of windows is the perfect space for a shelving unit. It feels deliberate and adds a focal point to the room, anchoring a seating area while displaying your most personal objects and family photographs.

“Every room is unique, and it is essential to measure the space to ensure that you are not purchasing something that will feel too small or overwhelm the area. Another reason why we love the transparency of Lucite shelving is that they disappear just a bit. But be mindful of the shelf depth. If you have lots of books, board games or photo albums you want to ensure you select the correct size to account for the depth of your pieces. If not, your items may hang off the edge of the shelf, which looks messy.

“Curating your unit takes some know-how. To keep the look clean and not cluttered, be very intentional and display the most sentimental, fragile or important pieces first. Once those are identified as your must-haves, start to place clean stacks of books. We like to start with the largest ones on the bottom and then stack by size. Group books together in odd numbers depending on their size and thickness. You don’t want stacks that get too tall, as it’s often nice to cap the books with an object or an accessory. And, if possible, colour coordinate them to create a visually impactful presentation that stands out.”

living room with a modular Lucite unit filled with curio
Designed by Hillary Kaplan of Mimi & Hill, a living room feels more interesting with a modular Lucite unit filled with curio.
Toni Deis Creative 

— Hillary Kaplan, principal designer and owner of Mimi & Hill design in Westfield, New Jersey

Create a Custom-Crafted Look 

“One of the reasons I love using modular shelving is for its flexibility. There are so many options for both open shelving as well as closed storage units. This type of shelving can also be hung on the wall to free up floor space below.

“In my office, I used a longer-sized unit along the length of the wall and then, where the shelf overlapped a desk, I used a shorter unit to give it a custom built-in feel. Leaving some bigger spaces in on some rows of shelving allows you to situate larger items, such as artwork or lamps, to make it look more styled. Some modular shelving units even let you add a small desk as part of the shelves.

“In a bedroom, you can have the shelves encase the bed to create a sort of alcove with built-in nightstands on either side. The options are endless.”

wood, modular unit
A wood, modular unit, lends a curated look to an office designed by Jessica Davis.
Emily Followill

— Jessica Davis of Atelier Davis, a design studio based in New York and Atlanta



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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

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A versatile stool with a sense of fun took out the top prize at the Australia’s Next Top Designers awards at Design Show Australia last week.

The ‘Cheeky’ stool designed by Maryam Moghadam was the unanimous winner among the judging panel, which included Kanebridge Quarterly magazine Editor in Chief, Robyn Willis, Workshopped Creative Director Olaf Sialkowski, Design Show event organiser, Andrew Vaughan and Creative Director at Flexmirror Australia, Matt Angus.

Designed as an occasional stool or side table, the Cheeky stool comes in a range of skin tones. The judges applauded its commercial applications, its flexibility to work in a range of environments, and its sense of play.

In accepting the $10,000 prize, designer Maryam Moghadam quipped she was pleased to see ‘other people find bums as funny as I do’. A finalist at last year’s awards, Moghadam will put the prize money towards bringing her product to market.

Winner Maryam Moghadam said the $10,000 prize money would be put towards developing her product further for market.

Australia’s Next Top Designers is in its fourth year, but this is the first year a cash prize has been offered. Kanebridge Quarterly magazine has put up the prize money to support the next generation of emerging industrial design talent in Australia.

Editor in Chief Robyn Willis said the cash prize offered the winner the opportunity to put the money towards whatever aspect of their business it would most benefit.

“That might be prototyping their product further, spending on marketing, or simply paying for travel or even childcare expenses to allow the designer to focus on their work and take it to the next stage,” she said. “We’re thrilled to be supporting this design program and nurturing emerging design in a very practical way.”

The Coralescence lamps from the Tide Pool series by Suzy Syme and Andrew Costa had strong commercial applications, the judges said.
The Mass lamp by Dirk Du Toit is crafted from FSC-certified oak or walnut.

Two finalists were also awarded ‘highly commended’ by the judges — Mass lamp by Dirk Du Toit and the Coralescence lights from Suzy Syme and Andrew Costa at Tide Pool Designs. The judges agreed both products were beautifully resolved from a design perspective, as well as having strong commercial applications in residential and hospitality design. 

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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