In a previous blog that explored aluminum shelving as the next step in the evolution of storage solutions, we explored the history of—and numerous variations on—the humble shelf as a piece of furniture ideally suited to storing not just books but many other types of accumulated object. In this article we will explore a unique three-dimensional-space aspect of this particular piece of furniture.

Shelving: A Brilliant Breakthrough in Space-saving Utility

Shelves are so commonplace that one could easily go through life without ever contemplating what a nifty little invention they truly are. The downside there is that, given that we spend so little time thinking about them, we miss out on the not-always-intuitive ways something as seemingly mundane as aluminum shelving can enhance the space around us. So take a moment and reexamine the surprising utility of the common shelf.

What truly sets apart the shelf is that it is furniture that exists in a special three-dimensional universe. Of course, all physical furniture exists in 3D. Pieces such as beds, dressers, and chairs can be made as large as you need them to be in depth and width (X and Y axes, respectively); but there is a practical limit to how tall they can be. After all, it’s one thing to climb a small ladder to reach the top bunk; but do you really want to jump into bed via trampoline?

Isometric 3D coordinates
(Source: Wikipedia)

When viewing a floor plan orthographically (from the top down), you’ll see a 2D schematic of a room treating items of furniture like a table or chair as entities which occupy the entirety of the space they’re placed in. Shelves, on the other hand, are one of the few pieces of furniture to take that vertical Z axis into account. This is a change in perspective from the orthographic to the isometric that increases the space of your room quite literally exponentially, as anyone who recalls how to calculate the area of a square versus the volume of a cube from math class will surely know.

The Advantage of Aluminum Shelving in the Real World

And that advantage is why, when you see those extreme minimalists who make an artform out of living in ultra-compact quarters (such as a customized van or a 60 square foot apartment), they’re making extensive and ingenious use of shelving to fit as much as they can in their cramped space. In theory, after all, a shelf can be infinitely tall. This is the same principle architects have hit upon out of necessity in the densest cities across the world, such as New York or Hong Kong: when space is limited and at an all-time premium, and you can no longer build across, then build up!

To picture the implications of this concept, imagine an astonishingly tall stack of library shelves—something along the lines of the shelving found in the famed Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro, which seems to stretch endlessly skyward:

Royal Portuguese Reading Room (Source: Wikipedia; photo by Donatas Dabravolskas)

As with skyscrapers, however, the height of a shelf is limited by the strength of the materials used to build them. Don’t forget, weight-bearing shelves must also bear their own weight besides what is placed on them! Therefore, aluminum shelving serves this “building up” principle perfectly, in that it is not just strong and stable, but also lightweight. This makes it a more suitable material for building high stacks of shelves or, better yet, attaching a wall shelf without the need for ground-supports taking up precious space.

But that’s not all. It may seem odd, but shelves have evolved from their origins as a mere practical storage solution into a full-on decorative element in and of themselves. Not only do we adorn shelves with personal knickknacks, or display upon them prominently our most prized possessions; but we also use the shelf design to make a statement about who we are.

Think of a lawyer who keeps stacks of law book on a shelf behind him where he meets his clients; an academic calling into a news program making sure his extensive library is within camera shot; or, in today’s age, a vlogger on YouTube incorporating a shelf with all sorts of doodads and eye-catching decorations to give character to his backdrop. This is not a modern convention, but in fact a storied and well-known behavior (not unlike Jay Gatsby’s library of unread books in The Great Gatsby). To make an impression, simply be impressive.

Aluminum shelves are a sleeker, shinier, more trouble-free, and more modern option when it comes to their aesthetic properties. They would be a bold choice in a stuffy office tied to tradition and surrounded by antique wood. The contrast could make for quite a stylish presentation! They would also be not out of place in most contemporary spaces, not to mention being practical and safer in the modern workplace, such as a factory floor or laboratory environment. Given their durability and corrosion-resistance, you might even say that they have a greater shelf life than most other options.

The next time you find yourself planning to furnish a space, pause and consider how aluminum shelving can optimize your design. You might be surprised!

Custom shelves from Framing Tech