storage on display …

One clear trend in furniture fashion is the rise of the clothes rail and presumably with it the demise of the wardrobe, particularly the fitted wardrobe. In some ways this makes lots of sense because rooms have to be flexible so, particularly in an apartment, one person’s bedroom may well be the next tenant’s dining room. Even a company like Montana, the specialist in flexible and extendible storage, does not make a large single wardrobe unit.

There were quite a few good examples of racks or rails for storage at northmodern but here are just four:

FSC - the Forest Stewardship Council - had a really good show of work by design students who had taken part in a competition to explore timber and sustainability - either using reused timber or less well-known timbers in new and innovative ways.

SKRUE, the storage system by Sigrid Juel Jensen was amazing for several reasons. It picks up on the trend where people want to show openly their cherished possessions; it uses wood in a way that shows beautifully the inherent qualities of the material; the storage system in itself is a piece of sculpture that, with or without anything draped or hanging from it, is intriguing; the arms can be moved to any position, by spinning them round to move up or down the screw thread, to accommodate different sizes of objects at different heights; the spatula-shaped arms can be turned over depending on whether you are hanging something from it or supporting something and it takes a well-established wooden furniture technology … the screw thread of workshop stools and wooden presses … and gives it a new relevant function without any sense of nostalgia. Quite an impressive list of qualities … I would say it hits the nail on the head but then I don’t think any nails would have been used in this piece … and it’s a bad joke anyway.

A second student design on the FSA display was a hanging system by Loui Andersen and Maya Steinholz. This went for a different approach to making the storage flexible by using leather straps as vertical slides with special hangers in wood that had, in effect a simple locking mechanism … lifted up and out they move but at the chosen height the weight of the clothes hold the hangers in place. This seems to latch - sorry seem to be having a bad pun day - into a new trend where prize items are not only on open display but turned outwards like a work of art that is hung. When I was a student most of my friends adopted the then fashionable horizontal storage method … clothes left draped across the floor. 

Applicata ApS are an online design catalogue who now commission designers to make pieces specifically for them and the hanging rail is new … not yet even in their catalogue. It uses wood and metal tube to create a continuous band running from the cross bar down the two angled verticals that are linked by a diagonal floor strut … much more like sculpture than the simple A frame and cross bar that is the more usual alternative for this type of hanging rail. 

WOUD are a design company from Horsens. They were established only six months ago and are still working on their spring/summer 2015 catalogue. Their Töjbox wardrobe system is very clever because it is not too big - it would be ideal for a guest room - but large enough for general use in an entrance hall or bedroom and incorporates a protected (ie covered to stop dust) top shelf. The unit leans back against the wall that gives it a slightly less formal look … sorta jaunty … and I really like the joining systems on display … the box of the shelf section expressed as being slotted together and the upright supports running up through the box with locking pegs or toggles.

The other thing I would point out for WOUD is their brilliant video on their online site and the fact that their online catalogue uses the ISSUU platform. Absolutely top marks.

There are some interesting social-history observations to be made here.

Curiously, although we define ourselves as the throw-away society, many can’t actually bring themselves to throw away that much … although it doesn’t stop us buying. How many adults in, say, their early 20s could fit all their clothes on one of these racks? … and I mean all.

When I moved to Copenhagen in the Autumn, one of the first buildings I went to look at, that I had never managed to get to on previous visits to the city, was 8HOUSE by BIG. Innovative, brilliant, impressive … but as I walked up and up the pathways, trying to look as if I wasn’t looking, it was very clear that ‘storage’ was spreading across quite a lot of floors, was encroaching across windows and some things had been moved out into the front yards temporarily. The sort of temporary storage that needs a permanent cover. There should be a rule that architects should have to follow … design the perfect house with exactly the right amount of storage that you think people will need and then add 50% more and that still won’t be enough because possessions are always acquired to fill available cupboards plus some. The law of modern society.

If you looked at designs from the 1950s for the wonderful new fitted wardrobes - for instance the Boligens Byggeskabe by Børge Mogensen and Grethe Meyers of 1957 - the full height hanging section, a half-height hanging section and all the drawers and all the shelves are actually to take all the clothes of a couple … plus all their empty suitcases … and that was when people still wore hats so there were several spaces for those.

If you go back to the 1920s designs are even more telling. Kaare Klint was the master of rational storage. A buffet he designed in 1926 includes place settings for twelve people in drawers with twenty-four large 9” plates, twelve 8” plates, 9” soup plates, twelve plates for ice cream at 6”, twelve plates for compote at 6” and on and on including curiously sixteen glasses (for twelve people?) for Madiera. With all the cutlery and linen required. It sounds like a different age of genteel, middle-class respectability, and it was. But this buffet was produced for the Cabinetmakers’ Guild Furniture Exhibition and the design brief was that it had to be for what was then an average Copenhagen apartment of two rooms plus a kitchen. It was designed to “improve living conditions, if possible, by changing the way these apartments were furnished.”

As to clothes and wardrobes … in 1927 Flemming Teisen designed the Bo Standard wardrobe as part of a student project. It was 36” (900mm) wide, 20” (500mm) deep and 6ft or 1.88 Metres high. It held ALL the clothes of a man.

Though having said that the list of clothes that fitted in the wardrobe is amazing. It included one winter coat, one summer coat, one raincoat, one set of tails, one tuxedo, five suits, a bathrobe, nine pairs of shoes, six hats, 24 shirts, 24 soft collars, 24 starched collars, 24 handkerchiefs, 6 sets of winter underwear, 6 sets of summer underwear, 6 pairs of pajamas or 6 night shirts, 18 pairs of socks and 24 ties. Cryptically “one compartment was left free.”

All I can say is standards are definitely slipping … although I'm a bit curious about what happened on the 7th day when it came to underwear. Why don’t students dress like that now?

To make a more practical comment … once a man had an appropriate wardrobe it was then, presumably, a policy of one new in and one old out.