The sculptural bookshelf practical enough for small spaces

A set of three minimalist vertical shelves holding stacked shelves and various knick-knacks. Illustration.

This spine-like shelf helped my space look “design-y”
without being an actual stack of books on the floor

When I was 25, I moved into a Moscow apartment overflowing with
the personal effects of a previous resident, who I gathered was my
landlord’s recently deceased grandmother. I replaced the ancient
fold-out couch in the bedroom with an Ikea frame and mattress, but
ticket stubs, old postcards, and the rest of the stodgy
Brezhnev-era furniture stayed.

After living in a museum of another person’s life, I wanted to
be surrounded by my own things—that also didn’t look like
everyone else’s. So when I returned to the U.S. a year later and
settled into a sparsely furnished room in a Washington, D.C.
rowhouse, I didn’t head straight to Ikea. Instead, I combed
thrift stores crammed with musty vintage furniture, bought an old
headboard I planned to paint robin’s egg blue, and started poring
over home design blogs like Apartment Therapy and

A lot of products on these sites were out of my price range,
like a $2,500 bed frame from Design Within Reach or a $999 dresser
from Blu Dot, but the articles still fueled my creative vision. One
suggested fashioning a “nightstand” out of a stack of books, so
I procured several large hardcovers from a yard sale specifically
for this purpose. My bedside tower created the bohemian look I was
going for, but quickly got dusty. It was also a risky place to rest
a glass of water.

A room has a tall bookshelf in one corner, next to a bed with yellow bedding in front of a window.Susie
Armitage The skinny bookshelfs fits right into the corner of my
tiny bedroom.

One day while browsing the blogs, I stumbled upon an actual
piece of furniture with a similar effect: a tall “spine”
bookcase from West Elm with white-painted wood and clean lines. It
felt like a breath of fresh air after all the dark, heavy furniture
in my Moscow apartment, and was, quite crucially, not an actual
stack of books threatening to topple to the ground. (The model I
bought has been discontinued, but similar versions are currently
available at
, and the
Container Store

Later, as I walked through the West Elm showroom looking for the
shelf, I lifted salad bowls off a dinner table that cost more than
my rent. I felt out of my league, but the bookshelf was relatively
affordable. If memory serves, I bought a floor sample marked down
20 percent from the original $179, plus cab fare to get it

At the time, it was the first piece of new furniture I’d
purchased that wasn’t Ikea. Ten years and five moves later,
I’ve held onto it while much of my other stuff has been sold. As
it turns out, the bookcase’s compact footprint is perfect for
awkward spaces.

After leaving the rowhouse, it squeezed into the corner of a
D.C. studio, and now stands snug in my small bedroom in Brooklyn. I
have a few dusty old Russian poetry books on the shelf—but unlike
the detective novels I found in my Moscow rental, these are all

Susie Armitage is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. She
has written for Atlas Obscura, BuzzFeed News, the Christian Science
Monitor, the Daily Beast, Lonely Planet, ProPublica, SELF, Vox’s
The Goods, and elsewhere. Her audio stories have aired on NPR,
PRI’s The World, Business Insider’s Household Name, and
WHYY’s The Pulse. You can follow her on Twitter.

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
The sculptural bookshelf practical enough for small spaces