Hey Lap. No regrets, you’ve beyond exceeded my expectations… and your packaging exceeded that of my wildly creative children.
Figuring out how to furnish the big long walls in our house in a functional way has been an ongoing topic of conversation. It seems that we could find old sideboards and cute tables all day long, but big storage is harder to come by secondhand. The agreed upon direction until this point had been to install wall brackets and wall-to-wall shelves, a la classic midcentury design. We had been shopping ’round for a style a little classier than the common “closet system” that you’re probably thinking of, and maybe we’ll still end up following through with that style in another area of our home, but the very modular Lap Shelving System by Marina Bautier at Design Within Reach caught our eye, and ended up being literally the perfect fit for our dining room.
It arrived over the weekend and I had it assembled within hours, fueled by sheer excitement, Order of the Phoenix read aloud, and late night coffee; it’ll probably never be “perfectly staged” because I’m not all that good at that stuff but I figured I’d show you where we’re at anyways. It’s a great addition to our home, somewhere we can begin to once again store and display a collection of treasures and reads.
“No, Pete, I wanted you to stand next to the shelving. Don’t trip. Look thrilled.”
Sigh. It seems like 10x more toys when I see it in a photo.
As I assembled it, I spoke pretty enthusiastically and emphatically to Pete about how completely unlike IKEA it is. It’s not at all fair for me to compare the two because regardless of how many times I’ve encountered scratches and accidentally broken pegs, I still have a lot of good things to say about IKEA, but for many reasons–from delivery, to quality of packaging, to quality of material, to assembly instructions–this was much different. The frame is nothing like this one. The powder-coated metal shelves are noooothing like these. It’s easily the nicest thing we’ve invested in (thank god it was on sale) and even more than before, I hope it’s one of those anchor pieces that we have in our home forever… and maybe one day auto-focus will decide to pay attention on the correct object, since I’m making such a big deal about how freaking important it is to me. Dining room wall, check.
The beauty in a modular shelving unit like this is that it’s essentially a custom build, able to satisfy a range of height and width and storage requirements. That said, I totally copied the setup that they show on dwr.com with two medium units and one low unit:
Ours measures a total of 123″ long (10′-3″), as the unit we bought consists of one medium frame and a medium frame extension, plus a single low frame extension. Really, the only issue with assembling the frame that I ran into, is that the components don’t take into consideration pairing extensions of different heights, so I had to drill a couple of extra holes right where those arrows are pointing below (not a problem for me, I just matched up a drill bit and quadruple checked my drill marks… perhaps something you would want to be aware of if you’re in the market to buy this piece… I wouldn’t exactly say that needing to retrofit a unit like this would warrant an “A+” experience, but it came together exactly as it should, and I had enough hardware to do it right.)
Also taking away from the A+ IMO: the low frame that I purchased was an extension, and it also has a set of extra holes on the far right side, the low frame end. I suppose I could have bought the full low frame (no extension) to avoid this but wasn’t aware it would be an issue. Fortunately due to our positioning, you would never, ever see these holes in person because it sits about 6″ from the wall, but it’s just another thing to note for future buyers. (If you’re buying extensions of all the same size, you would not have this issue.)
Speaking of holes for the pins and fittings, one thing that I really liked about this piece is that absolutely no holes are visible on the shelves; they are all hidden beneath where the shelving overlaps the frame (hence, “lap” shelving), meaning when you have a tall unit, you’ll never be looking upwards towards visible joinery. It’s a nice touch.
The design aspect that really sold me on this piece was the modularity of the shelves themselves. Each individual shelf is sold separately, in addition to the main shelving system. It’s a little bit of an oof until you realize how much you appreciate being able to customize to your wants. Not a single one of them is permanent. They are all heavy, powder-coated white metal and overlap the oak frame (and those joinery holes) to sit in place. The shelves aren’t attached with hardware, and therefore can be reorganized and adjusted to fit our (assumably) evolving storage needs, which I think is pretty cool – cool enough to almost make me want to buy extra puzzle pieces just so I have flexibility beyond what I purchased, but that’s crazy-talk for me at this price point.
I liked the concept and presentation of having “boxes” in a shelving unit, so I bought two deep boxes, used for the time being as a catch-all for kid books, and therefore installed on a lower shelf so that items are easily within reach. Each box takes up 1/3 of a shelf expanse, so the other 2/3 is filled with a small flat shelf.
I bought three shallow boxes too, intended to sit 3-up side by side for storage.
I’ll have to figure out how to use these shallow boxes, but for now they store assorted maps that I intend to frame, some notebooks for work, and a few magazines that I’ve been featured in over the last year or so (peek-a-boo, and no that’s not my face emerging).
Tray shelves and bookshelves were other add-ons I purchased, three of each that could be used interchangeably anywhere on the unit. I also bought four large flat shelves, because at the price it was discounted to, it made sense to buy more of those than other items. All four are backordered for a few more weeks, but they will line the bottom-most set of shelving along the floor, primarily for ease of dusting. For what it’s worth, you could probably go completely without accessorizing the bottom set of shelves at ground-level and let it be a bare wood frame (I’m only saying that because ours have been empty for almost a week now, and I don’t even notice the absence of shelving).
“Styling” will continue. Hey look, I finally have a place for this guy!
I’ll wrap it up by sharing a few ordering efficiencies which, all in, saved me a few hundred dollars:
- Choosing to integrate a low extension rather than another medium extension saved a bunch of money; because the full unit would run the length of my wall, going shorty on one end also opened up some vertical space for hanging art, which we have line of sight to from the kitchen (see the second photo above; and that pegboard was a recent project for DIY Network).
- I considered going with the tall shelves. Good thing I didn’t, because they would have dwarfed our window.
- The flat shelves cost less than the tray and bookshelves, so I chose to use a few more of those instead of investing in additional higher-cost add-ons.
- The shallow boxes cost less than the deep boxes, so I bought three shallow units, and just two deep.
- The deep boxes I paired with the small flat shelves, which was cost effective but I also thought would flow more nicely than trying to integrate a small tray shelf.
If you’re looking to buy this system and have any questions that I haven’t touched upon, leave a comment or send me a note. So far, so good over here, but I’m sure we’ll learn things about organizing this system and perfecting its uses over time.