Home and Building, Volume 37 Number 6 (1975)
It's a fair bet that tomorrow's homes will remain compact, even small. The shortage of suitable land, a mounting pressure on materials and the scarcity on finance appear to make it inevitable.
It's also safe to assume that we'll all travel less — soaring petrol costs will see to that. And this combination of shrinking mobility and smaller homes will make severe demands on architects, interior designers and the home owner alike.
Architects will be expected to design smaller units which do not leave a feeling of being confined. Interior designers must create the illusion of space where there is none and the home owner will need to manage space in a way he has never had to do before. The alternative will be for him to prune his possessions.
The provision of adequate storage — never unimportant — will now be even more so as basements are the exception, attics are all but gone and barns are available only to a few. For many, all that is left is the space at the end of a garage.
However, the moveable, adjustable characteristics of many modern systems have much to recommend them. Of the types available, built-in storage is often seen as preferable. They allow more flexible living because they leave more room and often break up rooms which would otherwise be boxy. Apart from their convenience, well sited cupboards and shelves have another advantage — they impart a sense of permanence, of stability.
Often they endow a home with a grace and dignity it would not otherwise have achieved.
Frank Lloyd Wright, the immortal American architect, was among the first to see the house as a single entity, a unified whole. He is credited with being the first to build in the storage. And seating. And tables. In Denmark, by contrast, the introduction of built-in storage is thought to have been delayed by the influence of the furniture manufacturers.
While they developed some of the world's most distinctive, some say spectacular furniture, they were unwilling to see the demand for wardrobes and chests of drawers lost to a built-in capacity.
By building in the storage, household items may be distributed close to where they are needed and placed at the most convenient level. Corrosive liquids, poisons, tools and firearms are usually best kept in something expressly designed for that purpose. Despite the trend to clean, uncluttered lines, much of the contents of todays homes are now being kept in plain view in a variety of wall-fixed shelving systems.
These possess certain definite advantages over more conventional methods. They use wall space which might otherwise be wasted, leaving the floor below free to be easily cleaned, and, in addition to their unquestionable versatility, they may be affixed to all but the most fragile partitions. Wall-fixed shelving is sold in such a way as topage break
allow the owner to buy a shelf at one time, a cabinet at another and drawers at yet a third.
With one notable exception in which parallel laddered steel rods are used, uprights are often of metal rails, nailed, screwed or toggle bolted into the wall to carry the brackets which support the shelves. One other product has retained pre-drilled timber racks to accommodate the shelf brackets. Properly fixed, most systems are extraordinarily strong and will support shelves which are pregnant with overload.
Shelves and cabinets can be unhooked and rehung in an almost infinite variety of positions. They are generally made up of veneered particle board or timber — some feature laminated plastic finish. Most manufacturers offer a choice of veneers and one even puts one veneer on one shelf face and another on the other. A fully evolved floor to ceiling room divider system is also currently being marketed.
To a man, the manufacturers stress that wall fixed shelving systems are suitable for use throughout the house — in kitchens, bedrooms, and laundries as well as the living areas. And they are agreed their industry has an especially bright future.