Home and Building, Volume 37 Number 6 (1975)
Looking at Storage
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.
It should be noted however that wall-fixed shelving systems are a legal anomaly; most people regard them as private property but many legal agreements to sell, stipulate that 'fixtures' remain part of the property to be disposed of. So it is as well specifically to exclude those from that category if you are thinking of selling your home.
Over the last decade there has been a visible move away from once common items of furniture like the china cabinet. Formerly used to display the home owners 'best pieces', china cabinets now glut the second hand shops and elsewhere are giving place to wall units.
Wall units are taller, more capacious and they enjoy a much more active role in the modern home. While they are still used to display the odd piece it is more customary to see them carrying glasses and bottles with the occasional piece of pottery, tucked in between the sort of books usually kept for colour and kudos, sometimes rather than for content.
Designed to embrace an arrangement of shelves, cupboards and, not infrequently drawers, the wall unit adapts well to shifting interests and changing lifestyles. Some units have pull-down cabinet fronts which serve as either desk top or drink dispenser, depending upon its owner's sense of priorities.
They usually have boxy alcoves designed specifically to accommodate a television set or stereo system and all the attendent bits and pieces. Placed next to each other, wall units introduce an element of cohesion into rooms which would otherwise seem stark or appear jumbled. This illusion is specifically heightened where a corner unit is used. More than any other item of modern furniture the wall unit is versatile and self evident success.
A variety of book cases, welsh dressers and cabinets in styles ranging from the ultra modern to the decidedly period are also put out by the New Zealand manufacturers. Some of these have proved widely popular on overseas markets. The approach of local manufacturers is such that, while traditional china cabinets may be a thing of the past, many units of free standing storage, as opposed to wall fixtures are available. These units — combining cupboards, drawers, and shelves have shared very strongly in the current wave of enthusiasm for increased storage facilities.
Items of bedroom furniture, in which clothing and personal effects have traditionally been stored away, remain largely unchanged. However, while dressers and chests of drawers are essentially unaltered, they are now available in a variety of styles. A single design theme may now be carried right through a home — allowing the owner of, for example a Spanish style house, to chose furniture of that type.
For the less pernickety, the manufacturers of kitset furniture offer an almost bewildering array of dressers, bed-head units, chests of drawers and cupboards. Supplied ready for painting or a coat of varnish, these units have clean functional lines, and they have a reputation for sturdy reliability. Modestly priced, they help to bring good basic storage furniture within the reach of everyone. Often they get a second lease of life when the family which purchased them decides to buy a bach.
But while many New Zealanders have resisted using steel shelving in their homes, they have accepted items made of plastic. "That is to say the younger generation, and one or two other bolder spirits have accepted it", said one marketing manager. "They use it as a means of introducing colour into their homes and to supplement conventional furniture."
Colour preferences have changed markedly; in the past, orange white and gold, in that order, were preferred. Today with a move to whitewall living, white is the 60% favourite and gold and orange trail behind at 20% each.
Today, two ranges of plastic shelves and cabinets are firmly established, another is becoming available now. However, plastic in the home is seen as having a limited application in the heavy storage role: weights must be watched. But its free-standing nature, easy maintenance and clean colours are very attractive.
Steel, on the other hand, is very much the 'in' material overseas.
It is cheaper than wood and once coated and suitably textured, is thought to be perfectly acceptable. "When wood gets to be too expensive we see the same thing happening here" said the manufacturer of one line of steel shelves.
A versatile range of ABS free standing modular shelving — illustration Sherman Shelving, distributed by J. Yock & Co.
pantry, a garage or the living areas for modern houses.
Those of a practical turn of mind will be happy to learn that installation of most systems is simple and only a minimum of tools required, if any. Most uprights and shelves are available either prefinished or with a minimum of finish required in a few cases.
One important reason for adequate shelving and storage in addition to the obvious functional and aesthetic factors is on the grounds of safety — clutter and disorganisation is dangerous as well as unsightly.
Much attention has been paid to wall storage systems but many of the suppliers offer a magnificent variation — free standing units which do not require fixing to the walls. This approach protects the walls, enables the use of the units as room dividers and ideal storage units, and allows access from two sides.page break
Industry and commerce alike have traditionally regarded a storage problem as one to be solved as cheaply as possible. In the past, storage systems were utilitarian arrangements devoid of glamour — necessary but not necessarily nice. So it comes as a surprise to discover that this until now neglected utility, is currently being used as a vehicle with which to introduce a profound change into the way business is done in New Zealand.
Two large companies, one American owned, the other very much a New Zealand concern, have successfully introduced a vendor refill system of retailing, into over 70 outlets throughout both the north and south islands.
This process takes the necessity for replacing goods out of the hands of the retailer and makes it the responsibility of the supplier. It works this way; On gaining the consent of the retailer, the supplier or manufacturer, will put in a permanent display system which he undertakes to keep serviced. Stocks are regularly checked by the suppliers' travellers and are topped up automatically.
Customers are guaranteed a regular supply of goods. The retailer can forget the stocktaking and all the forward ordering required for that range of goods, and the manufacturer or supplier has in effect, sewn-up an outlet. He no longer has to worry about having to re -sell his company or its products at each call.
Now, all this is not new. It has been common practice overseas for years and even here a percentage of business has customarily been done in this way. What is unprecedented, is the extent and volume of business being done.
Since shelving systems are easy to erect, it is often the supplier's salesman who decides how much shelving is desirable and where it should be placed. The shelving itself remains the property of the supplier — a practice in keeping with trends already established overseas.
The importance of effective display storage in today's competitive commercial world is best measured by the number of companies who supply products for this purpose and who offer their expertise to the new shop owners.
One large concern, with a division specialising in this area, offers what it calls 'visual storage' to its patrons. Visual storage is simply the creation of the opportunity for impulse buying, by displaying goods where they can readily be seen and easily handled. The technique can be applied in both retail and wholesale contexts and the company offers to tailor-make systems to suit its clients' needs.
It also claims that where the concept is carried right through, sales will be increased by a minimum of 25%, waste space will be eliminated, old customers will come back more often, new ones will be attracted regularly, stock control will be made much easier, and the company's image will be brightened into the bargain.
In the industrial and major storage fields, mobile shelving systems — in which individual shelf units slide backwards and forwards on rails — are another significant innovation. Up to seven units may be blocked together eliminating the need for access ways between each, and amazing savings of floor space are achieved as a result. Applied correctly, the three companies which produce these systems agree, storage capacity can almost be doubled and gains of floor space of up to 40% are not unrealistic. They may also be locked together for security.
In other applications, new materials like plastic, which may be moulded into shapes, and wood or metal are also making an important contribution. One such line — open-ended polystyrene 'stacker boxes', which are available in a variety of colours and maybe stacked to any desired height — would seem to have an especially bright future.
A number of the companies reviewed say that the pressure to up-grade shelving, comes from the retail sector which not infrequently says to a manufacturer 'If you want me to push your product, give me the means of displaying it'. The result is that old shelving is increasingly being junked and new display equipment is being installed in its place. One shelving manufacturer who is especially close to the market, estimates that manufacturer supplied display equipment takes up approximately 10% of the nations retail shelf space. And the company expects this to increase by about half as much again to 15%. "But beyond that figure," he said, "a store begins to look too higgledy piggledy".
On one point manufacturers who specialise in commercial and industrial shelving are agreed; that it is easier to make and sell commercial and industrial shelving that it is to move into the private home market.
While they each see good potential there, physical distribution is a major problem and the time spent with the home buyer is simply not worth the effort involved. "It just takes too long," said one manufacturer.
As with any other market which lies between utility and taste, the shelving scene can be quirky and erratic. Styles and designs originally created for the home must frequently be proved in offices before they become acceptable. For this reason several companies market wall-fixed shelving storage systems which are designed toappear appropriate in either.
While many companies supply products used for displaying goods in stores, warehouses and boutiques, several firm specialse exclusively in fitting out shops and showrooms from scratch. In addition to their own brand of wall-fixed shelving and over 50 items which range from counters to mirrors and revolving racks, companies offer an advisory service which will move in, produce a layout, and then make up the necessary equipment to suit.
Legislation plays a considerable part in determining what may or may not be done. The Food & Drug regulations of 1973, for example, are clear. Food and Drugs — in storage or on display — must be 'kept clean at all times', and on or in shelves or receptacles which 'may be easily cleaned'. They are also specific about the need for good lighting and ventilation.
In storage particularly, steel shelving which is strong and readily adjustable, comes into its own, and this material continues to gain a widening acceptance in a purely display role.
A high impact ABS plastic range of shelving has made its appearance on the New Zealand scene. Originally developed in Australia for use in supermarkets, the ABS range is made up of interlocking inter-changeable components and is said to be tough, versatile and strong. The suppliers claim that each shelf will hold up to 36 kilograms (80 lbs) without flexing.
One natty little refinement the Australians have added, is castors which have the effect of immediately transforming a set of shelves into a trolley.
Obviously steel is going to have to stay on its toes, and with future shortages of traditional materials a real possibility, what shelving will be made of is anybody's guess.
The commercial field — shop, showroom, factory, warehouse etc — is an area served by many variants. The greater volume markets here have made it possible for an increased range of specific products for specific markets.
In the retail field, in addition to wall fixed systems there is almost a limitless market for free-standing units. Gondolas and cabinets of all shapes and sizes exist.
At the other end of the scale come specific systems designed for libraries, laboratories, bulk storage of records, warehouse parts storage, lockers etc.
In the high volume storage areas the provision of decking to supply a walkway for access to a second storey of storage is particularly appealing.
In both domestic and commercial areas one point has become very clear — tastes and requirements have changed in the last ten years. The demand for improved storage — more reliable, more efficient, more flexible and better finished has led to a tremendous effort by N.Z. manufacturers to meet the broad range of demands.