Shopping and Design: The return of the rack

Clear away some clutter by storing all your hip magazines in style. By Dominic Lutyens
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The Independent Culture
TIME WAS when only dentists' waiting rooms or airheads displayed magazines. Now, with interiors mags being all the rage, times have changed. Fail to draw attention to your latest copy of Wallpaper*, say, and don't be surprised if others get a little twitchy about your un-hip indifference to design. Of course, this isn't the only reason why magazine racks are back. Style exhibitionism aside, we do need somewhere to store the ever- proliferating stream of mags out there.

This surprisingly practical point is hardly likely to appease the stuff- and-nonsense brigade, who deem magazine racks and style mags alike utterly superfluous. Yet, ironically, some early magazine-racks were highly functional and multi-purpose. Take Egon Riss's Isokon Penguin Donkey (pounds 265), designed in 1939 specifically to hold magazines and the innovative throwaway books - Penguin paperbacks. This is stocked by Windmill Furniture, who from next month will also be selling the more angular Ernest Race's 1960s Isokon Penguin Donkey Mark 2 (pounds 215).

Many of today's designers are similarly concerned with making multi-functional racks. On sale at the London shop SCP is Matthew Hilton's magazine- and book-storage unit in industrial-chic aluminium (pounds 280 plus p&p).

Then there are the designs of El Ultimo Grito, a company formed by three Spanish designers. In the minds of design junkies, at least, the trio are synonymous with their award-winning coffee table-cum-magazine rack, Mind The Gap (pounds 240). Simpler than it sounds, this is a table that incorporates a large rubber well for storing magazines. El Ultimo Grito also offers two other racks that are designed in a more casual, back-of-an-envelope spirit. Brain Storming (pounds 21) is a wire loo-roll-holder and mag rack in one and Good Morning Moneypenny (pounds 7.50) is a plastic tube with holes into which you can shove rolled-up mags (these in turn can then serve as coat hooks). All are stocked by Same, which, incidentally, is exhibiting El Ultimo Grito's witty wares until 13 June.

More eccentric still is the designer Daniela Schaeff's Table-Bench (from the London gallery Mission, price pounds 1,450), which combines a mag rack, coffee-table, seating and foot-rest.

Even those magazine racks whose sole purpose is to stow periodicals are often flamboyantly sculptural these days. The Conran Shop's Jelly rack (pounds 160), in clear Perspex, looks like a giant three-dimensional Pop Art hand. (Many of today's racks come in see-through materials - further proof that you're meant to flaunt your glossies.) Meanwhile, London's Decorative Fabrics Gallery stocks a chrome Rib Rack (pounds 39 plus pounds 6.50 p&p), which looks like a cross between a rib cage and a futuristic barbecue. And courtesy of Wireworks in London comes the Forest Rack (pounds 30) - "forest" presumably being a metaphor for its cluster of what look like mini TV aerials.

If these magazine racks sound terrifyingly urban-sleek, the designer Emily Readett-Bayley has come up with a comfortingly "ethnic", albeit fashionably Eastern, alternative: a section bamboo design (pounds 20). Eccentrics, meanwhile, sells a barking mad rack: a snarling cartoon dog (pounds 12.75) with coyote-like jaws, from which you're supposed to dangle your TV guide and nothing else (is that understood?).

But the prize for sheer whimsy must go to the designer Gitta Gschwendtner. Her Magazine Rug (pounds 390) is made of white goatskin which rucks up at one end, forming a series of troughs you can toss your mags into. Part-chaise- longue, part-storage facility, it truly lives up to the magazine rack's reputation for sybaritic superfluousness.

Stockists: The Conran Shop 0171-589 7401; Decorative Fabrics Gallery, mail order 0171-589 4778; Eccentrics 0181-883 8030; Emily Readett-Bayley: 0171-231 3939; Gitta Gschwendtner 0171-928 0143; Same 0171-247 9992; SCP, mail order 0171-739 1869; Windmill Furniture 0181-994 7032; Wireworks 0171-724 8856