At Home: Get a (shelf) life, and get yourself organised ...

Fitted shelves
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The Independent Online
Good shelving, apparently, is like an English butler, inconspicuous, but bad shelving sticks out

like a sore thumb. Rosalind Russell checks out the very latest in designer systems which can be dismantled and taken with you when you move house.

It can put you off moving for years. The thought of trying to find a new home with enough shelves to take a treasured collection - leaving behind shelves that probably cost a small fortune to instal - is a daunting prospect. Books, model aeroplanes or glass sculpture, they all require a shelf life.

Comedian David Baddiel was lucky enough to buy a house in Belsize Park, fitted with David Lindley designer bookcases. But then again, at pounds 875,000, you'd expect to find a decent bit of carpentry.

The answer could be to invest in shelves you can take with you when you move. Vitsoe, based in north London, developed the 606 universal shelving system which can be attached to the wall, or compressed between the floor and ceiling. Unlike most shelf manufacturers, Vitsoe will come and dismantle it for you when you leave and reinstal it in your new home. You can start with as little as pounds 150-worth and add to it later.

The designers have been careful to ensure the style and colours won't go out of fashion, or be discontinued, so up to 50 per cent of their customers are still adding on, years from the original purchase. Light grey, black and silver are the main shelf colours, although beechwood is used too, with anodised aluminium poles. Unsurprisingly, Vitsoe's spare, clean lines are popular with architects and writers.

"We see mostly private clients," says Vitsoe's Mark Adams, "but we have also moved shelves from office to home, or vice versa."

Adams's own home near Tower Bridge - which he and his textile designer wife Jenny Moncur recently sold to Lily Savage and her/his manager - was a prime example of how the system works in a home and office. Jenny was able to design and work her massive pieces of tapestry within the Grade II-listed building which had been practically rebuilt inside. (One of her designs is on Janet Street-Porter's snooker room floor.)

The floor to ceiling system has been used to divide rooms and to screen a tall, thin kitchen window (notably in the former home of Sir Norman Foster in Compton Bassett, in Wiltshire). But it comes into its own in period homes where fixing to wood panelling, dado rails or delicate plaster is not an option. It has also been successfully fitted in a basement flat with sloping ceilings, on a wall blighted by an ugly gas meter. The plates the upright poles are fitted to can be set at an angle; a shelf was fitted vertically to screen the meter. "Good shelving," says Mark Adams, "is like an English butler - inconspicuous."

The company also rationalised its packing, which is now taken away after installation and re-used, because they couldn't bring themselves to junk perfectly good boxes. Vitsoe, which sells through the Conran shops, charges pounds 25 for a site visit, refundable against purchase.

The Japanese company Muji, which opened a new store in Oxford Street a few weeks ago bringing its strength up to five, is also promoting the minimalist line in shelving. A five-shelf perforated steel unit costs pounds 125. Used as one of a pair of towers, three drawer cabinets can be fitted between them, giving an entire unit costing pounds 625. There are various permutations possible, seen in Muji's new catalogue which also includes china, cutlery and its already distinctive, if passion-killing, underwear. As yet, buyers from outside London will have to rely on Muji mail order, but there are plans to open more stores in the UK over the next couple of years.

Cheaper shelving doesn't have to look naff. The Holding Company sells an eight-tier unit, which can be grouped with others, in birch, maple, white, green and black for pounds 69.95. And Homebase charges pounds 68.99 for a tall, narrow chrome shelf unit which will fit in most tight corners.

Further information: Vitsoe, telephone 0171-354 8444 for brochure; Muji, 0171-323 2208; Holding Company mail order brochure 0171-610 9160; Homebase 0645 801 800.

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