Inside the Design: The Metal Wire Shelf

The Metal Wire Shelf was born where material limitation and creative persistence overlap. Originally, the product team had planned to create a shelf that was an extension of our existing Brake Angle Collection. “We wanted to add a larger shelf to that family,” says Associate Product Developer, Tana Sollars, who led the development of the shelf. “But there were limitations working with bent steel and brass sheets that made it impractical for a larger wall-mounted design.”

Even so, the development team knew that they wanted to use metal as the primary material. So, they began looking for ways to make it light enough for wall-mounted applications. As luck would have it, they didn’t need to look far. After weeks of searching, our design team noticed that our existing Telephone Table had a high strength to weight ratio. 
Composed of powder-coated steel, the table had an airy nature that was lightened due to its metal wire frame and perforated steel shelves. The goal then became to find a way to design a shelf using these two key materials. 



With that mandate, Tana looked to mid-century modular designs for inspiration: collecting imagery from a wide range of sources, including apparel, architecture, and visual art. "The initial inspiration was modular shelving such as Dieter Ram’s famous 606 Universal Shelving System and Paul McCobb’s Wall Mounted Shelf. We wanted to create something that could be used in a variety of ways," says Tana.


Mid-century modular design served as early inspiration (via Google Images)


One of the challenges in coming up with the shelf's silhouette was determining weight tolerances based on scale. By creating digital mockups, the product team was able to test and correct any weak points to ensure the metal wouldn't warp when heavier objects were placed on top. Thoughtfully designed, the shelf's wall bracket has holes spaced 1" apart throughout, making it easy to line up with existing studs for added support if needed. Everything from the shelf's cleat mounting system to the way the steel sheets wrap around the wire frame contributes to its durability and versatility. 


Early drawings explored the relationship between the steel shelf and wire frame


Another challenge was determining the perforation pattern. "Beyond the technical aspect, we knew we wanted to use a pattern that wasn't typically seen in shelving." continues Tana. "We also wanted to make sure the pattern would read well in everyday spaces without feeling too busy. What does the pattern look like with objects on top? How does the pattern change as you approach it from different angles? These are the types of questions we asked ourselves throughout the development process." 

In the end, our product team worked closely with a trusted Los-Angeles based vendor to land on a shape that was within their manufacturing capabilities, and yet still felt good creatively. Everything from perforation size, shape, and spacing were considered, and it took nearly a year of back and forth between the product team and the factory to get the details just right. 


Early perforation patterns


The final result is a carefully considered form that is designed to serve a purpose. From the horizontal bottom wire (for additional storage) to the shape of the end brackets (which make great bookends), every inch of the Metal Wire Shelf is intentional. With a modular design that can be grouped vertically or horizontally, its solid steel frame is powder-coated white for a durable and easy-to-clean finish. 



“The Metal Wire Shelf strikes a nice balance of simplicity and deep consideration for all design details,” says Tana.“It’s the perfect mix of vintage and modern design in a versatile package.”



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