Bookcase Blogging: ISS Designs
My wife and I have a decent size library; not huge, but big enough that it requires a little planning to find a place for it. We'd been housing it in cheap Ikea bookcases which, while definitely functional, weren't really all that aesthetically pleasing. So we decided to ditch the bookcases when we moved to our new digs in Tacoma and get something a little nicer.
Oh... the horror... the horror...
Does nobody read anymore? We went to far too many furniture stores in our search for bookcases which were both interesting to look at and could hold a lot of books. There was nothing... absolutely nothing... to be had. When the store had bookshelves at all they were either ugly as sin, too small to be useful or, as was often the case, both. We'd ask a clerk what they had in the way of bookshelves and they'd show us a faux Colonial/Victorian/Country French monstrosity that looked like it was designed to showcase someone's collection of Precious Moments figurines. Bleh, and double bleh.
Eventually we gave up on traditional furniture altogether and started going to design stores, hoping that we'd be rescued by the reasonably-priced genius of a Johnson or Svenson. Europe had the goods alright; the look of the P&P 900 system availabe from ligne roset was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, what was also stunning was the price. The unit we saw in-store, which wouldn't even have been big enough to hold all of our books, cost $12,000 or so. Where I come from we call that a "non-starter".
After the design stores failed to pan out we even went so far as to look into getting some bookcases custom built. It turns out that there are actually a fair number of places that do that sort of thing. Unfortunately they all seem to be carpentry shops without a whole lot of imagination. They generally seem to turn out a quality product, but its not terribly exciting to look at. And expensive... not as bad as the P&P 900 in terms of price, but expensive enough that the proposition of custom bookcases began to seem doubtful.
Finally, after much sturm und drang, we found ISS Designs. Hallelujah! Here was a company that made a modular, extensible shelving system that was well-suited to holding books and looked interesting to boot. Even better, they were based in California, so there'd be no need to translate our emails into Italian. We decided to give them a try and see what happened.
I have to say that I'm immensely pleased with the entire process of working with ISS Designs. We sketched out what we wanted on paper and submitted a scan of the sketch via email to their sales department. Not long after that I began an email exchange with John Clark, the sales manager for ISS. After several iterations they came up with a design which met our needs and vision; they even custom cut some shelves to our measure. Once installed the system looked, as promised, quite slick and provided us with ample storage space.
The only challenge was the installation; its definitely not for the faint of heart. I'm fairly accomplished as far as do-it-yourself projects are concerned; I've hung cabinets, installed and rewired chandeliers, etc. I didn't find the installation all that difficult in terms of the skills and equipment required, but it took a lot of patience. Because the system is based on free-standing compression poles and infinitely adjustable shelving brackets (which are, by the way, super clever/cool) you spend a lot of time with your carpenter's level making sure that things are aligned correctly. In addition to the level I recommend a good drill (or electric screwdriver) for driving the 1-gazillion tiny screws that fasten the shelves to the brackets. You'll probably also need drill bits and anchors for the (optional, but highly recommended IMHO) attachment of the poles to the ceiling.
So I definitely recommend the ISS product line for anyone who's looking for a stylish and not-too-terribly-expensive way of storing their library.