String bookcase: One of the icons of 20th-century minimalism.
Its light and airy design make it go virtually unnoticed, discover this timeless piece dating from 1949. So many of us had it in the bedroom when we were little because it became trendy in Spain in the seventies and eighties, probably in most cases through imitations. These shelves with ladder-shaped metal sides and simple shelves date from 1949. The creator of this functional system, which has inspired so many versions worldwide, is the Swede Nils Nisse Strinning. Discover the figure of one of the most minimalist Scandinavian designers and his most famous creation.
The String bookcase is a simple shelving system devised in 1949 by Swedish designer Nils Nisse Strinning (1917-2006), collaborating with his wife, fellow designer Kajsa Strinning. Thanks to its countless advantages, it quickly became popular in post-war Europe: easy to transport and assemble, stable, easy to clean, and very versatile, as it can be extended in all directions and the shelves can go in various heights and positions.
The design came about as a result of a competition held by Bonnier, the well-known Swedish publishing house, which, determined to encourage the purchase of books among the Swedish population, decided that they would also need a place to store them. Therefore, the shelf had to be affordable and easy to transport and assemble, which is precisely what Strinning's design had when it won first prize. The background of the String shelf can be found in a dish drainer that Nils Strinning designed in 1946 for the Swedish brand Elfa, a pioneer in the manufacture of storage systems. Three years later, in collaboration with Arne Lydmar (engineer and founder of Elfa), he solved the problem of how to coat the steel rods with plastic. In this way, Nils Strinning became the father of the Elfa brand storage system, including the wire baskets that are used today to dress cabinets.
"Nothing is too modest that it can't be improved." This phrase perfectly sums up Nils Strinning's understanding of design. A designer who was trained as an architect and who masterfully combined functionality with a sense of proportion and detail in his creations. The sleek, simple lines of the steel rods that make up the uprights of this shelving system create an ingenious structure that can accommodate books and objects of all sizes, thanks to its great flexibility. Each system component is designed to allow for an almost infinite variety of combinations. It is based on two widths, 60 and 80 centimeters, which have not changed in 65 years, so no one doubts its effectiveness. The uprights are designed to rest on the floor or be anchored to the wall. They are manufactured in black, white, and gray dyed steel. Shelves are available in these materials birch, oak and walnut. Cabinets with hinged and sliding doors, drawers, sloping shelves for magazines, desks, and folding tables complement the system with the capacity to adapt to all types of environments and needs. In 1954 Nils Strinning also designed a model with uprights made of laser-cut plastic (PLEX) with which the shelf seems to float in the air. Today this version is available in two depths, with frames and accessories in six different finishes.
String Pocket is the smaller version of this system. It comes in a kit consisting of two sides and three shelves. It measures 50 centimeters high, 60 centimeters wide, and 15 centimeters deep. This pocket model is manufactured in the firm's sober and elegant classic finishes but is also available in pink, green, copper, and cobalt blue. The uprights are also available in laser-cut plastic. The brand's latest innovation is the String Works range. Its authors are architect Anna von Schewen and industrial designer Björn Dahlström, whose aim has been to create a workspace that is as pleasant as a living room but at the same time fully functional. To this end, they have developed a whole series of products that use the String system as a basis. Nils Strinning's ingenuity and simplicity have been the starting point for creating pieces of furniture as timeless as his designs.
String Works consists of a height-adjustable desk table, dividers for privacy, a mobile storage unit, a free-standing shelf, a cabinet, two models of container containers, and other accessories for integrating the computer. The design of the desk was based on the assumption that people are not meant to stand still. We work better if we can vary our posture. The height is adjusted through parts similar to traditional trestles but with a much lighter aesthetic. It can be used both as a workstation and for meetings and is a table for any type of office, but can also be integrated into the home.
For privacy and concentration, the table is equipped with semi-transparent metal dividers, which can be lined with felt pieces that reduce sound from other tables. The new shelves stand upright without leaning against the wall, and shelves can be placed on one or both sides. The elements of the traditional String system are seamlessly integrated into this new model. In the same way, newly developed parts, such as the cabinet, also fit into the brand's basic models.