The desk isnâ€™t what interests me in this photo. Itâ€™s the cabinet to the left of it. I like the colors on the front of the drawers, and how the dull grey corroded metal and the bright colors of the wood collide. However, when I envision actually owning the cabinet, I canâ€™t help but think about how the corroded metal probably is just ugly and not something I want to touch.
Utopia Architecture out of Guangzhou, has designed what they’re calling the “Fibonacci Cabinet.” Made from bamboo, the “cabinet” is actually a set of individual drawer boxes that are stacked on a separate table. Of course, each size box is has dimensions of that are the sum of the dimensions of the two immediately smaller boxes.
Writing about traveling bookcases and other dead media storage solutions got me thinking about other furniture that always seems pregnant with possibilities, yet just isn’t practical anymore: secretary desks, and travel desks.
I love all the cubby holes in the secretary desks. Holes full of letters, bills, and checks. Drawers containing pens, ink wells, and seals. All of it lockable. Its very structure conveys, “Important stuff happens here.” Need to do serious work on the go? Get a travel desk, the attache case’s awkward cousin.
While tasks like answering correspondence and paying bills have remained, the form they have taken has changed. No longer are we physically shuffling atoms around, but rather simply information. Email, online banking, and all the rest has replaced paper. Similarly, we no longer need travel desks, as our laptop contains everything that the desk, could and much more. Add a network connection, and almost nothing is out of reach. It seems increasing clear that physical media is dying. Newspaper circulation is down. CD sales have fallen. DVD and bluray are now seen as a transition technology as streaming is becoming increasingly widespread. (Thus Netflix’s price hike.) With the advent of eReaders and tablet computers, even the books and magazines seems in danger.
We’re losing the need to deal with physical items, and as a side effect, it seems like we’re losing an ability to signal our tastes; which is ironic, given how personalization and sharing has taken over the web. When visiting someone’s home, we would occupy ourselves by perusing each other’s bookshelves. The books, CDs, and DVDs were essentially the tag clouds of the physical world. They weren’t there just for storage, but also to signal our personality. Our collections not only express how we see ourselves, but also how we want others to see us.
This huanghuali wood traveling bookcase (a “tushu shinggui” if you want to use Japanese)
sold recently for $47,000 at Christie’s. It’s picture had been bouncing around the blogosphere for a while, complete with comments about how beautiful it is. The stain really brings out the wood grain, and it look like the doors were cut from the same board. Which isn’t surprising, given that it dates from the early 1600s. It’s a very simple piece, with very little ornamental woodwork. The metal work is also very simple, but together they make a very elegant package. Unfortunately, there are no photos online of the box’s interior. Inside it contains two small drawers (for writing instruments?) and a single shelf.
When I first saw the bookcase, I immediately thought of another traveling bookcase, the USLHE traveling library. Both are similar in both form and function. (The tushu shinggui is undoubtedly better looking though.) The USLHE libraries were government owned crates of books that were issued on a rotating basis to lighthouses. Every so many weeks, when the lighthouse was resupplied, the libraries would be switched.
Both of these bookcases remind me of my media cabinet. Again, it’s the general shape. Of course my cabinet was designed to hold CDs and DVDs, not books, nor was it it meant to be particularly mobile. Still, they both store media compactly behind closed doors.
Since previous project, I’ve been thinking about creating a new cabinet. Something lots of little drawers. Sort of like either a Chinese pharmacy cabinet or a secretary cabinet.
The problem with secretary cabinets is that they’re not useful as furniture today. They used to be used as the nexus of all bills and correspondence of the house, but now the laptop has replaced this. I kind of like the look of an open secretary, but it’s completely useless due to the specialized nature of the furniture.
I think what I like about the Chinese pharmacy cabinets is that mystery they project. All the drawers look the same, but no matter what ails you, the pharmacist can open up some seemly random drawer and give you a potion to cure you. As a design per se, the cabinets are just more stylish filing cabinets.
I have no idea what I would do with a drawer cabinet, but I think I want one.
After the jump are some cabinets that I’ve been trying to draw inspiration from.
Jon Stam has designed an RFID curiosity cabinet. The cabinet is lined on both sides with drawers and boxes. The drawers contain objects, while the boxes contain a USB memory stick and an RFID chip. Placing the box near an RFID reader, causes the digital content to be displayed.
The thing that drew me to this cabinet was the clean lines of it. When I first saw this, I had no idea it was RFID enabled. I particularly like the pulls on the drawers, or more precisely the lack of them. Many times when there’s pull-less drawers, the outer panel is beveled for fingers to. In his design the pull is simply the main drawer face, with a second panel inset slightly inside to completely close of the drawer when it’s closed.
One thing I don’t like about his design is that the digital curios are separate from the physical curios. I’m don’t think that distinction needs to be made. Digital objects don’t completely replace physical objects, (recordings, both audio and visual, excepted) but are complimenting them. For instance, when I traveled to Beijing, all my photos were digital, but those aren’t my only souvenirs. I have a Mao Book, a wad of cash, receipts, and tickets. It’s this collection, both physical and digital that commemorate my trip. It seems that a cabinet that attempts to recognize this dual nature of modern memories, should completely integrate them, rather than treat them as different things. If the each drawer contained the digital memories associated with the physical object contained in it, then this would be the case.
A couple of years ago, just before I moved to California, I made a cabinet to store my CDs and DVDs. Ironically, I never took it with me.
I grew tired of my CDs and DVDs simply sitting a shelf, and appearing nothing but a big wall of media. I wanted something that could store the CDs behind a door, but not use those individual slots, since they can’t handle double CDs, and keeping CDs in order when new CDs are purchased is just too annoying. This meant I needed shelves, but I didn’t want huge shelves. I solved this problem by creating a series of bins, each of which can hold either 20 standard CD jewel cases, or 8 standard DVD cases. (8 DVD cases are almost exactly the width of a CD case.)
This cabinet has 24 bins, for a total capacity of either 480 CDs or 160 DVDs. The bins are wider than a standard CD jewel case, so that they can store the widest CD case in my collection, Johnny Cash’s Unearthed Box Set. (My other box sets have to sit on top due to their book-like formats.)
Below are the initial plans I made for the cabinet, along with photos of the final project.