Suspension Shelf

Time for another post about one of my new products! Today it’s the Suspension Shelf.

Random brainstorm sketches

The idea to make a wall-mounted “floating” style shelf came to me last summer during a brainstorming session (side note – brainstorming for me is basically doodling for hours and seeing what happens – see the picture to the right). I thought the idea had some promise and quickly got to work sketching out and building some prototypes. You can check out the results of those prototyping sessions here and here. I tried out five different designs without stopping and, when I finally took a break to consider the results, I realized none of them was actually very good. There was too much going on. The curved cutouts breaking into the shelves didn’t look right and the shapes of the fins that mounted to the wall were a bit awkward. The cabling pattern, which would have looked good by itself, just seemed excessive in the context of the shelves. In short, the designs weren’t elegant. It was back to the drawing board.

As I considered alternatives to the design problem, I came to the conclusion that I had to, in a way, start from scratch. With the previous shelves I had tried to implement my go-to cabling pattern and, while it worked well for the Contour Coffee Table and many of my sculptures, it wasn’t right in this instance. As such, I tried to approach the problem with fresh eyes. I knew I wanted the shelf to be comprised of wood and steel cable, but beyond that I tried to wipe the slate clean. How, I thought, would I have approached this problem three years ago if I were coming up with some method of cabling for the first time? Above all else, I thought, the solution had to be simple (the simplest things are often the most elegant) and once I got in this mindset, the answer came surprisingly quickly. Rather than trying to use curved pieces that just didn’t jive that well with the idea of a shelf, why not just use two simple rectangles? A vertical rectangle could be mounted to the wall and a horizontal one (the shelf) could be cantilevered out and supported by the cables just like a suspension bridge. I carefully sketched the concept out and then got to work.

Original sketch for final version of Suspension Shelf

The trickiest part of the design process was creating a vertical fin that would mount to the wall as well as house all the cables and copper crimps that secure them in place. As with much of my other work, a shopbot was crucial to the successful realization of the design. I drew all of the recessed areas the vertical fin would need on the computer and then had the CNC machine (basically a wood – cutting robot arm that can move in 3 axes, for those who don’t know) cut them out. I first made a prototype out of plywood just to make sure everything would work as intended and then I moved on to selecting final materials. I had just finished experimenting with mahogany and oak on the Signature Lamp and I loved the combination so much decided to stick with it. There’s plenty more I could write since I love this design, but I’ve said enough… Here are some pictures:

I had to determine how much weight the shelf could support, so what better way than to put all my heavy books on it? It's pictured here with 60 lbs. Didn't seem like weight should be a problem.

No books

You can check out the Suspension Shelf product page here