Vitsoe – a timeless shelving system

Learn Japanese with
Last updated on July 28th, 2018

I initially wanted to make another website where I wanted to share ll the non-Japanese design stuff I enjoy. But realizing that I couldn’t even handle one blog anymore it just didn’t make any sense to start another one. This article originally appeared on my now defunct other site. Vitsoe is not a Japanese brand but the whole minimalist aesthetic which is boiled down to the very core necessities would fit perfectly into their less is more attitude. Which one the other hand is one of the main things I like about German architecture and design. Dieter Rams designed the 606 shelving system which is still a timeless piece of furniture. 

I already moved a couple of times in my hometown and whenever I do so another part of my furniture was destroyed. Nothing too heartbreaking but even if a seemingly inexpensive bed from Ikea is just done after moving it to two new flats, it hurts a little. If you buy cheap you buy twice is a common saying and that’s definitely true. The Vitsoe shelving system is not cheap but you definitely won’t have to buy it twice. There are times in life when you simply can’t afford something better or at least that’s what you think at that moment. Because most people forget about buying used furniture.

A lot of perfectly designed pieces go four next to nothing in local second-hand furniture stores or eBay. Just because they’re not in style anymore. Like crystal glassware which once cost a fortune and is now thrown away for bargain prices. True quality and design are timeless and that’s why you should rather save up for a quality piece you really like or look for something used which is currently overlooked by the majority of people.

A bathing ape was once a fashion brand I really cared about and so I followed everything its Japanese creator Nigo was up to. On a trip to Tokyo, I discovered the then current issue of Inventory. A now defunct bi-yearly magazine about clothing, design and inspiring people but which sums it all up for me is craftsmanship. So Inventory magazine was about craftsmanship. About timeless products and people with ideas to make magical things which are relevant for the decades to come.

Browsing through that issue of Inventory magazine I stumbled upon a portrait about Vitsoe. A once German company which released the 606 shelving system designed by Dieter Rams in the 1960s. My grandparents had a lot of his products from Braun and I always admired his function-driven approach towards minimalism. Exactly what the modular 606 shelving system is all about. Vitsoe was bought by its English outpost in 1995 and now has it’s headquarters in London. The product is entirely made in the UK and even the very first pieces remain compatible with the latest edition of Vitsoe. Every now and then a few changes are made to improve the system but never while compromising the compatibility. And that’s exactly what I love when you buy quality of all sorts. The stuff lives with you and can eventually be handed down to kids and still looks and works like it was once build to.

When fashion blogs are writing about clothing as an investment I usually find it ridiculous. Times are over when you could buy a cardigan and hand it down to the generations to come still looking splendid. Seriously what connects a mass-produced leather jacket by Acne studios or a simple CDG Play cardigan with a handmade piece of quality clothing? But good furniture is still made to last. USM for example or Vitsoe. Especially the latter is made to move countless times with you. Easy to assemble and easy to remove. Always ready for an expansion.

A modular system build to last and grow with you

And that’s why I personally think that it is worth it to save up for something decent which got great build quality and is always ready to grow with you. This sounds like a sales pitch but is much more what I’m currently saying to myself while slowly building up my new flat. I love when you’re not stuck with something and you’re able to add to it or change it looks completely. My girlfriend loves moving around furniture and re-decorating the room. I like to re-sort my books on the shelves as space efficient as possible.

My grandfather likes to make fun of my book collection which is ridiculously small in his eyes (he got several rooms full of books) but even I have to think about a space saving storage solution. I recently bought a small USM Haller sideboard for my records (and love it) but for books and DVDs, it’s not the right fit in my opinion. The system is just not versatile enough to be space efficient for all the various book sizes. By the way, that’s a pretty neat thing if you’re collecting Japanese books or manga. They mostly stick with the same formats.

That’s why I ordered myself the Vitsoe catalog so I could plan a little for a shelving system in my living room. I really liked the packaging they sent this in and the personal card is a really nice touch. That’s how customer service is done right. But like everything that’s good quality and been around for some time, Vitsoe’s 606 shelving system is expensive. If around 900€ for a Billy sized rack that you’ll probably own for your entire life is worth it for you, is your decision. I personally love their smart slogan: Less but better, which is actually the doctrine I try to live nowadays. Be it my records, books or other things a person doesn’t need but it’s fun to have them around.

The Vitsoe 606 shelving system in action. He even got the US paperback issues of Preacher in there. Could be my shelf as well. The added table and drawers make this a very sweet solution for a small room (even if this one could be used better I gotta admit). And that’s essentially what these shelves are all about. Using all the space you have. As space efficient as possible.

Pictures by Vitsoe & Japanese Tease

Tags from the story
Written By
More from Jakob

Nigo only lives twice. The Sothebys catalogue.

Nigo sold his former clothing company A Bathing Ape and probably his...
Read More