The best bookcase design grows and adapts with our homes. It can be endlessly modified to suit our needs, and includes accessories and functional solutions that create enduring appeal. These classic bookshelves and shelving systems, conceived by designers Dieter Rams, Fritz Haller, Nisse and Kajsa Strinning, Franco Albini and Franca Helg, and Peter Lassen, have stood the test of time, and can be adapted to any space. Each of the carefully considered shelving designs has grown into a collection beloved by architects, globally.

An endless, modernist bookcase

‘Infinito’ by Franco Albini and Franca Helg for Cassina

A living space with a black freestanding bookcase design by Franco Albini and Franca Held, manufactured by Cassina
Photography: DePasquale+Maffini

As its name suggests, the reach of Franco Albini and Franca Helg’s ‘Infinito’ bookcase can be endless. A freestanding, modular design created between 1956 and 1957, the versatile double-sided bookcase can be used as a room divider or placed against the wall, and it can be adapted with modules that include shelves and storage units that come with either standard or drop-down doors. 

A room with vaulted brick ceiling featuring a wooden Infinito Bookcase by Franco Albini and Franca Helg on the wall
Photography: Valentina Sommariva

The original 1950s design was reissued by Cassina as part of its ‘I Maestri’ collection in 2008, adapting the piece’s manufacturing and maximising its potential for flexibility. The height-adjustable floor-to-ceiling bookcase is a modern classic that can adapt to any living, office and retail space thanks to the timeless design, available in natural or black-stain ashwood as well as American walnut.

An iconic shelving system based on minimalist design principles

‘606 Universal Shelving System’ by Dieter Rams for Vitsoe

Empty Vitsoe shelving system by Dieter Rams on white wall

Dieter Rams’ ‘as little design as possible’ mantra is epitomised by these utilitarian bookshelves. In 1960, the German designer created a shelving system that can adapt to fit any space, and that can be equipped with a range of practical solutions for storing and displaying objects. Created for Vitsoe and produced by the company ever since, Rams’ wall-mounted ‘606 Universal Shelving System’ embodies the company’s ethos of ‘living better, with less, that lasts longer’.

Vitsoe shelving with desks by Dieter Rams installed in office with large window overlooking a beach

Ensuring flexibility and longevity, the shelving system is made sustainably in the company’s Leamington Spa factory. The shelves are simple to put together, repair and dismantle, thanks to a combination of recyclable aluminium, steel, and compostable wood assembled with mechanical joints. Available in off-white, black or silver, the ‘606 Universal Shelving System’ also includes desks, cabinets, drawers, sloping shelves, hanging rails and bookends, and can be configured to a user’s needs to fit small, large and unusually shaped spaces. 

Simple shelves for personalised bookcase design

‘String’ system by Nisse and Kajsa Strinning

Minimalist oak shelving by String Furniture

Shelving for the study, outdoor storage or kitchen cabinets: there isn’t a room ‘String’ furniture is not suitable for. Originally designed in 1949 by Nisse and Kajsa Strinning – with a simple principle characterised by a side metal grid supporting the shelves – the system has evolved into a full furniture collection for every room of the house. Created with flexibility in mind, the ‘String’ system includes shelves, storage cabinets, drawers, desks, hooks and hangers in a variety of colours and materials. 

String shelving in white with modernist wooden chair

The flexibility of the ‘String’ shelving system can be traced back to its original conception. The Strinnings had created it following an open call to design an affordable bookshelf that was easy to ship and assemble. Upon winning the competition, the design became a common sight in Swedish homes; it was also installed at the UN Headquarters in New York and won several awards. The concept was relaunched in 2004 with a new design by Nisse Strinning (the ‘String Pocket’ shelf). 

Architectural shelving and storage for the office and beyond

‘USM Haller’ furniture by Fritz Haller for USM

Wood clad room with large windows overlooking the sea, fireplace and USM Haller storage

Versatile, customisable, enduring: this is how the ‘USM Haller’ storage system is presented by its maker USM, a Swiss family-run business since 1885. The shelving system was designed in the early 1960s by Swiss architect Fritz Haller, who essentially created a furniture-sized version of his groundbreaking modular architecture; after Haller had designed an office building for USM, company director Paul Schaerer wasn’t satisfied with the available furniture and asked him to also create bespoke storage and office furniture solutions. The rest, as they say, is (design) history. 

USM Haller bookcase with plant storage in a bedroom with bed and chair and tall ceilings

The storage range has since branched outside the office and into the home with cabinets, shelves, desks, TV units and accessories in a range of colours and featuring a clean, modular design. New lines have been added in recent years with integrated lighting and charging ports concealed in the shelves. The latest addition to the collection is dedicated to plant display for public, domestic and office space

Colourful storage that can be customised

‘Montana System’ by Peter Lassen 

Best kitchen storage by Montana

There isn’t a storage solution that Danish furniture company Montana hasn’t thought of. From mega to mini, the colourful storage arrangements first created by founder Peter Lassen in 1982 have grown into a collection that includes shelves of all shapes and sizes, cabinets, mirrors, notice boards, a plinth, and more. The system is entirely customisable (with integrated lighting, and a choice of pulls and legs, for example) and elements can be mixed and matched into dynamic compositions. The Montana furniture collection is characterised by distinctive rounded edges, as well as a vast palette of colours, from the muted to the bold, updated in collaboration with colour expert Margrethe Odgaard in 2019. 

Yellow bedside table from the Montana Mini collection installed on blue wall in a bedroom

The latest addition to the range is dubbed ‘Montana Mini’ and comprises a series of compact storage pieces that offer all the versatility of the main range in a smaller format.