I’ve been writing this blog for almost four years and realise that I have never written about my favourite piece of 20th Century design, Vitsœ’s 606 Universal Shelving System, designed by Dieter Rams in 1960.
For more than 50 years it has been Vitsœ’s goal to make long-living furniture and consistently stand up to a world that has favoured new over better. With single-minded determination Vitsœ have not only designed and made furniture that lasts for generations but have supported it with some outstanding customer service.
Niels Vitsœ, a Dane, created the company in 1959 to realise the furniture designs of a young German designer, Dieter Rams. This partnership was to become an important part of mid-Century German life as the products produced were as innovative and forward-thinking as Rams’s electrical products for Braun.
The shelving system is exactly that, a system. From a multiple of components, you can configure a system that does what you want it to do and fits your possessions. Having owned some shelving for some years now and moved home with them I can truly appreciate the value of the shelving. I have a few under the bed that were not needed but there for when I do and the same system has been reconfigured in to a new space with entirely different purposes. What was once kitchen shelving for spices and herbs is now a shelf for paperback books in the living room.
A product that is designed to fit in to your life, the 606 Universal Shelving System is available only in off-white or black, with one wood finish as an option… beech. This simple combination is the same that Rams had used for his electrical products which has lasted for the 50 years that he has been making products.
Vitsœ tell this customers “paint your walls and not your shelves” when asked why they don’t do other finishes. A great proposition that is against current product design but makes much more sense than you might at first think. With these limited finishes, Vitsœ can promise to continue to supply this for a very long time, meaning that additional shelves can be added at a later date. Ignoring fashion they can maintain a product collection that will never be removed, something we are all too familiar with these days and accept when we should not be.
This product might look like a simple shelving system and not a sexy Eames chair, but I would argue that the 606 Universal Shelving System is one of the most important furniture products of the 20th Century and has never seen a competitor come close to offering a solution as brilliant as this. Dieter Rams can be very proud his design.
This is my entry into Little Greene’s 20th Century Design competition. Find out more at: http://www.littlegreene.com/retro
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