Wall-hung storage system
Designer: Poul Cadovius
Year designed: 1948
Updated in 2017 with better pictures
One of my most prized possessions is the rather imposing rosewood Royal System shelving unit that spans one of the walls of my living room.
The Royal System was conceived in 1948 by Poul Cadovius, a Danish designer. One of the first wall-hung storage systems, it’s comprised of a series of vertically hung wooden rails onto which shelves and drawer, cupboard and work station units can be attached using a screw-free system of interlocking brackets, precisely-angled pegs and slots. The extent to which this system of rails and pegs is relied upon to bear the weight of the solid wood units, the shelves and all of items on the units and shelves (big hardback books, knickknacks, a TV) still confuses and worries me a bit. I still half expect to come home from work to find the whole thing on the floor.
The Royal System has been a constant and reassuring presence in my life. My dad bought the unit from Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road in the 1970s and it has followed him (and later on, our family) from home to home until he kindly bequeathed it to me when I bought my first place.
Whilst it looks pretty modish in these 1970s photos (when it was fully assembled, complemented by furniture of a similar style and sparsely populated with my dad’s (now) stylishly retro possessions), my 1990s childhood memories are of it partially assembled (we used the drawer and storage units as random bits of occasional furniture in various rooms of the house) and otherwise crammed full with rows and rows of TDK video cassette boxes containing recordings of my mum’s Chinese soap operas. I remember thinking it looked a bit unsightly and dated and wondered why my parents couldn’t replace it with a nice bit of flat-packed Ikea. It has only been in recent years that I’ve come to appreciate what a great piece of mid-century design it is and I feel very lucky to have it hanging in my living room.
The Royal System has been reissued recently in more modern finishes (oak and walnut rather than the original rosewood and teak options) and with a slimmer, slightly more refined profile. I am probably biased but I prefer the chunky original (and best), which you can occasionally find knocking about on eBay.