The Look for Less: Original Bruno Rainaldi bookshelf and low-cost versions at Design Within Reach, CB2


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Italian designer Bruno Rainaldi figured out a way to organize a lot of books within a small footprint. His Ptolomeo book stand also made vertically stacked volumes easier to access -- especially those titles at the bottom of the pile. The design started a trend, and towers that allow you to stack books have become a staple of modern interiors.

In a recent post, my colleague Lisa Boone cited a sale on the Ptolomeo book stand, marked down to $1,480. Price still too high? Turns out Rainaldi created an under-$200 streamlined version for two mass-market retailers. There’s also a made-in-Asia lookalike. Which is which, and what’s the difference? Read on ...


Design Within Reach calls its Rainaldi design, above left, the Sapien bookcase. It is 5 feet tall, with a 13.5-inch square base and 10 removable shelves, each 8.25 inches wide. It is made in Italy and available in powder-coated silver and white for $198. It also comes in a 6-foot, 8-inch version (also in silver and white) for $298. In a current special, if you buy two or more Sapiens in either size, DWR will take $50 off.

CB2’s version of the bookcase is called Array Silver, pictured above at far right. It’s 5 feet tall with a 14-inch square base -- almost identical to Design Within Reach’s smaller tower, though DWR says it uses an ever-so-slightly heavier gauge metal. (For all intents and purposes, they look identical.) The Array Silver is $189, ever-so-slightly less expensive.

The Spine Book Tower, an imported knockoff by Southern Enterprises Inc., has the best name and the lowest price. I found it for $114.99 at But at about 4 feet, 7 inches tall, the Spine doesn’t quite measure up to the others. It does have 11 shelves, each 1 inch deeper than the Design Within Reach or CB2 designs. But the Spine also takes up a bit more floor space with a base that is 16 inches long and wide.

In terms of style, the most notable difference is in that base: The Design Within Reach and CB2 models have a single panel that floats above the floor on circular glides. The Spine has a folded metal apron in the front and an even larger metal panel to support the vertical post.

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: Design Within Reach, Southern Enterprises Inc., CB2