Bookshelves, for a song
In this new occasional feature, Home challenges Southern California artists and designers to have some fun tranforming inexpensive, mass-market pieces.
MOST shoppers look at IKEA’s Varde shelf and see a $39.99 wall-mounted unit made of wood. Rebecca Johnson and Jeff Klarin, however, see a blank canvas ready to be transformed.
“It’s solid, basic and unembellished,” Johnson says.
“And a little boring,” Klarin adds.
The husband and wife are the partners behind Bughouse Art & Design, the Eagle Rock gallery showcasing their Pop art prints and inspired interpretations of mass-market furniture. Here, Klarin and Johnson show Home readers how to turn this plain hanging bookshelf into an artistic focal point -- a music lover’s ode to vinyl that could work equally well in a kid’s bedroom or a loft space.
“Our design credo is, ‘See the unseen,’ ” Klarin says. “Maybe a shelf doesn’t have to be what you’ve always been told it is.”
Indeed. The Varde’s “idiot-proof” assembly, which took only five minutes, was followed by Bughouse improvement No. 1: conceal the structural uprights.
Klarin and Johnson created new back panels using wood from a lumberyard -- less than $15 worth of 1-inch-thick construction-grade pine. Thinner Masonite panels and even heavy cardboard can be used, but solid wood achieves an effect reminiscent of Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld’s 1934 Zig-Zag chair.
Next, Klarin channeled his teenage bedroom to add graphic punch.
“Growing up, I would buy posters and mash them together on the wall,” he says.
For this project he cut up vinyl record covers bought at thrift shops and glued them to the panels.
“You could use any number of things -- wallpaper, movie posters, photographs, dust jackets from books, junk food wrappers, crushed soda cans,” Johnson says. “And you can customize the panels for the contents of the shelf or the room it’s going to live in.”
The permutations are only as limited as one’s imagination, Klarin says. “It’s about personalization, and social activism,” he says. “If everyone did things like this, we’d be less inclined to throw things out and the world would be enriched because wherever you went, you’d be walking into environments that are empowered by people’s history and creativity.”
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Equipment: power drill or screwdriver for assembly.
Shopping list: Varde wall shelf from IKEA; 1-by-10-inch wood planks, cut down to be 8 inches wide and 20 inches long (seven pieces total); album covers; utility knife (the kind used to cut mat boards); all-purpose glue, such as Elmer’s.
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Video: Want variety?
WANT TO see the step-by-step? Do-it-yourselfers can watch the Bughouse Art & Design team walk through this album-cover project in David A. Keeps’ video online.
For two completely different variations on the IKEA wall shelf, check out the photo gallery posted with this story. There you’ll see how Bughouse creates a vibrant wood-grain pattern using a set designers’ tool and accents the finished piece with craft-store butterflies. The result reflects the current vogue for woodsy design and Victorian curiosity cabinets.
For a third variation, the team turns to industrial materials. “You might dismiss metal grate, the kind of material you see on the covers of old steam radiators,” Bughouse designer Jeff Klarin says. “But if you examine the pattern, which is kind of traditional Moroccan, you see how beautiful, modern and masculine it can be.”
It’s all posted with this article at latimes.com/home.