Shelf awareness

You may crave the architectural look of built-in bookshelves but want more flexibility in design or have a more footloose decorating sensibility: Embrace the free-standing case. Colorful contemporary designs often come in Lego-like modular units that can be configured in multiple ways and deployed as sculptural room dividers. Many of these shelving systems work well in small spaces, said furniture designer Bernard Brucha, who creates storage units for residences and businesses.

"We have seen a shift to open shelves, so people can show off their collections," he said. "Built-in storage units are being replaced with cool modular storage that can be taken with you, which has always been popular with the renting crowd."

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