At first glance, metal shelving might seem like a surprise coming from Milan’s Formafantasma, which is perhaps best known for its earthy experiments with natural materials. But co-founders Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin are also two of the industry’s biggest bookworms, priding themselves on a research-based approach that often leads to designs accompanied by rich bibliographies. And in the case of T Shelf, there’s a lot more to the design than just its shiny cover.
Formafantasma’s commitment to deep investigation was precisely what led Stockholm brand Hem to first approach the studio with an open brief back in 2017. “They weren’t coming only for the aesthetic of our product but for our way of thinking,” says Trimarchi.
After identifying shelving as a subject worthy of further study, Formafantasma hit the books, assessing the merits of various past solutions. “We started from the very utilitarian shelving systems that you can find and thought about redesigning them,” Trimarchi says. These no-frills metallic reference points were especially relevant as the eco-conscious studio was eager to work with aluminum because of its high recyclability.
Hem’s desire to manufacture in Sweden led them to aluminum fabricator Hydro, which specializes
in extrusion production techniques, further shaping Formafantasma’s concept. By pressing alloy through
a die, Hydro gives T Shelf’s components gentle curves that stand out from the boxlike edges of more industrial shelving made from fold-formed aluminum. “The round shape is really part of the language of extrusion,” says Trimarchi.
Despite their thin profile, the design’s shelves also feature exceptional strength. A subtle lip underneath each one provides key structural reinforcement, allowing for an otherwise spare, open-backed silhouette. (This lip also creates the T shape that gives the storage system its name.)
The product’s simple style makes it well-suited to a wide variety of home and office environments. “It has beauty, but it’s a beauty that comes from the process,” says Trimarchi. Time to add a new entry to the design history books.
Through an in-depth material investigation and research process, Milan’s Formafantasma fold-formed aluminum T Shelf for Hem.