Shelf Life

Ka-Lai Chan’s first mass-produced design is a storage system that signifies self-expression.


48 inches

80.75 inches

15 inches

The young Dutch designer Ka-Lai Chan’s work is, she says, “a little bit on the edge of art and design.” Among the products Chan has designed are a pendant light made out of a crocheted electric cable, a coffee table penetrated by blobs of colorful recycled plastic, and a bulbous chair covered in black synthetic leather. After the last project, called the Selfportrait Chair, Chan made a conscious decision to produce work that is “easier for people to accept and use” and perhaps “a little more commercial, also.” The first result of this shift in focus is SheLLf, a multifaceted shelving system that began as a limited-edition piece, but is now being produced by the Italian manufacturer Kristalia. The wall-mounted cluster of compartments was inspired, Chan says, by the idea of people “coming out of their shell” (hence the name). “It’s growing out of the wall,” she says. “It’s like doing your best to be yourself.” Here, Chan talks about the making of her lively storage solution, which debuted last January at Maison et Objet in Paris, and travels to the Milan Furniture Fair this month.

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