Geneva Vanderzeil


While in Japan recently I was really inspired by the concept of the beauty alcoves that I saw everywhere we went, styled corners consisting of drawers or shelves where people displayed their favourite collections and items. I think traditional Japanese houses have always had them for displaying art (called Tokonoma) but what I saw was mostly a little more modern and spontaneous than those. The Airbnb we stayed in had one. The doctor’s surgery we visited had one (his was a collection of porcelain owls… random but very cute). And the Ryokan we visited had one in the corner. I loved that it shows a pride in your space and a touch of sentimentality, as well as an admirable ability to keep that area tidy! After I finished (somewhat) with all the DIY projects at the studio (including this ladder wardrobe), I started thinking about how I could update our apartment, and integrate the concept of the beauty alcove – specifically as a place to put all the things I collected on my travels. I decided to create a set of ladder shelves for this purpose, they cost about $10 to make and packed such a punch in our small (v v small) space!

What’s on my shelves

Top: fish salt shaker from Peru

Second: Green vases from Shanghai, little clay house from Yangshou, porcelain cat pig from Hanoi, porcelain clogs from Munich, heart shaped porcelain jewellery box from Hong Kong

Third: Tea pot from Bali, Lumira travel candle, pink elephant from Thailand, stone and porcelain elephants from Sri Lanka

Fourth: DIY terrarium, Mochilla bag from Crystal Cove Collective, a few Lonely planets

Fifth: pink raffia box from Sardinia, Ottolenghi cook books, Glass jars from Sri Lanka

You need:

  • a ladder
  • pine planks cut to incremental sizes, I went for two at 1.2m (48 inches), then 1m (40 inches), 80cm (30 inches) and 60cm (23 inches) for the top.
  • L brackets (2 x the number of planks you have)
  • Screws
  • A drill

How to:

1. Stand your ladder up where you want it to sit in your house. It’s easier to be sure of the location before you build it.

2. Slide all the pine planks onto the cross beams of the ladder, making sure to stagger the size as you go up.

3. Press the L brackets up against the ladder cross beam and the plank.

4. Use your drill to secure the L brackets.

Fill your shelves up with your favourite pieces. My boyfriend’s mum was visiting while I was doing this and helped me style the shelves a bot, I learnt so much about placement of items in terms of colour, depth and symmetry. They looked wayyy better than when I randomly threw things onto them.

Dreaming of all the other things I can make out of these ladders… thoughts?

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