It can be tempting to take too literally the minimalism we see in catalogs, imagining our own homes with the stark (perhaps boring) modern pieces adorning our floors and walls and wonder if it will really work that way. These series of three shelving unit types is therefore presented first ‘in the raw’ and then in context – the different between the photographs is remarkable.

But first, the basic choices from the manufacturer (Former): empty or filled-in backs; white, wood or glass shelves; straight horizontals or added vertical supports; symmetrical or asymmetrical layouts; wall-hung or free-standing shelf systems. Some answers to those options:

Set with a mix of bare and complete backs, overlapping shelves and other unique choices, these custom installations show how quickly a bland wall furnishing can become a multi-functional room divider – a kind of partition wall as well as visual accent in an office-plus-living room and hall-plus-bedroom, respectively.

Other examples illustrate the ways these work along existing walls, taking advantage of flat and open spaces that would otherwise need to be populated with art or decor. Of course, we still don’t all live in lovely homes like these, but it is helpful to see photos of ‘shelving in action’ to determine what the real-life possibilities of such designs truly are.