architect: ISTUDIO, Washington, D.C.

project: Blue-Green House, Washington, D.C.

detail: Movable shelves

Renovations to this 100-year-old row house in downtown Washington, D.C., focused on better flow and flexible spaces. Rick Harlan Schneider, AIA, LEED AP, wanted to open up the narrow footprint by eliminating walls in the public spaces, but the owner didn't want to sacrifice privacy or storage space. One morning during his daily bus commute, the architect sketched a design for movable bookshelves to divide living and dining spaces without closing them off.

“The shelves provide some measure of screening between rooms,” Schneider explains, “and they hold the owner's pottery collection.” The shelves move independently of each other to manipulate circulation and views within the space. Three units consist of matching boxes stacked in an offset pattern. Perforated metal screens randomly divide each box into “little display pockets” so that multiple items can be placed on each shelf. A slight reveal between each box prevents the shelves from scraping against each other when they are pushed together.

Century-old floors in the house were too uneven for shelves on wheels, so Schneider worked with builder Noah Blumberg to design a double-track hanging system. “I quickly realized that the ceiling plane was the most stable way to support them,” Schneider says. “And I thought it would be fun to let them float just off the floor.”

general contractor: Ark Contracting, Chevy Chase, Md.

fabricator: Juan Beck, Washington, D.C.

materials: MDF, birch veneer, low-VOC glues and sealants, perforated metal, Häfele America Co. hanging track system

photography: Dan Redmond, Inscape