Habitat vinyl cubes

Although much of our vinyl is stored on old Lundia shelving (some of which dates back to a couple of bays my father bought back in the late sixties), when we spotted these mysterious white cubes in a charity shop, something about them suggested a cut above the usual, so we took a chance. Covered in coffee spills, sticky finger marks and dirt, they cleaned up reasonably well. On a sort of half remembered thought I dug out our old Habitat catalogues for a look, and there they were…

Habitat 1972 catalogue

 

Under the name Palaset, Habitat introduced this early form of cube storage back in 1972 (examples of the cubes in use adorned the front of their Winter 1972 supplement – see image). Each cube had moulded shelves, and into these could be slotted drawers in a variety of colours, or they could be left open to store magazines, books and of course records. The cubes could be stacked and built up into any sort of configuration, each having a small indented hole on the outer surface into which a piece of dowel was plugged to keep them all together.

Simple and flexible, they must have sold really well as they were still in the catalogues come 1980, just. I was curious as to what they were made of, it certainly wasn’t timber. In fact they’re heavy duty plastic, probably acrylic, but spray painted in either white (as our are, see pic) or brown (later black). What’s more, being Habitat, they had a bit of design history behind them too.
Habitat Palaset vinyl storage cube

 

The cube system the brain-child by Ristomatti Ratia (the son of Finnish design company Marimekko’s founder Armi Ratia) and were manufactured by another Finnish company, Treston Oy. Habitat were quick to stock them in their stores and mail-order catalogue. The original range disappeared around 1980 (some speculate that the increasing price of raw materials for plastics following the oil shortage in the mid-70s was to blame) but Palaset storage boxes are still in the Habitat catalogue, though today the range is restricted to a CD / DVD tray, letter-rack and magazine files in an assortment of trendy transparent colours.

Go on the web and there seem to be people keen to build up large collections of the original cubes, one guy has a wall of over 50 on display. And not one has any vinyl in!
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14 Responses to Habitat vinyl cubes

  1. JOHNNY says:

    I remember those, I moved into my first place in the late 70s and I discovered Habitat at the same time, and was gobsmacked, just fell in love with the place, I soon got their store card and shopped away !
    I’d LOVE to flick through old Habitat catalogues, sadly I threw mine away years ago, and could kick myself ! I’ve looked online, but there seems to be nowhere that actually has virtual catalogues to flick through…
    Johnny

    • simon robinson says:

      Apparently even Habitat don’t have many of their old catalogues. I had thought of trying to do a book just reprinting pages from them; I have several and there are other collectors out there. I even have a couple of the old 70s bags which I found at an antique centre in Lewes a few years ago real cheap.

  2. Luke Newbold says:

    I’ve been doing some research on these cubes, and am pleased with the history you have found! Leland Little Auction, in Hillsborough, NC, USA will be selling a mid-century modern collection, and there is a set of the original brown and white Habitat cube wall units for auction, including a whopping 36 units!!! They will be featured for their June 18th, 2011 sale, so be sure to check back closer to that date to see photos and description, and bid away!!!

    • simon robinson says:

      Very tempting auction! Thanks for the notification Luke. The website has no details up yet, so check back nearer the time if you are interested.

  3. chris askew says:

    I have 6 brown Palaset cubes, consisting of, 3 cupboards, 1 set of drawers and two open shelved cubes to sell if anyone interested.

  4. Maryanna says:

    I found this page after seeing the Habitat Palaset units in a vintage home decor book I found over the weekend. I’ve linked to your page. Here’s a link to the photo if you’re interested!

    Yellow units.

  5. Di says:

    I have 3 brown habitat cubes, bought by me in the 1970s and used by me ever since. I think they were part of the Palaset range. Once is just a cube and the other two are divided into 2 shelves if horizontal, or by a single upright divider if vertical. Any interest?

  6. nickybennison says:

    I remember my parents buying some of these for me and my brother and sister back in the ’70s when we were teenagers – ours were brown as I recall! They were divided into three or six and I think there was one with no divisions. Built to last…and I think they may still be in our family somewhere! Came across this blog while looking online for some decent-looking storage for a small singles collection and some overspill CDs…

    • simon robinson says:

      For decent singles storage we recommend… old wooden Schweppes boxes made to transport soft drinks and mixer bottles to and from pubs. You can pick them up at online auction sites (or sometimes antique fairs) for around a tenner. Loads of character, wash them down, scrub the inside (and remove any wire racking left in) and line with paper. Handles both ends. Last forever. I’ll do a posting about them when I have a moment but here’s a print showing what they can look like.

    • simon robinson says:

      Dig them out Nicky, judging from the number of emails we get these are quite sought after now! For singles, have you tried sourcing some of those small wooden crates Schweppes and others made to cart soft drink bottles around the country in? They are ideal size for singles, and if washed and lined with paper have loads of character. Here’s a print showing what they can look like. Pick them up at antique fairs, or online auction for around a tenner.

  7. nickybennison says:

    Thanks for the tip!

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