Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stephen Gates is happy to call The Keystone State his home. Gates spent his formative years in his home state, but left in his twenties to work in New York and later Dallas. Five years ago, he decided it was time to return home. Gates and his wife, Whitney, spent two years looking for the perfect property, another year designing their home, and another year building it.
Gates is a renowned designer, with a career spanning over two decades as a global design leader. He has built world-class organizations that integrate research, data, and behavioral science with human-centered design methods to drive a long-term vision and near-term business impact. Naturally, Gates was the designer for his and Whitney’s home and the couple took special care to perfect every detail of what they planned to be their forever home.
One of the details the couple loves is their shelf system in their library and sitting room. Here, we caught up with Gates and asked how he first discovered Modern Shelving, what attracted him to the design, what his installation experience was like, and how the shelves help complete his home.
What were you in the market for when you were first looking for shelves?
We wanted shelving that was unique, matched our modern and clean style, and would have the quality and design that would match our new house.
How did you find Modern Shelving?
I found Modern Shelving through a Google search ironically for ‘modern shelving’. We wanted to find a system that was a balance of quality, design, and price. We had previously tried cheaper systems only to watch the shelves bend under the weight of our books and art over time. We had also looked at other systems and were quoted as high as 20-30k for shelving systems, which seemed extreme to us.
Modern Shelving was the perfect solution as the all-metal construction gave us the strength we needed for our books and art, the design was clean and modern, which perfectly matched our style, and the ability to do custom work meant we could create exactly what we wanted.
Was there a certain style or look you were going for?
We wanted something that would look like it could be in a museum or high-end retail store and would match the caliber of our art collection. We wanted something that had a clear design opinion without having a design that was so strong that it would compete with the art and the large windows in the rooms. We also wanted something that could be flexible as we are active art collectors, so we needed shelving that could adapt to future art we might want to display in those rooms.
Ideally, we wanted to find something that would come out of the design studios of someone like Dieter Rams or Jony Ive, with a clean and modern design, real attention to detail, and quality materials.
Did you go with a custom or stock option?
We did both. The library is a custom PAL system, and the sitting room is a combination of stock PAL and WAL systems.
What was your installation process like?
Our house was in the custom design phase for over a year, so I reached out to Modern Shelving about nine months before we started construction to start talking about the custom shelves in the library when the floor plans started to be finalized. I worked with one of their designers, and we did two or three rounds of designs until we finalized the library system.
Because it was such a large lead time, we then waited until construction was well underway to finalize and put in the order so they would be delivered near the end of construction. I then worked with my builder to ensure that all the measurements for the rooms would perfectly match the widths of the systems, including putting extra studs in the walls that matched the placements of the PAL wall mounts to be sure they would be completely secure.
The custom and stock systems were delivered about two weeks before the house was finished. I installed all the systems, which was fast and easy. The only challenge was that one of the tall PAL was bent in shipping, and two shelf supports were missing. But I contacted Modern Shelving and they FedEx’d new parts to us within a few days.
Where in your home do you use the shelves?
In the library, the shelves are to house and display our art and fashion book collection. We needed something that both looked good but was also practical as sit in that room to work, read the books, and enjoy our collection.
In the sitting room, we wanted a combination PAL system that would display and store books and art like in the library, but we also wanted WAL shelves for under the windows where we could keep special items. In particular, we wanted to find shelves for under the window that make the objects the focal point, and not be distracting from the view into our land out of the windows.
How do they enhance or complete your space?
They are the defining and framing elements of both the library and the sitting room. While they play different roles in each of those rooms, they give the rooms structure to display our art and books, allowing them to be the main focus, they also have a character of their own when you take a closer look to see the quality and design of the shelves.
Are you happy with how your shelves turned out?
They are perfect, and we could not be happier. We have given out a lot of recommendations and sent a lot of links to the Modern Shelving website to everyone, from friends to interior decorators, who have all been deeply impressed with the shelves.
Purchase this unit here for your own install HERE
Learn more about Gates’s work by clicking HERE.