A Creative Oasis for A Writer in New Haven, Connecticut

Andrei Harwell, Architect


The client for this small project is a non-fiction writer, who in relocating from New York City to New Haven had purchased a house with a tiny, one-car, detached garage in the back yard.  The writer needed a quiet, sunny place to work without interruption, and commissioned me to design a conversion of the building to a writer’s studio.


In a building of this size, I wanted to make every new element count. To connect the interior of the studio with the yard, I opened up the corner of the building with a large window and wide, modern, sliding glass doors that could provide lots of natural light and ventilation. A new cedar canopy and porch announce the entry into the studio, mediating between inside and outside by sheltering the door from rain so it can be left open even during a storm.



I was really interested in showcasing the writer’s personal library and wonderful mementos collected during his career and travels, to create personality, intimacy and warmth in the space. The shelving system I developed using the Rakks pole and bracket system provided a contemporary, streamlined “frame” within which all this could be presented. The upper shelves are simple painted pine boards, but to contrast with the machine made aluminum of the Rakks system, a cantilevered, projecting, natural walnut shelf at waist-height provides layout space for reference material or pages of works in progress to be arranged and reviewed. I carefully positioned the shelves in the space and lit them to be visible through the sliding glass doors at night, when the building acts like a lantern, signifying the building’s function from the outside.


To contrast with the modern windows and canopy, the exterior is finished in traditional clapboard, typical of the neighborhood, but painted a saturated, jewel-like purple. Inside, a variable-width walnut feature wall behind the writer’s desk is an homage to the paneled studies of the past, and simple clear Douglas fir is used to trim the windows and as a base.

February 12th, 2015 | Comments Off

Rakks Gets Into the Game in Minnesota

Board games and puzzles are fun. They have been around forever. They provide a welcome relief from a computer screen and an opportunity to bring families and friends closer together.

If you agree and happen to live in Minnesota, you’re in luck. One of the best game stores in the state is at the Mall of America in Bloomington.

Founded in 1979, Games by James is not only the best but also one of the oldest game stores in the state. When the store was being renovated, owner Glenn McKee realized the primary challenge in redesigning the window and selling floor was to maximize the visibility of selling floor, particularly the front window facing the mall.

He enlisted the help of interior designer Cindy Douthett Nagel, CID of Krech, O’Brien Mueller & Associates an architectural, structural engineering and interior design firm located in Inner Grove Heights, Minnesota. The team was looking for a product to achieve Glenn’s objective. While searching for the right product, they discovered Rakks. “The Rakks shelving system was the perfect solution for our challenge of creating an open front window display while maximizing interior shelf space,” said Glenn.

The Rakks design team recommended using PD6 poles to span the nearly 10-foot high storefront window that supports adjustable shelves on both sides. A series of 4”, 6” and 8” aluminum extruded shelves supported by Rakks Style Brackets completes the system that faces the mall. Inside the store, 18″ deep shelves on Rakks Style brackets allow for maximum visibility of the merchandise on the sales floor.

With the help of Rakks, the designers created a welcoming environment that attracts customers and encourages them to interact with the games and puzzles.

At Games by James, you will find an extensive and diverse selection of family board games and puzzles – something for everyone. So if you happen to be in the area, check it out and don’t miss the opportunity to see Rakks in action.

January 9th, 2015 | Comments Off

Happy New Year

Happy 2015 from Rakks!

January 1st, 2015 | Comments Off

Meet Dan Borelli, Director of Exhibitions at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Dan Borelli is the Director of Exhibitions at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) – and a fan of Rakks. Dan holds a Master’s in Design Studies from the GSD with a concentration in Art, Design, and the Public Domain and a BFA in Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design.

Dan’s GSD career began in 2000 and in 2009, he was promoted to the position of Director. He has managed well over a hundred exhibits on a variety of scales with themes that range from history and architecture to urban design, landscape architecture and contemporary art. Dan’s direction, experience and vision contributed to the success of many of the GSD’s memorable exhibitions including the “Dispatches from the GSD: 075 Years of Design” exhibition in 2011. Rakks was honored to play a supporting role in “Dispatches from the GSD: 075 Years of Design” by supplying customized counter support brackets and stands designed to support the exhibit’s display boxes and tables. Dan has collaborated with Rakks on the following exhibits, which is by no means an exhaustive list as Dan has held on to the Rakks products and continues to use them on a variety of applications throughout the GSD exhibitions program.

Grounded Visionaries: Pedagogy and Practice, 2014

Cartographic Grounds: Projecting the Landscape Imaginary, 2013

Dispatches from the GSD: 075 Years of Design, 2011

Utopia Across Scales: Highlights from the Kenzo Tange Archive, 2009

The exhibition space for the GSD is in Gund Hall. Gund Hall was designed by Australian architect John Andrews, a graduate of GSD. The ground floor entry’s open lobby occupies approximately 4,500 sq.ft.. Exhibits by leading designers, planners and artists from around the world are rotated through the space 5 times during the year.

In 2010 and as part of his Master studies at Harvard, Dan started an art-based research inquiry into the Nyanza Superfund Site in Ashland Massachusetts and its subsequent social histories. In seeking to make these buried narratives public, he is juxtaposing the stories of human impact with the EPA¹s findings on remediation and orchestrating a large-scale lighting project that visualizes the below-grade contaminants of environmental degradation. In July 2014, this project, “Illuminating Futures” was awarded an ArtPlace America Grant.

We thank Dan for his help in the preparation of this blog post.

December 5th, 2014 | Comments Off

Rakks Style Spy – Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

The design and architecture worlds (and the folks at Rakks) are buzzing about Frank Gehry’s design for the arts centre located next to the Jardin d’Acclimatation, in the Bois de Boulogne the famous park on the east side of Paris. The center is for a cultural foundation established by the Fondation Louis Vuitton to provide a permanent center for the charitable organization centered around the promotion of contemporary arts both in France and internationally. The building is said to resemble a cloud of glass formed by twelve curving sails, made up of 3,600 glass panels.

A few observations we decided to share.

“Piled up in a staggered heap, these great curved shields twist and turn in the architect’s trademark style, their odd angles poking above the trees, visible for miles around. As if caught in a violent storm, the sails flare open in places to reveal an inner world of white walls, sculpted like whipped meringue, and a dense thicket of steel struts and wooden beams that have been forced into improbable shapes.” The Guardian

“It is a vessel, a fish, a sailing boat, a cloud. It has all the metaphors of smoothness. Sporting a glittering LV logo at the front door, it could also be a gigantic Louis Vuitton perfume bottle, smashed to smithereens.” Frédéric Migayrou, architecture curator at the Pompidou Centre.

“It’s for artists to play with, Daniel Buren wants to paint stripes all over the sails, and I’m hoping children will do drawings that we can enlarge and hang in the space between the sails and the building. It doesn’t look finished, purposefully, to encourage people to interact with it over time.” Frank Gehry

“We just love it.” Rakks

If you are traveling to Paris in the future, you will have the opportunity to visit and feast your eyes on this brilliant structure.

Photo credits: Top Photo: Dezeen. Second Photo: The Fondation Louis Vuitton. Jacques Brinon/AP

November 7th, 2014 | Comments Off

Rakks Shelving at New York's Whitney Museum


The building marks the culmination of more than a decades work by French architect Renzo Piano. Samuel Cochran recently described the building in Architectural Digest


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