You don’t have to be a bookworm to have Ron Arad’s ‘Bookworm’ displayed on your wall. The injected moulded PVC shelving, designed by Ron in 1993 and produced a couple of years later by Kartell, is often used to display objects as well as toys. And because it has a whimsical touch, the Bookworm is often found in children’s bedrooms.

“We’ve just installed four Bookworms in a house we renovated in Hawthorn, two black and two in white in the four children’s bedrooms,” Nexus Designs director and interior designer Sonia Simpfendorfer says. Mindful of treating of the children in a similar way, the four Bookworms are of equal length, 3.2 metres (the other lengths are 5.2 and 8.2 metres), but arranged differently in keeping with the different wall dimensions in each of the bedrooms. “But I can easily see the Bookworm being used in other parts of a house, be it a studio, a home office or in an informal living area,” she adds.

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The Bookworm was initially conceived by Ron Arad in steel, as a one-off piece – Ron co-founded One Off in London with Caroline Thorman. His Rover Chair, circa 1981, a repurposed chair from the Rover P6 car designed shortly after the studio was opened jettisoned his career as did the Bookworm, almost 10 years later. According to David Harrison’s book A Century of Colour in Design, “800 kilometres of Bookworm are sold each year.” 

The story goes that Ron was moving into a new house and brought with him some tempered steel coils. “I remember sitting in my empty new house and I needed some shelves. And I sort of closed one eye with my index finger and marked like a big S shape on the wall.” At the time, some steel Bookworms were made and marked with Arad’s signature – a few years ago one of these limited-edition shelves fetched 68,750 pounds when sold at Christie’s Auction House in London. 

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Unlike most bookshelves that are rigid, the beauty of the Bookworm is that it can be easily reconfigured on a wall. The form as well as the weight on the shelf, can support up to 10 kilograms depending on where the supports for each segment are placed. So, rather than being immobile as with most bookshelves, the Bookworm can be easily manipulated – like a worm, hence its name. And even when it’s fixed into a set position, the Bookworm has a sense of fluidity and movement, just like a worm. 

The choice of colours offered by Kartell, from wine red, pink, blue and yellow through to more neutral colours such as black and white, also make the Bookworm a popular choice for designers. “The Bookworm adds a light touch to a room even though it has the ability to support a considerable amount of weight,” Sonia says, who also still uses more traditional bookshelves for her clients, many of whom have significant book collections.

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Ron Arad is well known in the design industry as both an industrial designer and an architect – graduating from the Architectural Association in London in 1979. His chairs and objects can be found in museums and galleries worldwide, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. While Ron’s Bookworm has received numerous awards and accolades worldwide, the pleasure also comes from seeing children having such future icons on their bedroom walls, ‘curated’ to allow their favourite toys, as much as their favourite books, to be expressed in a highly individual manner and not bound in rows like most library bookshelves.         

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