Sparking Joy or Anxiety? Exploring the Global Shortage of Storage Cubes

Design cubes and the ways they help us navigate work-from-home life during Covid-19

I’m embroiled in a fun, mainly therapeutic design project: transforming my smallest bedroom into a sweet home office. I say mainly because I tend to get obsessive with activities like this and spend inordinate amounts of time window shopping online to select just the right pillow covers, desks, display units, and on it goes. There are times when the therapeutic effects are far outweighed by over-thinking and I sometimes feel bad for my ‘guy’, who gets bombarded with design babble on the regular.

When I’ve searched, measured, debated, and often completely changed my mind about the colours and configurations, I finally order my new goods. I always space the ordering out over a few days to lessen the financial pain of my purchases. The theme of my office is Modern Bohemian, and the colour palette consists of vibrant desert tones, primarily mustard, blue, pink, and white. Ok, white isn’t a desert tone, but it’s clean and ties together a lot of the design elements.  It’s also the colour of a fabulous faux feather corner lamp that I’m very stoked about!

Part of the renovations include the removal of a cabinet and sink, remnants from when this little bedroom was someone’s kitchen back in the day when the house was divided into two units. Although I got used to leaning on the countertop and loved the storage capacity in the cabinets, I always felt that the sink was weird.

There are a few remaining tasks for the handyman, but it’s getting there. I am having lots of fun rearranging the remaining furniture and envisioning myself working in the space. What good ideas will be borne here?

Given the avalanche of books in my repertoire and my predilection for acquiring more, I am always in need of book storage. Because the room is a bit small for multiple shelves, I thought individual wooden cubes would work nicely in terms of storage and décor. Ikea has some in colours that match the palette of my room, but when I got to the Checkout page, I learned that they don’t deliver. F U Covid. No biggie, there must be loads of similar products on other home/lifestyle sites. 

The variety of storage boxes/cubes/baskets is quite astounding: wire baskets; fabric varieties; stackables; foldable; wooden; ottomans that have storage; plastic storage crates; wicker/rattan baskets. They are described on different websites in glowing terms that highlight their indispensability: versatile, sleek, simple, affordable, sturdy. Similarly, the functions they serve align with our societal penchant for order: declutter, organize, storage with style, tidy, display, clean.

We simply cannot do without our storage boxes, but alas dear friends the wooden variety (13” x 13”) appears to be in short supply. There are many wire, fabric, and foldable options available, even cute ones with whales and owls on them, but I have been hard pressed to find the kind I want. Although frustrating, I turned it into a design challenge and settled on three large baskets of varying sizes for my books, which will likely need to be stacked vertically, maybe with a plant or decorative item balanced on top.

Why are we so taken with these cubes?

To answer this question, we only need to look at our insular lives during Covid. Most of us are at home all the time and many of us share these spaces with other people, and sentient beings, as we transform various domestic spaces into ‘offices’ or work areas. This requires a re-drawing of the blueprints of our lives, routines, and relationships to one another. We have to work with what we have, and this means inventing new ways of making our spaces serve ever-more purposes. This task is hastened with a design cube or two that can be used in every room of the house and take up very little space.

These cubes are the picture of versatility, which is a hallmark of pandemic life. To feel, or at least curate, a sense of normalcy we need access to our books, computers, favourite mugs, and other occupational accoutrements. However, they mustn’t overpower our basement or bedrooms. Cubes help us accomplish the spatial gymnastics that are being demanded of us and their uniformity generates a sense of control and calm, much-needed by all of us in the best of times, let alone during lockdown.

All hail the design cube: our decorative item of the pandemic season!

How are you accommodating your living spaces during Covid – whether by stylish design or brute necessity with what’s at hand?