A Buyers Guide to Vintage Ladderax Wall Systems by Staples . As we buy and sell a lot of vintage Ladderax we are trying to be dispassionate as possible about this highly flexible furniture . As of May 2017 we can put together 5 or 6 different systems , some with black metal ladders , others bronze/gold ladders , and others with wood ladders . We believe we currently have more available than any other Mid-Century dealer in the UK ! Just some of the options are shown in this blog .
Designed by Christopher Heal and made for a number of years by a company called Staples who were a very well established British bed manufacturer rather than a furniture. It’s a great design , and it would be really interesting to know why and how a bed company started to produce what soon became a very successful series that would be made for many years . Maybe they already were making unlabelled furniture for other manufacturers . Please let me know of any information you may have or have come across .
Vintage Ladderax has become increasingly popular in the last 10 years , and prices have risen as a result . It is a very flexible and practical design , but there are some downsides that potential buyers should look at . Unlike all the main Danish wall systems it doesn’t need to be fixed to a wall , and rarely is , so there is no problem about having a solid wall to put it on . Even the Swedish String system has to be physically attached to a wall . This makes it ideal for houses and apartments of all ages and types of construction .
There were various options available , mostly involving the standard teak units . The first choice is whether to go for metal or wood ladders . The metal ones come in either black , bronze/gold or white , and in various heights , the standard one being 201cms high . It also came in 2 depths , but most people chose the standard depth . Some ladders have 4 legs , but others have only 2 feet with angled sides , which are designed for people in older houses with skirting boards . The wood ladders are nice but not as invisible and as sleek as the metal ones , they’re usually found in a teak colouring to suit the teak veneered units , but there are some very rare dark wood ladders for those who went for rosewood finished units .
If you like metal ladders , they’re usually found in good condition apart from the odd paint splash , but now and again they may be a little rusty ( usually if they have been relegated to a garage or other damp areas ) . They can be re-finished , and sprayed in the colour of your choice . The wood ladders I suppose could also be painted carefully if perhaps you want to personalise them or make them less visually obvious by matching them to the colour of your wall .
The units themselves came in various finishes , but mainly teak . However you will also see a mix of white and teak , rosewood and even more traditional style mahogany . The construction of the cabinets is good , but teak that was used was not as nice as that used by companies such as G Plan , and was finished with quite a high gloss varnish . The nature of the design itself means that when pieces are moved without taking a lot of care it’s easy to knock edges so veneer chips and damage , particularly at the back have to be looked out for . Also remember that a lot of Ladderax was bought for use by teenagers and younger children’s rooms , so can have been subjected to more wear and tear than those systems bought for living rooms . We find that it’s prone to getting scratched and marked , and we also find quite a number of systems where the units have been given a darker stain , possibly when they’ve been marked in some way . The spray varnish that was used on Ladderax is not the easiest to remove , and it takes a lot of time to re-polish , which means potential restoration costs are quite high . You have expect some wear and minor damage when buying Ladderax , or be prepared to pay a premium price for pieces that have been re-finished properly .
Another problem can be the locks . Keys go missing and get lost , and over time some locks can wear a bit , and be awkward to use . Sometimes we find locks are taken out completely . It’s not a problem with the chests of drawers as locks aren’t really necessary , but it is vital with the fall front bureaus and cocktail cabinets .
Some people bought special fittings that can be used on the heavier pieces to give extra support . So if you’re going to put a lot of heavy pieces in chests or cabinets , it’s worth trying to add them to your shopping list . Perhaps around 25% of the systems we source have them , so most people didn’t think they were worth the added cost at the time !
The idea behind the system was great at the time , as you could come up with combinations to suit your needs , and then if you moved to a larger house , you could adapt and add to an existing system . This can also be done with vintage systems , but when adding pieces you may have to accept that they won’t be exactly the same colour as some will have faded or had more use than others . Some elements were particularly popular back in the 70s , but may be less so today , and vice versa ! We find there tends to be less demand for office and bar cupboards , and more demand for chests of drawers . A lot of people bought the shallower shelves back in the day , so the deeper shelves now command a premium over the shallow ones . We’ve even come across home-made shelves of varying quality that people have had made at a later date , so you always check to make sure that you’re getting the original ones , this will be fairly obvious if you look carefully .