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Low-cost, portable shelving with a professional look

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For the budget-conscious, here is a wall-hung arrangement of plain, unfinished pine shelves that is both practical and good-looking.

The whole assortment of 12-inch-wide pine shelves and brushed stainless steel brackets was bought at a local lumber store and installed by New Yorker Donald Kotter in the tiny office-study of a walk-up bachelor apartment.

Since the wall is 12 feet long, Mr. Kotter bought 12-foot-long lumber so shelves would have an unbroken, wall-to-wall fit. ''This gave them a customized look from the outset,'' he explains, ''even though everything about them was low-cost and standard and straight out of the lumberyard.''

He carted the shelves up the stairs himself. But some apartment dwellers, he cautions, might have a problem getting 12-foot-long shelves indoors, and would need to have them cut into two sections.

The only finish the designer gave the plain pine timbers was a light sanding and a coat of wax. To give unity and to carry the unfinished pine look around the room, he bought inexpensive shutters (at the same lumberyard) to place at the two windows in the small, sunny room. The table-desk, which appears to be part of the arrangement, is a Finnish classic. It could also be an inexpensive, do-it-yourself table made out of a flush door and set on 4-by-4-inch pine legs, or manufactured legs, all of which are available at lumber stores everywere.

The whole arrangement is portable. It can easily be moved or recut and rearranged to fit new spaces.

Why does this group of shelves look more professional than most homemade efforts? ''Composition is the key,'' Mr. Kotter explains. ''I didn't just put the shelves a foot apart and let it go at that. I considered carefully what I wanted each shelf to do and contain, and exactly how I wanted each to function.''

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