Sometimes design can be so subtle it feels like magic. That’s certainly the case with Shelf, a new project by the two-person Japanese design firm Yoy that premiered at the Milan furniture fair last week. It seems unthinkable: Gravity disappears as a vase, picture frame, and even a stack of books float along the wall in midair.
Of course, there’s a certain irony that Shelf is actually just a shelf–or a series of thin and strong metal shelves, crafted with minimal hardware so that you don’t see them poking out from the wall or hanging under the objects they support. “We focused a phenomenon that people perceive that something exists when it actually doesn’t,” Yoy’s Naoki Ono and Yuki Yamamoto say over email. “We are interested in ‘errors’ that occur in perception.”
Those errors, or glitches, are exactly what Shelf induces. The design seems to evade logic, like a card hidden in magician’s palm. In the case of the photo frame, the wooden edge is actually the shelf in disguise, directly mounted to the wall. In the case of the books, notice how one book in the sequence is tilted to the side, balanced on the others. This trick heightens the floating effect, exaggerating the precariousness of this floating library. But in fact, that book is tilted by design; the bookshelf has one diagonal protrusion that serves to balance this single volume.
This isn’t the first time Yoy has toyed with balanced objects or tricking our brains. The studio’s 2013 project Extend floated a stack of books right off the edge of a table. But with Shelf, the duo appear to have produced a piece of visual trickery that’s also a viable interior design product. Now, Yoy just needs to bring it to market–and the firm is currently looking for brand partners to do just that.